By Mark Dufresne
Note: This piece was originally published on the old Caldonia web page around 1996. Mark Dufresne (left - photo by Michael Kurgansky), a Seattle resident since the late '70s, is currently employed as the lead singer for the band Roomful Of Blues.
You know, there's just nothin' like trying to play blues and R & B at a good ol' county fair. First you park your auto in the mud about a mile away from the gate. Then you put your amp on a school bus that takes you to the gate. Then you walk another half mile with the amp to the stage. Not the medium size stage across from the main stage, but the tiny-ass
one between the bovine pen and the dog kennels, nestled next to the honey buckets, which are routinely vacuumed during your show. Nice.
You find the stage covered in tissue paper. Strange? Well, you're sharing the stage with the Hipnotizer. It's part of his act, I guess. He's a nice guy, however. His show gets about 200 folks each time. Our show gets about two folks that stay and gawk. People come and go while we're playing, wondering what the hell were doing there and frankly we are also wondering what the hell were doing here. We play three one-hour shows and head back to Seattle from Enumclaw. We did this for three days. By the third day my old dishwashing job was beginning to seem pretty damn rewarding again.
While taking a little break, Laura and I had a brew across the way from the stage where The Shoppe (a professional State fair cover band from Dallas-they played 18 shows over 12 days) was playing. On their break we saw an Elvis imitation show complete with decline-period cape, jewels, and lamb chops. There were possibly 200 or more folks in attendance witnessing the entire 1975 MGM Grand Elvis Vegas act. The amazing part was - no band! Yes indeed folks, Karaoke Elvis, or as I prefer to call it, Hellvis! We then returned to the hypnotist and his 200-plus audience who eagerly ran away when we hit the stage so they could enjoy the llama exhibit next door.
Above: Unknown country band - Skagit County Fair, Mount Vernon, WA (late '80s).In fairness, we were paid well for this ordeal so it was hardly the worst gig ever. But check this out; a month later we went to play the county fair in Mount Vernon. We get to the stage that was supposed to have a sound system, and there was none except for two small Peaveys mounted on the side and a 50-watt power amp. On the stage was a pile of tissue papers again. I made the sign of the cross.
This time it was not the man in Enumclaw who out-drew us, but a young, personable 22 year-old woman. She out-drew us 200 to two, and she was the daughter of the hypnotist in Enumclaw. Apparently, the wife was also in the game and was working another fair elsewhere.
Above: One man band - Skagit County Fair, Mount Vernon, WA (late '80s).
So remember, if you work one of these fairs and a cowpoke comes and asks you what kind music ya'll play, tell 'em "Both kinds, rhythm AND blues."