Friday, November 09, 2012

Eaglebone Whistle, Fretless 152

If you ever feel lonesome
You're down in San Antone
Beg, steal or borrow two nickles or a dime
And call me on the phone
We'll meet at Alamo Mission
We can say our prayers
The Holy Ghost and Virgin Mother
Will lead us as we kneel there … 

So begins "Midnight Moonlight," a lively bluegrass tune written by Peter Rowan, which is the first track on the 1981 album Eaglebone Whistle by a quintet of the same name. I heard Eaglebone Whistle in Austin, Texas with friends in a pub sometime in the late 1970s. I was not a pub person, but someone said that there was a great bluegrass band that we had to hear. She was right. The band was great - three men and two women playing a mixture of bluegrass, folk, blues, and western swing.

When I moved to Chicago a few years later, I discover Rose Records under the elevated tracks on Wabash Avenue. I entered to find three stories of vinyl records from all over the world. It was heaven. If only I hadn't been scraping by at the time (full time reference librarian job with annual salary of  about $12,000), I could have bought hundreds of albums that I really wanted. The main floor had prime space for hot selling popular records, but most of the space was devoted to displays of classical music. The next floor up was all classical as well. On the third floor was jazz, blues, country, international, spoken word, and folk. I found Eaglebone Whistle in a display of albums recommended by the hosts of WFMT's The Midnight Special. I bought it immediately.

There are no weak pieces on Eaglebone Whistle (Fretless 152). Both sides have four vocal pieces and two instrumentals. In addition to your expected guitars, fiddles, banjos, and basses, Greg Raskin played hammered dulcimer and John Hagen played cello. The male and female voices blended sweetly. Whenever I have made time to listen to albums on the turntable, Eaglebone Whistle has been one of my first-in-line choices.

Sadly, though the album looks fine, it now plays as though it is warped. Happily, back in the 1990s, my friend Glenn burned a CD for me using his special turntable. This is especially fortuitous as the collective memory of Eaglebone Whistle seems to have almost disappeared. There is little to find on the Internet. I found that eBay had a disc for sale and that radio KTRU played "Until This Feeling's Gone" back in November 2009 and twice since. Member Jane Gillman has a website with a bio and music for sale, but no Eaglebone Whistle CDs. WorldCat shows 8 libraries owning the album. Nothing at Amazon, iTunes, Pandora, or YouTube.

As I drove in the car Wednesday morning, I wondered if I was the only person on earth currently listening to Eaglebone Whistle. I hope not.


James Bailey said...

Thanks for posting this. I've been searching for Eaglebone Whiste on and off for several years. I became a fan by accident back in 1982. Bought the album on a whim at Antone's. Would love to have a copy on CD if you ever find a source. This album inspired my lifetime love of folk music. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Me, too. We used to see them when they played at Grins, a church-turned-bar in College Station, TX. They were really quite amazingly talented and vastly entertaining.

Anonymous said...

I actually was an opening act for them at Grins in either '79 or '80 while I was a student at Texas A&M. I played Grins several times along with a few other venues back then. Great times.

Chuck C. said...

I found the Eaglebone Whistle album at Antone's Records last month. A very well done album. Maybe if we all write to the band members they'll be motivated to release it on CD. It's easy to reach Jane Gillman, as she has a website:

ricklibrarian said...

Chuck, That's a great idea and worth a try. REick

Chuck C. said...

I wrote to Jane Gillman suggesting they release Eaglebone Whistle on CD. Here's her reply:
Hi Chuck,

I do keep meaning to put the EBW album up on CD Baby...maybe the link you sent will finally be the inspiration! It's nice to know people still remember the band. I got your email right after having dinner with 2 members of EBW who I hadn't seen in a long time :)

Take care,


ricklibrarian said...

Thanks for the follow up, Chuck. It would be great to get access to the music again, as there are some imperfections in the digital copy we made before the album warped.

Mark Eastman said...

No, you're not the only person. I found Eaglebone Whistle in a thrift shop about a week ago (Dec. 2013) and immediately grabbed it. From the name of the band, I think it was Native Americans but I could tell by the names of the musicians that is was not. By the instruments, I thought it was a bluegrass album but that did not jibe with Austin, probably the one college town with the best music, #1. Today is December 31, 2013, and I'm about not to celebrate New Year's Eve, having been sadly divorced from my wife of almost 30 years. But I did get the chance to play Side 1 of the album today and look forward hearing the other side. So far, one of the best LP's I've heard in a long long time. Splendid harmonies and a unique blending of bluegrass, folk, country, Bob Wills era Western Swing. I've loved what I've heard so far. Found your blog from a google search. There's very little post about Eaglebone Whistle, the band. Far more on Eagle Bone Whistle, the Native American instrument.

Kevin Colligan said...

I worked at Grins in College Station at the time when EBW was making the rounds. I am in the process of copying my EBW LP to CD, so if anyone would like a copy I can be reached at I'm also copying my Uncle Walt's Band LP's if anyone is interested. Obviously I can't supply the world, but would be willing to send out a CD or two. Would like to hear from Anonymous, since I was at Grins at the same time.

louielouie said...

Yay for all of you. I, too, found an EW album at Half-Price Books and have enjoyed reliving the memories. I also worked at Grins! I've kept in touch with Jane and John Hagen, and Graham has come around to our jam a few times.

BTW, Walter Hyatt's widow, Heidi Narum Wyatt, has digitized three Uncle Walt's band albums. Buy from her so the money goes where it should. You can find Walter Hyatt on FB and go from there....

Chuck C. said...

I just heard from Jane Gillman that an Eaglebone Whistle album is now available on CD Baby:

This is a demo recording, not a reissue of the 1981 EBW album that was put out by Fretless. There is a lot of overlap in song titles, though.

Scott said...

Like many who have left comments here, I used to listen to Eaglebone Whistle at Grin's in College Station, Texas in the late 1970's. I used to have their album and still do have a cassette tape of it that I made. I'm almost afraid to listen to it out of fear of breaking the tape. Too sad they only produced one album. Great ,musicians, great music.