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.