Third Annual Sutter Creek Festival a Shtick-Filled Success

By Nan Bostick

The Aug. 10 - 12 Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival was an event filled with warm reunions, an extraordinary amount of good-time shtick and superbly performed ragtime, plus a few tears in remembrance of the late Pete Clute, for whom this year's festival was dedicated. Attendance doubled from the previous year, thanks in part to the number of Rose Leaf Club members and So. California fans who attended.

Bo Grumpus, Virginia Tichenor, Keith Taylor, and Tom Brier headlined the event along with Elliott Adams and the Porcupine Ragtime Ensemble, who performed for dancers at the Saturday afternoon tea dance and evening's Afterglow Ragtime Ball at Belloti's Restaurant and Inn. The dance venues, new to this Festival, were greatly enhanced by the marvelous dance instruction and demonstrations provided by Professor Richard Duree and his wife, Ruth Levin, dance ethnologists from Costa Mesa, CA. Relatively new to the Northern California Ragtime scene, they were highly appreciated by the dancing crowd and will certainly be seen more in the future. Other performers included Festival organizers Stevens Price, Nan Bostick, and "Ah Sweet Sue" Jan Price with her melodrama crew, Alan Ashby, visiting guest artist John Remmers of Ann Arbor, MI, and the "Carte Blanche" strolling barbershop quartet from Sacramento.

California Ragtime composers Galen Wilkes, of Van Nuys, Kathy Backus, of Santa Barbara, and Gil Lieby (now living in Omaha) arrived for the fun and were soon recruited to spell the performers and be honored at the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon concerts. Rose Leaf Club member Nancy Kleier was also commandeered from the moment she arrived and her fingers were kept flying over several keyboards much to everyone's delight. Throughout the Festival, artists performed at Belotti's, the Clothes Mine Courtyard, the Ice Cream Emporium, the Main Street Theater, and Susan's Place restaurant.

By popular demand, the "Dill Pickle Ranch" Ragtime Melodrama was performed twice on Saturday at the Main Street Theatre, currently under construction, but heroically revamped for the event by its new owner, Gary Schiemding. Generally seen covered in plaster, Gary was dressed to the vintage nines for the occasion. "Ah, Sweet Sue" Jan Price and her "born again" dead cat were again miraculously rescued from oncoming trains, bill collectors, landlords, and ragtime villains by her true love, who turned out to be her long lost brother. Undaunted, she headed for Stevens, the piano player, but eventually settled for the villain, who promised to shave off his mustache and be a good guy. In between the melodramas, Nan Bostick, with the assistance of Tom Brier, offered her new "Heap Big Tale of Political Incorrectness" seminar on the Indian songs inspired by the 100-year-old "Hiawatha" composed by her great uncle, Neil Moret. The shtick in this seminar was a mere hint of the set-up innocent "Tom-Tom" would experience the following afternoon.

Saturday evening's "Celebration of Ragtime" concert, traditionally opened by the late Pete Clute, began with a tribute to the Festival's much-missed friend. Appreciation goes to Marty Eggers, who filled in for Pete at the piano, opening the concert with a marvelous rendition of Artie Matthews's Pastime #4, one of Pete's signature songs. Marty then headed for the bass as Craig Ventresco and Pete Devine were introduced and the incredible Bo Grumpus trio filled the Sutter Creek Auditorium with their unique sound, receiving a standing ovation after each tune. Tom Brier, Virginia Tichenor, and Oregon's Keith Taylor were equally greeted for their stupendous performances. Keith wrapped it up by introducing Gil Lieby and playing his exhilarating version of Lieby's "Goldenrod," while Gil lead the audience in appropriate stop-rag claps. The Festival continued into the wee hours with the Afterglow Ball at Belotti's and jam sessions at the Sutter Creek Ice Cream Emporium.

Sunday morning, the Ice Cream Emporium was alive with ragtime music at 10 a.m. and filled with folks eating chocolate sundaes for breakfast. Meanwhile, Festival shtick artists, including El Cerrito's Pepper Rae, head of the Festival's sound crew, Orange County's Chip Lusby, her able advisor, "Granny Nanny" Bostick, plus "Ah, Sweet Sue" Jan and Stevens Price and crew were setting up three pianos in the Sutter Creek Auditorium and plotting against "Hot Rod" Tommy Brier for the grand finale afternoon concert.

Billed as "The Piano Duel of the Century - Granny Nanny vs. Hot Rod Tommy," the concert opened with "Granny Nanny" admitting her "duel" with the ingenious, 29-year-old composer/pianist from Merced would be no contest. Her real goal was to make "Hot Rod" Tommy miss one note during the concert. She failed, but the audience was on the floor during her attempts and poor, unsuspecting Tom deserves a huge "good sport" award for surviving: 1) the sound crew who entered with fire extinguishers to douse his piano and wrap it up with the yellow police tape usually reserved for crime scenes, 2) the mechanical hand the sound crew inserted under his piano lid, its moving fingers waving at the hysterical audience; 3) Stevens Price cooking a fried egg on Tom's piano and then siding with "Granny" at the third piano; 4) dueling with Elliott Adams, who also sided with "Granny," while she and two youngsters roasted hot dogs over the pianos; 5) "Ah, Sweet Sue" Jan Price in full regalia cavorting atop his piano and tickling him with her feathers; and 6) an arrest by an actual Sutter Creek policeman who hauled Tom off for speeding and noise abatement offenses. Though "Granny" was berated for her "scandalous" behavior by John Remmers, Professor of Ragtime from Ann Arbor, who sided with Tom and played against "Granny," this didn't stop her. She called upon her own "professor," Keith Taylor, who kept Tom busy while Nanny headed for a giant ice bag to place on Tom's piano.

Amazingly enough, Tom is still talking to Nan and in his words: "Oh, it was tough - especially with the femme fatale!!! -- but I think I managed to maintain my hot rodder reputation!" Rose Leaf Club members will have an opportunity to witness the incredible "hot rodder" perform at RagFest 2001 Oct. 6 - 7 at Steamers Cafe and Fullerton College. Contact 800-690-6684 for information or visit the web site at:

More Sutter Creek Ragtime Festival Reviews:

2004 Festival
2002 Festival

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