Mistress Of The Mix “Don’t Walk On The Grass”

People ask me from time to time if there’s one genre of music that I just can’t stomach. My answer is, and I’m being completely honest with you here, nope. I like it all. I can even name a few speed metal songs that have wormed their ways into my brain.

But when I was a teenager, I thought I hated bluegrass. That twangy, banjo pickin’, mandolin strumming nasal countrier-than-country sound just totally turned me off. Or so I thought. In fact, when my rebellious anti-establishment cohorts and I started a punk band in high school, we did some country tunes as a joke.

Funny thing about that now.

The more we made fun of country music by playing it, the more fun we were having, and the more I found I kinda liked it. In fact, when I listen to all of the songs we recorded on a little boombox in the spare bedroom of my boyfriend’s apartment above Chateaulin Restaurant in downtown Ashland (a belated apology to all those Shakespeare Festival attending diners who had to put up with some crazy drumming and bad singing coming from above!!!), it’s the remake of Loretta Lynn’s “Rocky Top” that’s still my favorite 30 years later.

Then in the 80’s I got my first gig at a commercial radio station, at 58 Country in Medford. Yup. Minimum wage spinning Eddie Rabbit, Kathy Mattea and Ferlin Husky 45s on Saturday & Sunday afternoons. It wasn’t a bad gig, although when I was offered a 15 cent an hour raise to do nights at the hard rock station KBOY, I jumped at the chance. I went from Johnny Horton and The Judds to Def Leppard and Guns ‘N Roses, which I thought was a big step up at the time.

Fast forward to a few days ago, as I chatted with my across the street neighbor, Mike, about Lucinda Williams, and how hard it is to classify her music. She is, as my buddy Jon Lewis says, a shot of Louisiana Hot Sauce. Let me go a step further. She’s a chocolate covered cherry dipped in Louisiana Hot Sauce and covered in metal spikes and tiger growls. She’s the ultimate soft & chewy in the center but rough and tuff on the outside. Mike and I were talking about how everyone who used to be punk rock back in the 80’s, like Dave Alvin and John Doe, has now turned to a twangier sound (which they’ve finally come up with a name for…Americana). And then we started talking about our guilty little pleasure….popular rock songs done bluegrass style. He’s a fan of the Austin Lounge Lizards, I’ve got a fondness for Run C&W, which has violated a number of my favorite Motown songs with banjos.

Since I’m no longer afraid to admit that I actually like bluegrass, I’m okay with letting you know that today’s playlist makes me smile, makes me giggle, makes me sing along (in fact my friend/housekeeper Roberta just walked into the room moments ago carrying a toilet brush and asked if we were having Karaoke Thursday at my house because my daughter and I were singing Guns ‘N Roses’ “Paradise City” as done by a bluegrass band at the top of our lungs. It doesn’t get much better than this.


Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for nine years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She’s the mother of a teenage daughter and a 7-year-old West Highland Terrier, and can’t imagine life without them or music. Valerie wakes up with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Valerie Ing
Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
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13 Responses

  1. Avatar Sally says:

    I have always said I didn't like "twang", but I have spent the better part of this morning listening to your mix and have been loving it! Who knew?

  2. Avatar AJ says:

    The manager for IIIrd Tyme Out has been trying to get them into Redding for couple of years now. Russell, the lead singer, has one of th mellower bluegrass voices around. I love their stuff.

  3. Avatar Scott says:

    Ooh, here's one I know absolutely nothing about, so it should be interesting. What did Lyle Lovett call bluegrass the other night at the Cascade? "Dangerous country" or something like that? He had my in hysterics describing it. Thanks for posting this.

    Incidentally, thanks for your upbeat introductions to local shows, Valerie. You always make those few minutes before an artist takes the stage even more exciting, given your infectious enthusiasm and obvious appreciation for and excitement over what we're about to witness…

  4. Avatar Judy Salter says:

    I too admit to loving blue grass. Growing up in NC, I considered it hillbilly music and hated it. Now, lee and I listen all the time to blues and blue grass. Coupled with gospel, the best lyrics ever. Love love this mix!

  5. Avatar Michael Allison says:

    Great story, and killer playlist. Yonder Mountain String Band does a version of Ozzy's Crazy Train in concert that rocks. My entrance into old time music came through Gillian Welch, also a punk at heart. I now listen to old Carter family and Ralph Stanley all the time. It is interesting to see the connections between punk and bluegrass. I think both styles appeal to the person who is seeking music that is raw and real, and in the language of the everyday person. Thanks for your attention to the Shasta County music scene, and your support of live music here. Keep it coming!

  6. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Val…When I became a rookie disc jockey in the 50's, I went to work for KRDG who played a mix of middle of the road, which was big band and Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra and Perry Como, New rock consisting of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chubby Checker and Benda Lee and country like Faron Young and Buck Owens. I didn't care for country and western music and often left it out of the mix which got me the ire of our morning man, Jolly Joe Lalonde.

    In latter years I worked for Carl McConnell's KCLM and learned to love country music of Haggard, Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty and George Jones. Johnny Paycheck, "Take this Job and Shove It", was my favorite interview who told me his next hit was going to be, "Because of the Cat House, I'm in The Dog House With You."

    I sooned learned that country was the heart and soul of America and fit this area of Arkies and Okies very well. L ong live the country music, you fit very well into our fabric of Americana.

    In the 30 plus years of radio, I think KCLM, Carl and Leah McConnell, was the most fun to work for and I look back on those years with fondness. Country Lovin' music was a gas!

  7. Avatar Mary D says:

    Great playlist! I just bought a CD at Goodwill, of all places, by a bluegrass band called Old School Freight Train. It's a bluegrass tribute to Coldplay and is very good!

  8. Avatar George says:

    FWIW, Dave Alvin wasn't really playing punk rock in the early 80's….he was playing rockabilly/rhythm and blues with the Blasters. They were lumped in with the L.A. punk scene because they often played the same venues and drew a younger crowd. His foray into punk as a player came about when he replaced Billy Zoom in X.

  9. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    I first heard Bluegrass music when I was living in an attic on the coast while attending Humboldt State University. I was enamored by the first tune. I loved the chord combinations and the precision and speed of the stringed instruments. The first thing I did when I moved to Redding was find out where the "EZ Picking" band was playing. I had heard this band AND my future husband play at a Bluegrass festival in Eureka. The "EZ Picking" band later morphed into "Roma".

    I blame TV for linking Bluegrass music to "stupid". Old cartoons used banjo music when a character was some dumb, hay-chewing country cousin.

    Wonderful article Valerie. I KNOW you know about the local Oaksong Society which brings great accoustic, often Bluegrass music to Shasta County.

    • Yes, I'm aware of Barry Hazle and the Oaksong Society, but I did not know that Roma was earlier known as EZ Picking! However, just before they became Roma, I suggested that they call themselves Menage A Swing. That lasted for one whole show! They were my first favorite local band after I moved to Redding back in 2002.

  10. Avatar Richard says:

    My, oh my. What a great playlist!.

    Having grown up in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, I too disliked country/bluegrass. So very uncool compared with classical and jazz, or so I thought. But as an adult, this music has become one of my favorite genres. Thoroughly enjoyed Lyle Lovett's recent concert, looking forward to Emmylou in October, and must say that as fine as the Emerson Quartet, Vienna String Trio, and great Blues artists have been, Ricky Skaggs and Bonnie Raitt have been my favorite Cascade performances thus far. Just sorry to have missed Lucinda Williams.

    Many thanks to Valerie I-M for the hard work in bringing such an eclectic variety of music to our town. And thanks for the great playlist—am on the 3rd listen.


    • Thank you (and everyone else) for your kind words. I'm grateful that my efforts and the hard work done by the entire crew at JPR and the Cascade Theatre (it's a huge team effort and my part is pretty small when it comes right down to it) are appreciated!