Hello bluegrassers! Well the time has finally come to reveal to you another bluegrass interview with a well known duo. Of course this can only be Jake Smith and Joyce Carriker. They have been around the KC area for many years and have made many contributions to the continuation of bluegrass music. They are loved by many people and I am thrilled to share with you their music story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! A picture should be coming soon!
BB: Introduction: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Jake: I was born and raised in the southern end of Kansas City, MO. My dad was musical, playing both mandolin and guitar, although not bluegrass. He bought me a mandolin when I was about 7 and an autoharp when I was about 10.
Joyce: I was born in Independence, MO, but did most of my growing up in Blue Springs and Buckner. I’ve been singing since I could talk, but never played an instrument until I got my bass. In the 60s and 70s I sang “country” while my husband, Don, played electric guitar. I have three children, nine grandchildren, and four great grandchildren. I love reading, quilting, volunteering and playing music.
BB: When did you get started in your musical journey?
Jake: My bluegrass journey began when I saw “The Darlings” on the Andy Griffith show, and went out and bought a $19.00 banjo at Sears Outlet, and a banjo book at Cousin Jed’s Guitar Shed at Wild Woody’s. I started going to jams in the fall of 1989 with a little bit better banjo than that first one. (I’ve still got the first one, somewhere.)
Joyce: As I mentioned, Don and I were doing country music until
his brother “drug” us to this place where “people just sat around on hay bales and played acoustic music”. We thought that sounded pretty corny, but we went. And the rest is history.
BB: What happened after that?
Jake: I started going to Ozark Country jams in Grandview and to the bluegrass clubs. A little later I played with “Georgia Rose” and Jim Boling. It was when I started playing with Dick Hugill’s “Over The Hill Bluegrass” that I actually started playing at festivals. It was while playing with the Hugills that I gained a lot of experience and stage presence…..I owe them a lot.
Joyce: After that first bluegrass show (the one with the corny haybales), we came back home, made a trip to Quigley Music, and Don traded all his electric stuff for his first acoustic guitar. He never looked back. We met the Hugills, the Merriots, and the Jacksons at East Lynne, MO. After a lot of picking together, Jack and Velva Merriot and Don and I formed “Shade Tree Grass”. After Jack and Velva left the group in 1981, I bought my bass, (from Cousin Jed’s Guitar Shed), we grabbed a young man named Richard Jewell, who later became my son-in-law. In 1985, “Shade Tree Grass” decided to take a break so that Richard and Elizabeth could raise their babies.
BB: Where did you go from there?
Jake: I played a full season with the Hugills, then in 1992 I met Don and Joyce Carriker at one of the Smithville festivals. We jammed together at that festival, and a little later on, I left the Hugills and joined “Shade Tree Grass” just as they were regrouping. Eight months later, Don died from a heart attack.
Joyce: Jake started playing banjo with us as Richard wanted to play dobro. We got to do a few shows together before
Don became too ill to perform. He was battling cancer, but managed to take in the July festival at Knob Knoster in 1993, before dying from a heart attack on July 17.
BB: What happened next?
Jake: Joyce made an attempt to keep the group going after Don’s death, and Rex Green joined us. The “heart” just wasn’t there, so we didn’t play much longer. Joyce and I, both, at the time needed someone in our lives, so since we were already good friends, we decided the “someones” we needed were each other. Not a lot of music was played for a few years until we started going to the jam session organized by Howard Roe in Buckner. That rekindled the interest in bluegrass music for us.
Joyce: We started playing in a group called “Playing In The Grass” with Harley and Mindy Ramey. They were great to perform with. Jake: In the fall of 1999, “Blue and Gray Pickers” came calling……that was a great three and a half years! We got to do a lot of traveling to a lot of different festivals. And I got to be on my first CD.
Jake & Joyce: We had the honor of being a part of Deryle Cline’s “Tri-State Ramblers” for a while, and that was a fun experience. There was never a dull moment with Deryle. The current band we’ve been involved with for the past ten years, “Bear Creek Bluegrass”, is still keeping us busy, and we’re still having fun with our music. We have three CDs……one every time we change guitar players. We have a new guitar player, so we’ll probably have to start on another CD, soon.
BB: What is your favorite Bluegrass Band or Artist? Who influenced you the most?
Jake: Honestly, I think for me, it’s still the original Dillards.
Joyce: I don’t think I have a favorite, but I used to love the old bands such as “The Country Gentlemen” and Harold Rowden’s first group.
BB: How many songs have you written?
Joyce: I’ve written a couple of gospel songs….just the words, not the music.
BB: What advice would you give to young people wanting to get started in Bluegrass?ulnone Jake: Learn the old basics of the original bluegrass, then build from there.
Joyce: Practice, practice, practice and jam, jam, jam!
BB: Anything else you want to say to wrap up this interview?
Joyce: It’s been a wonderful trip, and not always a smooth one. The music has been such a blessing to me through all the terrific people I’ve become friends with. Jake has been a Godsend…..pulling, dragging, and shoving me through all my trials with my health and misadventures.
Jake: The music has been a wonderful gift from God, helping me through a lot of bad times in life, met many great people, made wonderful friends, and I met the most wonderful woman in the world to spend my life with. She’s my best friend, we do everything together…..evening working together as volunteer firefighters on the Collins Fire Protection District. She can drag a charged fire hose with the best of them!
BB: Thanks to both of you for sharing your music journey. What an interesting story! And thank you Jake for getting me started playing the banjo and telling me to focus on the “rolls”. Looking forward to seeing around at one our festivals or club meetings.