For many years Windell Tyree hosted an invitation-only bluegrass & country music session every Thursday night in the basement of his hardware store in Columbia, MO. I was invited in ’83. The night goes “round the horn” so everyone contributes a song and gets a chance to solo on each song. Great place to learn and have fun, generally.
Windell Tyree – guitar, vocals, band leader, master of ceremonies
Bob Denhardt – vocals, guitar, banjo
Bill Birkby – banjo, vocals
Chuck Headley – vocals, guitar
Tim Elliott – mandolin, guitar, vocals
I loved the classic old country numbers from the ’40s and ‘50s that Windell knew. From him I also learned my first bluegrass standards, and my first gospel bluegrass numbers. I played many of these songs in later groups. I started out on guitar and then tried harmonica but switched over to mandolin when I found one for sale from a guy rumored to be Mike Henderson’s roommate (heard they had a disagreement about rent money, and someone needed some cash). Hendo played with the Bel-Airs in those days. I bought one of the original Flatiron “frying pan” mandolins from that guy and it still rings. You can hear it in some of the videos of me and Joey.
I also bought my Gibson J-45 from Bob (he was upgrading to a Martin). Great guitar with a rich tone to this day. And I got a copy of Windell’s old songbook. Priceless. Still have it. Many of the songs I learned here I played with the Slash Grass a few years later, and you can find videos of us doing those songs on that page.
This was like a bluegrass/old country music camp for me. Learned old Stanley Brothers, some Seldom Scene, some Country Gentlemen, and some New Grass Revival. Chuck would pull out these old cowboy songs -- he was from Oklahoma -- and something from the Sons of the Pioneers. And Bob and Windell really pushed each other on harmony: if you could sing a song in G, then you had to raise it to A. We played out a couple of times, but we were really more into the weekly sessions.
I’ve kept up with Bob over the years and he’s still playin’. Had dinner with him and his wife a couple of years ago in L.A. at the Catalina Jazz Club! Recently learned that there is another, more distinguished alum of Tyree's Hardware band: Deke Dickerson played with 'em a few times when he was growing up in Columbia. Just too damn cool. I understand the store is closed now and they have moved to online only, and I hope Windell and Zerah Lee are doing well.