DESERET STRING BAND
Deseret String Band -- aka Bunkhouse Orchestra
The Deseret String Band's purpose was to explore pioneer and cowboy music of the 19th-century West.BiographyDeseret String Band -- aka Bunkhouse Orchestra
Formed in 1972, the Deseret String Band has performed throughout the US and Europe and Japan. The band's purpose is to explore pioneer and cowboy music of the 19th-century West. It has acquired a few aliases through the years in addition to The Bunkhouse Orchestra, including the Orchestre de Bunque and the String Band of Desire. Playing fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, banjo-mandolin, banjo-cello, harmonica, various squeeze boxes, and pitched fork, the band sings and plays dozens of dance tunes, pioneer ballads, cowboy songs, and old country melodies.
Hal Cannon is the Founding Director of the Western Folklife Center and the famed Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. He has published a couple dozen books and recordings on the folk arts of the West and plays squeeze boxes, guitar, and obscure instruments from the banjo family. He has collected many of the band's songs from the pioneering West. He is a songwriter and also performs with Red Rock Rondo.
Leonard Coulson owns Intermountain Guitar and Banjo, a shop that specializes in vintage instrument building, repair and sales. Leonard is known worldwide for the fine banjos he constructs. In the group, Leonard plays old-time banjo and is renowned for singing long, tongue-twisting songs.
Ron Kane retired as an avalanche expert at Alta Ski Resort for more than 25 years. As a working cowboy on he and Meghan'r ranch on Horse Creek, Montana, Ron's interest in 19th-century vocal and fiddle styles gives his performance a particularly authentic feel. He performs a large repertoire of old fiddle tunes.
Meghan Merker is a graphic artist and cares for her horses and livestock on her ranch near Dillon, MT.. She has been the primary illustrator for Sing Out Magazine for the past 20 years. She plays guitar and fiddle in the band. She sings and is sometimes moved to step-dance in performance.
Tom Carter was an occasional member of the band, mostly in recording projects. Carter is retired from his post as an architectural historian at the University of Utah. He has played old-time music since high school in the mid-'60s and, while a graduate student at the University of North Carolina, played with the Fuzzy Mountain String Band. He plays all string instruments with aplomb.
The group played for the final medal ceremony of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and was the official band of the America/3 Yachting Team. Notable performances include: appearances with the Utah Symphony; The Nature Conservancy at Central Park, New York; the National Folk Festival at Wolf Trapp Farm; the Epelange Folk Festival in Lausanne, Switzerland; the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada; the Peter Britt Music Festival; Arts Alaska Tour; Western States Arts Foundation Tour; Utah Arts Tour; Buffalo Bill Historical Museum; and at more than 100 university and community concerts throughout the US and Europe.
"The songs are faithfully rendered here by four extremely talented musicians who employ a variety of instruments and arrangements that culminate in a thoroughly pleasing musical experience."
"The Deseret String Band holds audiences in a mesmerizing whirlwind of mandolin, guitar, banjo, and fiddle strings. It is joyful, lively music with personality, often with a sense of humor, played with intensity...."
Salt Lake Tribune
"If there is a single fiber of pioneer in your body, the Deseret String Band will find it and sing to it. Their music is impossible not to enjoy. If offers a foothold in reality no high-gloss group can give you."
Anything I could say about the band capturing the spirit of old-time music would not be enough to describe the feeling of joy which comes through their music... Their refreshing creativity can be seen in their arrangements, original lyrics, and instrumentation...While their respect for tradition is evident in every aspect of their music... All have superb control of their respective instruments and apply their talents with the utmost sensitivity on each and every song."
Folk Scene Magazine
History of the Deseret String Band
by Leonard Coulson
proprietor of Intermountain Guitar and Banjo
I met the Deseret String Band in 1973, when they were putting the finishing touches on their first LP, Utah Trails. (This and all subsequent albums were recorded on our own label, Okehdokee Records.) Steve Jardine had departed on his LDS Mission, while Hal Cannon, Mark Jardine and Rich McClure, in a rented house in Moab, Utah, sought to gain inspiration for the project in the dry beauty of the desert.
I wanted to relocate from Rhode Island, and Steve's absence provided an opportunity to join the band. Within a few months old friend and great fiddler Skip Gorman moved to Salt Lake. Every Sunday night at Demet's Tavern we played an eclectic mix of Utah pioneer songs, Celtic tunes and old-time Southern dance music. Tours to California, dragging sheep-camps to the Weiser [Idaho] Fiddle Contest, and LP #2, Land of Milk and Honey, soon followed. One night, after a square dance in the Wasatch Mountains, we decided it would be cool to go to the Fleadh [All-Ireland Music Festival]; six months later, after an appearance at the National Folk Festival in Washington, D.C., we were touring Great Britain and Ireland...and the Fleadh.
Membership changed again. Ron Kane replaced Mark on the fiddle around 1975. Skip was to leave shortly for school back East, but not before a tour of Switzerland allowed us to take Utah abroad once more. Centered in Lausanne, we traveled out every day to schools and folk clubs, performed at the Epalange Folk Festival, and spent a chilling night in the Maoist Feminist Headquarters on the Rue de Industrie.
The late '70s found the DSB traveling the remote parts of Utah. Tom Carter joined the group and our musical focus began to shift toward a more Western flavor. A concert at the Hotel Utah around 1978, entitled "Round-Up," marked this change. Soon after Rich McClure was diagnosed with MS and was forced to leave the band. It was a big blow. Somehow, by shuffling musical roles, we managed to produce our next album, untitled but referred to as the "Western tape," which pointed the direction the DSB would follow for the next 20 years. This "Round-Up" collection of music chronicles the development of our own Western String Band style.