Bluegrass lovers, please feel free to submit your suggestions for this “Who’s Who in Colorado Bluegrass” column to Doris Gray firstname.lastname@example.org
Veta Gumber is a long-time favorite friend of bluegrass. Read her column here.
Who’s Who in Colorado Bluegrass VetaBluegrass: Not-So-Lonesome Traveler
You’ve probably read Veta Gumber’s column in Pow’r Pickin’ or perhaps you’ve tuned in to her bluegrass radio program broadcast from the Western Slope. At that, you may not know much more about Veta. Let me tell you firsthand, she has great energy and a wonderful passion for bluegrass music. Enjoy learning more about Veta below.
Pow’r Pickin’: You have a definite presence for bluegrass on the Western Slope. You host Bluegrass & Beyond every Tuesday between 4:00 and 6:30 p.m. on Radio KAFM, Grand Junction. How and when did you get started with this gig? And what do you like best about it?
Veta Gumber: I have been at KAFM for 11 years. After my internship I was a sub for blues and variety shows for a few months.
I was asked to do a bluegrass show every other week during my first summer. I told them what I knew about bluegrass: John McEuen from Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ricky Skaggs and Bela Fleck. They said it sounded like I could do a show!
On my day off I would go to the station and listen to music, taking notes on the sound, the musicians, what instruments they played and what I liked about the music. I love harmony vocals. Bluegrass energizes me.
PP: What is your personal history with bluegrass music? Was it a part of your upbringing, or did you find your love of the genre later in life? Are other family members musicians or fans of bluegrass?
VG: I liked some bluegrass before “learning it” but I didn’t know anything about what I was listening to. If I had not become a volunteer at KAFM I might not have furthered my knowledge of it. I’m glad I did.
My parents listened to classical music. My older siblings shared their ‘50s rock n roll and ‘60s folk with me. I have relatives who are professional classical musicians. Though not sharing my enthusiasm for bluegrass, they concede that it is more complicated when listened to closely.
My music background is quite varied having spent high school and college in various parts of the country: Pennsylvania, Virginia, Mississippi and having traveled to Europe during my college days. [I listened to] Folk revival, American rock, Brit rock, soul, Motown, but not country. I have a very good collection of folk music records. Since becoming a bluegrass programmer my husband has become a bluegrass lover and has taken up mandolin and flatpick guitar.
PP: Do you play an instrument? If so, what and why?
VG: I have tried most stringed instruments, but it was like snow skiing. I never got good. While not bluegrass I do like percussion; I play catpaws, which are one-piece wooden spoons. Maybe someday I will learn to play the washboard! Fortunately my husband of 40+ years, Joe, likes music as much as I do.
PP: Do you have a job outside being a DJ? If you’re retired, what did you do before retirement?
VG: I have had various jobs: sales in a greenhouse, in a full-service print shop, 27 years in a small scratch-bakery and an International adoption caseworker.
I also had a cottage industry using local fruits and vegetables, mostly organic, which I made into jams, jellies, salsas, pie fillings and more. I sold my products at local shops and wineries but mostly at farmer’s markets and festivals.My husband and I reared two children so I was busy taking them to their activities and was a “professional” room mother! I am now retired.
PP: What are your interests and/or hobbies other than your apparent love of bluegrass music?
VG: Joe and I like to travel. We like seeing new country and returning to familiar places. I always take my camera, tri-pod, binoculars and a bird book. We like live bluegrass. I can feel it in my core! We like seeing old friends and making new ones. If possible, I like to wade in the Atlantic Ocean; it rehydrates my soul. We have two granddaughters who are very important to us!
PP: You were at IBMA’s World of Bluegrass in 2016. Do you attend this event every year? What do you appreciate the most about it?
VG: I have attended IBMA about 7 or 8 times, both in Nashville and Raleigh. What do I appreciate the most? Live music, meeting the musicians and agents, and friends! Old friends, new friends. They are all FRIENDS. IBMA gives youth musicians exposure with well-known musicians working with them in workshops and hallway concerts. I enjoy listening to and meeting new musicians. This contact with people in the bluegrass music industry has provided KAFM with a healthy bluegrass library. I like sharing the music and my experiences with my audience. I like that Raleigh embraces IBMA and incorporates the city into the event, five days long. IBMA is an acronym for “I've Been Mostly Awake.”
PP: Last year, you and your husband participated in the Crooked Road Tour, which covers 330 miles in Southwest Virginia. Tell us about your experience. Would you recommend it to others?
VG: Joe and I have traveled the Crooked Road twice, specifically for the music, and want to do it again and again. Everyone we met wanted us to go to their jams! It was so much fun. We were immersed in bluegrass where it originated and runs deep in the culture of the area.
Even as we traveled, we would find out about jams that we had not heard about. These musicians “been playin’ since they’s babies” and they are GOOD. No video games for these kids.
Of course I would recommend going to the Crooked Road! There are numerous festivals, some small, some large, and great little venues. One of my favorite stops is Floyd. The Floyd Country Store has a good music section and jams on Sundays and Fridays, seasonally. County Sales is the place to go for new and out-of-date music. But it’s not just the Crooked Road. Southwest Virginia is beautiful. I am at home there, having spent two years in Bristol in college. While in the area you can also drive the Blue Ridge Parkway from northern Virginia to southwestern North Carolina, ending at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
PP: One last question: You’ve been writing articles for Pow’r Pickin’ for about six years now. Where do you get the information you supply about bluegrass happenings on the Western Slope?
VG: I get my information from searching the Internet or talking to locals in-the-know.
Veta is the “glue” representing and advocating bluegrass on the Western Slope. Thank you, Veta, for keeping bluegrass alive and well in Colorado! KAFM can be heard locally at 88.1 and 96.9 FM. It can be streamed at www.kafmradio.org and can be heard on TuneIn Radio.