The Sweets Mill String Band had its musical birth in the Central San Joaquin Valley in and around Fresno, Sweets Mill, Pierce's Park, and the orange groves of Centerville. The music is old-time style in the tradition of the Skillet Lickers, the North Carolina Ramblers, and Valley folks such as Ron Hughy, Otis Pierce, and Kenny Hall.
In the mid 1960s Ron Tinkler and Jim Ringer were teaming up with Kenny Hall for music jobs around the valley. In 1967 Harry Liedstrand and Cary Lung joined the informal music making that was happening in the homes of friends and out at Pierce's Park. By 1969 Kenny, Jim, Ron, and Harry were playing up and down the West Coast at universities and folk festivals as the Sweets Mill String Band. Cary formally joined the band in 1971 to stand in for Kenny when the Sweets Mill String Band gathered together with a host of other west coast musicians to form the Portable Folk Festival. Kenny kept the home fires burning in California while the Portable Folk Festival toured the country, playing at festivals, colleges, pot-lucks, and coffee houses.
As the 1970s and 1980s wore on, the movements of life took everyone in different directions, though we occasionally got together for a party, a reunion concert, or just a visit and some informal tunes. While balancing the challenges of raising families and pursuing careers, everyone continued to play music, be it old-time, country, or Irish.
Kenny recorded several albums including a solo album "Kenny Hall," with Philo Records in 1974; "Kenny Hall and the Long Haul String Band," with Voyager Records in 1980; "The Happy Neighbor Club," with the Fresno Folklore Society in 1988; and "Raise the Roof: Kenny Hall and the Long Haul String Band." Kenny has appeared on albums with the Boys of the Lough, U. Utah Phillips, Jean Ritchie, and others, as well as on anthologies from San Diego and Fox Hollow Folk Festivals, and the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. 1999 saw the publication of Kenny Hall's Music Book, Old-Time Music for Fiddle and/or Mandolin by Mel Bay Publications. Kenny, with his wife Marta, has made two trips to Ireland, and played many festivals across the U.S. He still lives and plays music in Fresno, California.
Jim Ringer traveled far and wide, singing and writing songs before leaving us on St. Patrick's Day in 1992. He recorded many fine albums, including "Waitin' For the Hard Times to Go" for Folk Legacy, and "Good to Get Home" and "Any Old Wind That Blows" for Philo Records. Now we like to think he's playing music with Hank Williams and Otis Pierce. Virgil Byxbe, who named the Sweets Mill String Band after his Sierra Mt. music gathering, also passed on shortly before Jim in 1992.
Cary Lung moved to Tucson Arizona where he became a toy-master and created an enchanting toy store. Playing with toys, laughing with children, and playing Irish music all while raising two beautiful daughters, Chloe and Haley, have kept Cary young at heart and full of fun.
Ron and Ellen Tinkler are working and teaching in Mendocino County. Together they have raised two new Tinklers, Omie and Jesse, and countless gardens, flowers, and vegetables. Playing music and singing together have kept their home country-cozy and a great meeting ground for old-time country music around Northern California.
Harry Liedstrand is teaching children and playing music in Walnut Creek, California. He and Cindy play music together and have two musical kids; Terrell plays guitar and violin, and Farrin plays violin and dances. When joined by Harry's father Al, three generations fiddle old-time music together at the annual Liedstrand Family Show in the giant redwoods of California's north coast.
It was the love of this old music that sparkled and drew us together some 35 years ago. Now, in this new millennium, it still brings us spinning together for a rare reunion concert or festival. Celebrating the currents of life through rhythm, melody, and harmony have merged us together in wonderful ways, meaningful not only to us, but to others as well. Through playing, listening, dancing, and singing we have enhanced our celebration of joy. Just tapping your foot to the rhythm of an internal melody, or humming that wistful tune you feel emerging can make all the difference. Perhaps it would be fun to write some liner notes that read "We're back! And we're better than ever!" But really, this is just a fresh look at a snapshot from long ago.
The Sweets Mill String Band exists as an entity mostly in spirit...gathering
together occasionally to make a joyful noise...glad you noticed.
H. Liedstrand and R. Tinkler, April, 2001
Check out the artist's website:
1. Angeline the Baker
2. Stony Point
3. Campbells Are Coming
4. Old Mother Flanagen
5. Wearing of the Green
6. Little Girl Dressed in Blue
7. Crying Holy
8. Devilish Mary
9. Cotton-Eyed Joe
10. Willow Garden
11. Little Beggerman
13. Little Rabbit
14. Leaving Home
15. Susanah Gal
16. Highland Pipe Medley
17. Lonesome Road
18. Old and Gray
19. Sweet Sunny South
20. Kenny's Farm
21. Katy Nora
22. It's Nice To Get Up In The Morning
24. Maggie Walker Blues
25. Golden Slippers