North Texas Daily

Courthouse ‘pickers’ fill Denton Square with music

Courthouse ‘pickers’ fill Denton Square with music

January 28
00:52 2011

By Alexa Chan and Corrisa Jackson / Senior Staff Writer and Staff Writer –

People strolling the Denton Square on a Saturday morning, grabbing a cup of coffee or checking out a local shop, might catch the sound of fiddles and guitars playing bluegrass and country tunes.

The players call themselves the “Courthouse Pickers” because they pick the strings on their instruments instead of strumming them.

The group meets at 10 a.m. every Saturday morning on the Square.

Local Musicians Gather from NTDaily on Vimeo.

The Pickers come together to play bluegrass, Western swing, country, Celtic, folk and old rock tunes. It’s a different taste of the Denton music scene.

“My favorite part is the fellowship,” said Walt Lundblad, a guitar player. “That’s a rare thing in modern times.”

The players

The Pickers began as four musicians who played on a bench by John B. Denton’s grave 18 years ago, said Greg Kneupper, one of the original members.

On a good day, the musicians can draw crowds of about 30 people. When the weather is nice, they meet outside the courthouse. During bad or cold weather, they meet in a nearby restaurant, said Lundblad.

Lundblad has played the guitar for 37 years. He has been involved with the Pickers since he moved to Texas two years ago.

His guitar of choice is the Dobro, a “guitar with a hotplate,” he said.

Instead of using a standard guitar pick, Walt wears metallic fingerpicks and a thumb pick as he plucks the strings.

The Pickers is an eclectic mix of people, Lundblad said.

A drunken gentleman would show up and need his guitar tuned. The Pickers would gladly help him and then ask him to join in the jam session, he said.

Tim Fisher, a mandolin player, has been part of the Pickers for about 10 years.

His mandolin is strapped with a white rope and carried in a white case. Inherited from his great-grandfather, he started as a novice collector, not a player.

“I used to go down and watch and that transitioned to taking my instrument, but not taking it out of the case,” Fisher said. “That transitioned into playing.”

Fisher said he is self-taught, getting his instruction from popular websites like YouTube.

Since playing for the Pickers, Fisher began learning basic songs.

With time and practice, he later became comfortable with improvising.

Dustin Ballard has played with the Pickers since his time in the Denton High School orchestra.

He said he could hear the similarities between his classical violin training and the styles of the Pickers.

“Music is music through the ages,” Ballard said.

After hearing these new styles from the Pickers, Ballard said he grew fond of Western swing, a genre that became popular in Texas in the ‘30s.

The music is jazzier and more improvisational than the classical music he learned, he said.

While in the high school orchestra, Ballard knew his instrument as the violin.

Now as a Picker, he calls it the fiddle.

“A violin goes in a case and a fiddle goes in a flour sack,” Ballard said.

Ballard currently plays in a band called “Shoot Low Sheriff” in Dallas, but for fun he still comes to Denton to jam with the Pickers.

“I would have just given up on my violin like most of my friends if it weren’t for this,” said Ballard.

Community support

Anna Scott currently lives in Denton to take care of her mother who has Alzheimer’s.

Scott said she visits the Pickers as often as she can and brings her mother along to enjoy the music.

Her mother’s Alzheimer’s makes things difficult for her to relate to, but she said she can relate to music.

Scott said she enjoys the Pickers because they play traditional music that’s largely improvised.

“I really like the idea of being spontaneous,” said Scott. “They don’t have anything in mind. It just comes up.”

Joining to Jam

What: Lawn Jam Session

When: Saturday’s at 10 a.m.

Where: The Square in Downtown Denton

Cost: Free

Bring blankets to sit on

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