Virginia City gets taste of whiskey before breakfast |

Virginia City gets taste of whiskey before breakfast

Appeal Staff Writer

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal John Murphy's Carolina Special, members from left, Gorge Goodell, John Murphy, Matt Dudman and Suzanne Suwanda, play at the first annual Bluegrass on the Comstock festival, in Virginia City on Sunday.

John Murphy and his Carolina Special are trying to get off the stage. They’re the final act of the inaugural “Bluegrass on the Comstock” festival in Virginia City on Sunday morning, and the crowd, though modest, keeps calling for encores.

Emcee Don Evans of Silver Springs comes out on stage and encourages the folk music fans with his honey-roasted banter.

“What do you think?” he says, his voice so Southern-fried it makes the stomach rumble.

The crowd cheers from low lawn chairs dragged strategically out of the blazing sun and around the perimeter of shady Miners Park.

“Would y’all like to see them come up here and do another one before they tear me up?” he says to the band, already making its way back up to the stage readying their instruments – bass, banjo, mandolin, guitar and fiddle.

Banjo player George Goodell flashes the crowd a quick smile and says, “You ever go a sled-riding?”

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He plunges into a complicated finger game on the fret, picking and plucking a quick, complicated melody while the other band members squeeze toward the microphone and take off down to Dixieland with him.

Rumor has it that some of the band members were up picking until 3 a.m. last night, plucking and drinking under the stars.

North Carolina-born, Murphy’s roots-music pedigree is solid as Appalachian granite. He’s played with the Carolina Special in one form or another for 33 years.

“This is about the third incarnation of the band,” he says.

Event organizers Vicki Hass and Larry Ryan said they were pretty satisfied all told, this being their first effort at a bluegrass festival.

“It’s been a lot of work by a lot of different people to put this together,” said Hass, a classically trained violinist from Carson City whose alter-ego plays bluegrass fiddle in The Back Forty band.

The pair say they hope to make the two-stage event an annual affair.

“Bluegrass is America’s back-porch music,” says Hass. She says the genre is enjoying a period of revivalism and popularity unprecedented since “hillbilly ragtime” first jangled over the airwaves in the 1920s and 1930s.

Ryan says the organizers are taking today off then having a meeting Tuesday to begin planning for next year’s festival.

Still on stage, Murphy and Carolina Special are still going, no sign of letting up and letting the festival come to a close.

“Work the hide off the thing!” someone yells to the banjo player.

n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at or 881-1215.