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Dudley’s Rush Will Perform at Fete

July 24, 2008

By Teri Maddox, Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.

Jul. 24–Let’s get one thing out of the way first: The bluegrass band Dudley’s Rush is named after a native Illinois prairie grass.

“We always get people asking, ‘Who’s Dudley?’” said band leader Holly Wood. “And we say, ‘There’s no Dudley, but all the guys think they’re studly.’”

“Which we are,” quips Dale Andersen, singer, guitarist and dobro player.

Ba-dum dum.

The name wasn’t meant to be funny, but it’s proven good for a few laughs. Band members like to point out the scientific translation is “juncus dudleyi.”

“We just play a bunch of junk,” they joke.

Dudley’s Rush is one of seven groups set to perform Sunday at the 17th annual Old Time Music Fete at Cahokia Courthouse State Historic Site.

Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission and parking are free.

About 1,000 people attend the festival each year. The stage is the south porch of the Old Cahokia Courthouse, a vertical log French Colonial structure built around 1740.

Audiences bring lawn chairs or blankets, sit under trees and listen to traditional folk, country, bluegrass, gospel and Irish music. Children make kites and beaded necklaces. Musicians break into small groups for jam sessions.

“It’s just a nice, relaxing family event,” said Molly McKenzie, site manager.

This year’s acoustic lineup includes Taum Sauk, Country Folk, the Roscoe Beano Band, Celtica and O’Fallon Folk.

The Thunder and Lightening Cloggers of Southern Illinois will present a 30-minute clogging demonstration at 3 p.m.

“Those folks really put on a show,” McKenzie said.

Dudley’s Rush will return at 2:15 p.m. after a successful debut at last year’s festival.

The eight-member band is affiliated with Union United Methodist Church in Belleville, but gospel is only part of its repertoire.

Standards range from bluegrass versions of classic hymns such as “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” to the 19th century North Carolina ballad “Tom Dooley” and the 1974 Hoyt Axton folk hit “Boney Fingers.”

“We’re not opposed to jerking some chains,” said Wendy Blanton, 41, of Mascoutah, who sings and plays mandolin. “That’s how we started doing ‘Dooley.’ We wanted to see if we could slip a moonshine song past the Methodists.”

Also on the band’s playlist are original tunes by Rod Langston of Edwardsville, who sings and plays fiddle, mandolin and guitar.

The other four band members are Helen Campbell of Belleville on guitar and vocals, Robb Hass of Swansea on guitar and vocals, Dianne Hilgert of Belleville on autoharp and vocals and Cathy Obernuefemann of Smithton on vocals.

Most are church members, but evangelizing isn’t part of the gig.

“We all have different ways of expressing our faith,” said Wood, 52, of Belleville, singer, guitarist, banjo player and associate pastor of Union United. “We all have different religious backgrounds.”

Band members also vary widely in age, occupation and musical biography.

As a child, Campbell fell asleep listening to adults playing bluegrass around a campfire when her family went camping.

Campbell worked as a pop and country singer more than 25 years ago and returned to the spotlight to try her hand at bluegrass.

“It’s simple, and it’s happy music for the most part,” she said. “There’s no pretentiousness. Everybody’s comfortable.”

The band’s roots go back to 2003, when Wood, Andersen, Hass and musician James Wrede performed in a Union United talent show.

They later began supplementing regular music at church services.

“We didn’t even have a name for two years,” said Andersen, 51, of Belleville.

Wood’s son, K.C. Krumeich, did Internet research on types of “grass” with “roots in Illinois” and came up with Dudley’s Rush.

“Our first business cards said, ‘Straight from the back porch,’ and that’s (the feeling) we aim for,” Blanton said. “That’s what I aim for. Come on in and pull up a step.”

Today, the band performs about once a month at churches, festivals, fundraisers and other events.

It entertained crowds at Art on the Square this year and raised more than $9,000 for wounded Belleville Police Sgt. Jon Brough at a concert in 2007.

The musicians donate all their earnings to charitable causes such as Union United’s food pantry and youth ministry. It’s one of the ways they work to positively affect the community.

“When I bring in a song (for the playlist), I always try to think about the message,” Andersen said. “I want to make people feel good.”

Cahokia Courthouse State Historic Site is at 107 Elm St. in Cahokia, near Illinois 3 and 157. Concessions at the Old Time Music Fete will include Knights of Columbus barbecue, Ted Drewes frozen custard cream and Pepsi soft drinks.

This year for the first time, festival organizers will raffle a guitar to help offset expenses. For more information, call McKenzie at 332-1782.

17th annual Old Time Music Fete

Who: Six acoustic bands and a clogging group.

Where: Cahokia Courthouse State Historic Site, 107 Elm St. in Cahokia, near Illinois 3 and 157.

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, rain or shine.

Admission and parking: Free.

Concessions: Knights of Columbus barbecue, Ted Drewes frozen custard and Pepsi soft drinks.

Bring: Lawn chairs, blankets and musical instruments for jam sessions, if desired.

Other activities: Kite-making and bead-stringing for kids and a guitar raffle.

Information: Call Molly McKenzie at 332-1782.

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