The end of a musical era in Rough and Ready
by Courtney Ferguson
"Seventeen years is a heck of an inning," said one of the Fruit Jar Pickers' founding members, Red Sagraves, "but all good things come to an end." Sagraves was referring to the 17 years the Fruit Jar Pickers have been entertaining Nevada County with their bluegrass style of sing-along music. "Originally, a few of us got together on the front porch of the Rough and Ready Market," he recalled. "Soon more local musicians joined in, including DoBro player and anchor, Everette Burkard. His skill, patience and generosity helped us become something of a local fixture. We moved to an abandoned car-repair garage across the street - where both the band and the audience grew in numbers. It wasn't unusual to have retired Lake Wildwood residents singing songs like "Motorcycle Mamma" with bike club members." The band sometimes had as many as 28 musicians of varying expertise, and the audience was often over 200; many from all over America and all over the world. Eventually, the garage became the site of what is now the Rough and Ready Fire Station, and the band moved to the nearby Grange Hall. "We will miss each other - as well as our many loyal friends who'd sing along with us each Sunday," Sagraves reflected.
The band experienced its fair share of slice-of-life challenges, changes, romance and passings. In addition to playing each Sunday morning, the Fruit Jar Pickers played again in the afternoons at one of Nevada County's retirement homes or convalescent hospitals. "Over the years, we got to know many of the residents and patients," Everette Burkard explained. "Their willingness to sing along and connect was inspirational, and something we will always remember fondly. Many said we helped them get through a tough patch in their lives."
The last performance will take place on Sunday, June 18th from 10:00 a.m. to noon in the Rough and Ready Grange Hall. "As always," Sagraves added, "it will be free of charge - and fun."
"We can make a party out of nothing," is a line from one of the songs they sing - and probably sums up the spirit behind their earthy music. The Fruit Jar Pickers are likely to be remembered more for their big hearts than their musical expertise. However, that's probably exactly what they want.
Photo by banjo player Janet Burton
(caption) Founding member Red Sagraves (left) and anchor Everette Burkard tune up for one of the Fruit Pickers’ last performances – while they recall 17 years of fun.