Dick’s Forum – No. 13
The Wedgwood Trio was made up of three friends. Bob Summerour was from Georgia and played the guitar and banjo, Jerry Hoyle was from North Carolina and played the bass and harmonica, and Don Vollmer, also from North Carolina, played the guitar and bass, and all three sang. They met during the 1960’s as teenagers and shared a mutual interest in music that became a life-long bond and musical success. In addition each, became successful in his chosen field, Bob in psychiatry, Jerry in psychology, and Don as a pastor. During our concerts while introducing themselves Don often said that they were all in the same field, helping people, he just charged less. Bob would rejoin that at least he and Jerry did not charge 10 percent of their patients’ income!
I met Jerry in Redlands, where I worked on his daughter’s violin bow. One day in about 1995 he called me and asked if I would play fiddle with them in a concert they were performing in a church in Calimesa, California. I did and that concert marked the beginning of a my relationship with them that lasted the next 7 years and included concerts in many places in the United States, two concert series and a video in Australia, a concert series in New Zealand, and other concerts in Canada.
Wedgwood is based in southern California. After Letha, my wife, and I moved to Texas in 1999 I would fly alone to our concert destination and meet them. Travel for me was very stressful, especially after 1991 with all the gear I had to carry. Our concert travel was always smoother when their wives traveled with us. The wives were “take charge” kinds of people and made sure things moved along smoothly and were better organized. We also stayed in better hotels and ate in nicer restaurants when they were along. Regardless, we worked hard, probably too hard, and made wonderful music together, most often to full houses, standing ovations, and repeated encores.
During our concerts, Bob was the leader. It got to the point where he and I could read each other with eye contact and make adjustments as we were performing. A form of communication I really enjoyed. All of us had a good way of pulling together to make things work.
Live music is fraught is endless possibilities for disaster. Strings break, sound systems squawk or don’t work at all, words to songs are forgotten at crucial moments, and the fiddle player forgets to make his entrance, just standing there with a goofy look on his face. All these things can and did happen. And in the midst of them, Jerry was unflappable and kept on as if nothing had happened, even when he pulled one wrong harmonica after another out of his pocket. In the years I have known him I don’t remember Jerry complaining about anything. He just kept writing wonderful songs and making his music.
I first heard Don sing the hymn Softly and Tenderly during one of my first concerts with them. To watch and hear him sing that hymn was for me a moment of great insight into the love of God, a moment I carry with me to this day.
I am indebted to Bob and Cheryl, Don and Melinda, and Jerry and Sharon. All the years I have known them they have treated me with love, respect and commitment. Not once, did any of them say a harsh word to me. I learned a great deal about myself hanging out with these guys and how I wanted to relate to other people.