THE STORY BEHIND “ BRIDGE TO PORTSMOUTH”
Imagine you’re a talented young, twenty-one-year-old, living in a ramshackle apartment on Gallia Street in Portsmouth, Ohio. It’s 1981 and you’re playing lead guitar for Dave Evans bluegrass band in Waverly. You have no car to drive, no television to watch, you are flat broke and lonesome but still, you have a dream! Thus is the story of Chris Jones who is headlining the Final Friday in Boneyfiddle concert August 26th at 8:00 pm. When he wasn’t playing a gig or practicing his chops he would wander the streets of Portsmouth. It was during these walks Chris Jones would find the inspiration to write the song ‘Bridge to Portsmouth’. As it turns out Chris was a gifted singer/songwriter with an insatiable appetite for all things bluegrass.
Fast forward 34 years and you receive an email from a complete stranger asking permission to use the song ‘Bridge to Portsmouth’ on a compilation of original Portsmouth related tunes. The stranger’s name is Robert Black. Black had already produced and released one CD called ‘Welcome to P’town’. The proceeds from that CD were used to form the nonprofit Boneyfiddle Project which Black, and his wife Julia, formed in 2014. Black, related the nonprofit was tasked with a mission to resurrect the economy in the historic shopping district of Portsmouth and these musical productions were part of his plan. Proceeds from this follow up CD, ‘Welcome Back P’town’, would be used to fund a fledgling concert series called ‘Final Friday in Boneyfiddle”. After consulting with his record label, Jones graciously consented.
“There are 15 great songs on the CD but Jones song, Bridge to Portsmouth, is special”, Black related in an interview. Jones has since released 14 albums, won 16 IBMA awards, and his song Leave it at the Gate became his 15th #1 song. In addition, he hosts the Bluegrass Junction on SiriusXM and Willie’s Roadhouse channels making him one of the most widely heard broadcasting voices in bluegrass today. Bluegrass great Jim Lauderdale calls Chris Jones voice “fine wine for the ears” and comedian/banjo picker Steve Martin is quoted as saying “Chris Jones voice is among the great masters and his band the Night Drivers have some of the best players in bluegrass music”. The Night Drivers feature Mark Stoffel on mandolin, Marshall Wilborn on bass, and Grace Van’t Hof on banjo and ukulele.
“We are thrilled to come back to Portsmouth for the first time and play our hits, including ‘Bridge to Portsmouth’, for the people of that fine community.” Jones is quoted as saying. “I’ve heard a lot of positive things are happening there!”.
Chris Jones and his band, the Night Drivers, were scheduled to play this concert in 2020 but Jones lives in Canada and the pandemic had closed the borders. “I’ve worked for three years to secure this act for Final Friday in Boneyfiddle” said Black, “If the word elegant can be used to describe a bluegrass genre, that’s exactly what these guys bring”. Jones and his band recently played the Grand Ole Opry and will be fresh off a concert in Sweden to play Final Friday. “We are going to shoot a music video of this performance at our concert venue with the Carl Perkins Bridge in the background. We want to preserve this moment for the city of Portsmouth.” said Black.
Also featured at Final Friday is Wiley Dew, an award-winning husband and wife Appalachian folk duo who have performed alongside George Jones, Loretta Lynn, John Prine and Gillian Welch. Wiley Dew will take the stage at 5:30 pm. Nashville singer/songwriter Rob McNurlin and the Beatnik Cowboys will perform at 6:45 pm. McNurlin has performed with Marty Stewart and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Plan on attending this special concert? Three Bridges Outdoor Concert Venue is located at 132-2nd Street in Portsmouth. The venue is in the DORA zone and small coolers are permitted with discretion. These are family friendly events and people are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket. Food and merchandise will be available. For more information go to “theboneyfiddleproject.org”.