Pickin’ on the Porch at the Tuckerton Seaport

By Pat Johnson | Jan 08, 2020
Photo by: Pat Johnson ‘Pickin’ on the Porch,’ part of the Tuckerton Seaport’s Folklife Center, draws musicians of all levels to the Hunting Shanty the first Sunday of each month.

Tuckerton, NJ — Harmonies of blue grass, country and old-time music fill the air of the Tuckerton Seaport’s Hunting Shanty the first Sunday of every month when the “Pickin’ on the Porch” program takes the stage. Local musicians Linda and Bill Salmons created the program, part of the Seaport’s Folklife Center, 15 years ago. Most recently, after Bill suffered a stroke, Linda has been the sole force behind it. “Musicians come from all over,” she said. “We have musicians who come regularly from as far away as Fortesque on the Delaware and Pennsylvania.”

The venue not only draws professional musicians such as slide-guitarist Paul Unkert, fiddle player Chris Norden and banjo player Mark Urban (who lives just down the road), but also is a welcoming place for aspiring newcomers. “We’re a welcoming place,” said Salmons. “This is a no-judgment zone.”

The musicians gather in a circle on folding chairs and do a round-robin, each one picking a popular tune they’d like to play, telling what key it’s in and, like as not, the rest of them play along. As the tune progresses, the protocol is for the leader to give a nod to the player they want to do a short solo; then the banjo plays a lick, or the slide guitar or the fiddle or bass player. It all goes smoothly, more or less. Singing is always welcome, and the audience is included. To end the song, the leader merely lifts his or her foot.

Pickin’ on the Porch started on the porch of the Tucker’s Island Lighthouse, hence the name, but in the colder months, it’s good to huddle in the Hunting Shanty, where there is always a pot of coffee brewing. The informal jam session happens the first Sunday of each month at noon except in September, when the musicians go to the Delaware Valley Blue Grass Festival held in Woodstown.

The end of this month, most of the musicians will be traveling to the Wilmington Winter Blue Grass Festival held in Wilmington, Del. At least that was the scuttlebutt among the regulars this past Sunday. Other topics of conversation included introducing a new guitar player to the need to change her strings more than once every two years and introducing her to guitarist Paul Unkert, who is also a luthier – a maker and repairer of guitars – from Toms River.

Salmons, a Tuckerton area native, has been singing and playing guitar since she was a kid, about 10 years old. “We all start somewhere,” she said. Though the music is mostly bluegrass, country or old-time songs, sometimes the vibe goes bluesy, or there may be some doo-wop, classic Tin Pan Alley or swing. “It all depends on who’s there,. It’s fun,” said Salmons. “Music is where all my friends are.”

— Pat Johnson

patjohnson@thesandpaper.net

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