by Billy Keith Bucher
Now it’s summertime in East Texas and that means one thing. It’s time for the Marshmallow Jam on June 24 through 26. There will be about 42 groups and individual acts involved in this event.
“But it didn’t start like a Woodstock take off,” said Chaz West recently. He is the bass player for Porter’s Bluff, one of the bands being featured, and his son, Daniel Westmoreland, plays outstanding guitar, for them as well. “Rather, it started as a series of parties in the 60s. We used to be just kids out here having our parties and my dad bought 25 acres and also found a house that we moved (onto the acreage). He turned it into our jam house and we covered our window so we didn’t know if it was day or night. And with the jam house, we started to have even bigger parties. We would just party all night because, back then, it was a time when I could stay up all night and party.”
One big of the biggest attraction of the music site, (6981 CR 3901, Eustase, and that’s near Athens, Texas), is a crystal lake, which contains true Ozark mountain drinking water running free but cold, on the spread. It was made when they dammed up a stream.
“One time, my dad, Daniel’s granddad, was out here when he started to chuckle. Someone asks him what he was laughing about and he said, ‘I don’t guess any of you have stopped to think about the fact that the ticks are just waiting for everyone to get on their swimming suits so they can come falling down out of the trees like rain.’
“He gave another quick chuckle and said, ‘I think we should have just name it for what it is. ‘Tick Stock!!!’
“One of the best things about having the jams going on,” added Chaz, “is that I’ve been kind of anti cutting down trees. That’s why it’s so overgrown out here. Now that I’m older and I have the grandkids, I’m trying to clear the land again. The people camping here help me clear it by cutting up wood and using it as firewood. This really is Woodstock, though on a very small scale; but we do have a wonderful time putting on the shows! There is the acoustic jam in the spring and the electric jam in the fall.
“Right now, my son Daniel is in the process of clearing more of the land for parking and he is better
at organizing the bands that are supposed to play and the schedule that they appear on stage. I just don’t have the mind for all of that, so I just turn it over to him. The Marshmallow Jam is getting bigger every year and we have a lot of new acts this year to showcase.”
“One thing,” said Daniel, “is that when you cross to the other side of the lake, people will call it ‘going to Europe.’ It’s like going ‘across the pond’ in another sense of the words. One thing about it is that it is more primitive over there. It’s like being in another world. And we’ve already doubled the parking area. And we’ve done some work at making the road coming down from the highway to be a little smoother and not quite as bumpy.”
Porter’s Bluff is a strong band and when the jam was postponed a month from its originally scheduled date, due to the rain and a need for road work, they continued to practice and put on a well-received show at The Brewery in downtown Athens. The group is rounded out by Shane Rendon on stunning guitar who intertwines some creative quitar work with Daniel and a highly talented drummer named Josh Emsoff. He was explosive on his drum solo towards the end of the set. And, among other things, this writer will be filling in on percussion in the background with congas and bongos and hand instruments. Aw, my San Francisco days are calling me back.
Good times were had by all at The Brewery and that should spill over into the Marshmallow Jam. And everyone is hoping for a good run after that.
Others playing will be A Tiger Lily, Straw Hat Society, Joe-E and Jim-L and many others. There will also be crafts including jewelry and wood carving.
A hint on finding the actual location once you get coast is, Chaz added, looked for the “Family Reunion’ sign on the road going down from a yellow house to the campgrounds. When you see a sign that says “No Glass Allowed,” you are there.