I once followed a band named after Bill Monroe’s horse. I know of another named after a famous Tony Rice tune. But a bluegrass quintet named after a scandal ridden, largely unheralded United States president? Nope. Not until I came across The Warren G. Hardings, that is. This troupe of Seattle based ‘grassers charge headlong into the progressive sounds made popular by the likes of Yonder Mountain String Band and The Brothers Comatose and have established themselves as up and comers on the Pacific Northwest bluegrass scene.
The Warren G. Hardings just released a new record, Get A Life, and are touring the western part of the country in support of it. A notable date on the horizon is the band’s participation in the band competition at the annual Northwest String Summit, Yonder Mountain String Band’s annual acoustic extravaganza in Oregon.
I had the opportunity to catch up with the guys in The Warren G. Hardings and peppered them with questions about President Harding, the new record, and the bluegrass scene in Seattle. The band proved to be both affable and solid historians.
BRO – What was Warren G. Harding’s middle name?
WGHs – Gamaliel, which was a possible album title contender for about half of a second.
BRO – Warren G. Harding was the ______ President of the United States?
WGHs – He was the 29th president, from 1921 through 1923, until his untimely and somewhat mysterious death, while still holding office, after traveling by train through the Pacific Northwest!
BRO – Better hang – Warren G. Harding or Warren G.?
WGHs – Warren G. Harding. He had more money and power at his disposal.
BRO – Which quote below can be attributed to Warren G. Harding?
A. I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a
fight. But my friends, my goddamned friends, they’re the ones who keep
me up at night.
B. Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work
hard at work worth doing.
C. It is amazing what one can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
D. Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.
WGHs – We’re going to go with A, which sounds pretty Warren G. Hardingish. Or at least the others definitely don’t.
BRO – What was Warren G. Harding’s first elected position?
A. Marion County (Ohio) District Attorney
B. Ohio State Senator
C. Marion County (Ohio) School Board Member
D. Member of the United States House of Representatives.
WGHs – How about C. Got to start somewhere!!
BRO – Why not The Harry S. Trumans?
WGHs – Truman didn’t get into enough shenanigans while in office to be deserving of our band name.
BRO – We are featuring “High & Low” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?
WGHs – It’s about trying to find the perfect girl and realizing that she may not actually exist. People can be a lot of things, but finding a partner who is simultaneously sweet and wild in all the ways you want them to be may be idealistic. In that way, the chorus – “If you come upon her let me know” – is a bit tongue-in-cheek.
BRO – You guys hail from the Pacific Northwest. How’s the bluegrass scene up your way?
WGHs – It’s actually amazing! There are a ton of pickers up here and a lot of great annual events like Wintergrass and Northwest Folklife that bring everyone together. The PNW has so much to offer musically. There are a variety of takes on bluegrass, from traditionalists to those that draw on progressive or “outside of the box” influences, and a lot of interpretations in between. Seattle itself is one of the best music cities in the who le country – our personal opinion, although biased to be sure – because there is such a diversity and abundance of live music and people love to support it. All the new friendships and memories made along the way have been some of the most enjoyable parts about being in this band.
BRO – Be honest. How many of the answers about Warren G. Harding did you have to google?
WGHs – None! We get asked about him often enough that we are required to be familiar with the basics. Some people recognize the name as an historical figure but can’t quite place him as a U.S. president – guess they weren’t paying attention in social studies!! – so we feel it is our duty to educate.
Well, the boys in the Warren G. Hardings certainly do know quite a bit about the band’s namesake. The only question they got wrong was the one about Mr. Harding’s first elected position. Turns out our 29th president started his political career as a state senator in Ohio, not as a member of the Marion County School Board. All in all, a fantastic performance from these PNW bluegrassers on our little historical trivia quiz!
If you live on the Eastern Seaboard, it is going to be tough to catch The Warren G. Hardings any time soon. Dates in June and July have them gigging in Washington, Utah, and Oregon. Having chatted with the band, though, I know they have designs on heading east at some point. Bluegrass fans out here would love to see that happen.
For more information on The Warren G. Hardings or to grab a copy of the new record, Get A Life, surf over to thewarrenghardings.com.