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Blodgett a Sunday regular at Dillian's

Behind the Bars column
By: Kathleen McCoy Grover
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Growing up on Rocky Ridge Dude Ranch at Lake Luzerne, N.Y. was like a second-generation fairytale for Gary Blodgett. His parents, Gary Sr. and Nancy, met on the ranch owned by Nancy’s mother. Gary was born into a family that played music long before he came along in 1966. The Blodgett family ran a tight ship and a busy one at that. By the time Gary was 7, he was in the Blodgett Family band, with his father on banjo, mother on bass, sister on tambourine and Gary on mandolin. “We played bluegrass and gospel music in every kind of church, old folks home and countless pancake suppers and festivals across the Northeast,” Gary said. At the suggestion of his father, Gary switched to guitar at age 12. “It took some arm-twisting by my dad before my mom agreed to let us play an afternoon gig at a bar. It was a bluegrass family thing. Slowly but surely, the bar made its change into the nighttime crowd with the floozies and alcoholics,” Gary said. “Then the band members dressed to the hilt in matching costumes started walking in. It was the 1970s; I was so overwhelmed. A big change from the little dirty rotten beer joints we had played in the past. This was the upscale Ranch Bar, in prestigious Clifton Park, N.Y. It held over 300 people. From the moment those fabulous musicians started playing western swing, I knew this was what I was going to do.” At 24, Gary hit the road with a Top 40 country group, High Noon, from Keene, N.H. They played up and down the East Coast, more frequently in Daytona Beach, Fla. “A lot of these guys couldn’t hack the road but I loved it so I moved on after about a year,” Gary said. “I fell in love with Key Largo and immediately moved there.” He met Willie Bouton at Billie Bob’s in Daytona Beach and joined the Southern Thunder Band, playing Top 40 country music throughout the East Coast and the Florida Keys. “We warmed up for least 25 national acts, including Slim Whitman, Boxcar Willie, The Forester Sisters, Terry McBride and the Ride, Whispering Bill Anderson, Doug Supernaw and Neil McCoy,” Gary said. A chance encounter with the manager of Sloppy Joes (the fabled favorite watering hole of Earnest Hemmingway and a bar in the Florida Keys) landed Gary his dream job when the manager recognized him from his Blodgett Family band jamming days. He hired Gary on the spot for a solo afternoon show five days a week. Effortlessly, Gary broke into the prestigious Key West music circuit. By 2005, Gary was ready to move on from the wild party scene in The Keys and moved back to his childhood home in upstate New York. His first winter back home left him snowbound for 10 days, which was not the slower pace he imagined. Gary needed something in between Florida’s 24-hour party scene and the slower upstate New York scene. When an old girlfriend called out of the blue a year later and said, “Hey Gary, I’m moving to Califorina. Wanna come with me?” he answered, “Where to? Let’s do it!” And that’s how he ended up in Roseville in 2006. Gary met singer Courtney Lynn in 2007 while doing a show at Dillian’s Bar and Grill in Lincoln. Courtney had just placed as runner up in the California State Finals of the National Colgate Country Showdown, taking top honors in vocals and marketability. She recognized Gary’s savant-like abilities on the guitar, mandolin and fiddle. He joined her Big Trouble band in mid 2009. One week later, they played their first show at Red Hawk Casino in Placerville. They now perform 200 shows a year in Northern California and Nevada, including Dillian’s Bar and Grill, Mandango’s in Roseville and Coach’s in Rocklin. Gary also performs in a duo with Mark Pacheco most Sundays from 6 to 9 p.m. at Dillian’s, playing “whatever the audience wants to hear.” “I’m what they call a utility guy. I can play solo, as a duo or in a band as a fill- in guy,” Gary said. “Last weekend, I filled in on fiddle for Whiskey Dawn at an after-party for Sugarland in Tahoe. If the other guy is just playing an oboe, I can play with him.” The key to Gary’s longevity in the business is his passion for music and his staunch work ethic, which he most likely learned from his parents. “My motto is, I don’t mix my private life with my work life. I do the best job I can, collect my paycheck and go home,” Gary said. I’d say it’s a lesson that has done his parents and his audiences proud. Kathleen McCoy Grover, “My Life, Your Music,” is a Lincoln resident.