The News of Sun City Center

The News of Sun City Center


ISSUE # 137

The Front Porch Pickers
Sure Can Throw a
     By Eldon Green
When Ike McClosky, an avid musician with roots in the hills of Pennsylvania, moved to Sun City Center, he looked for a club that was playing music, particularly old-time country. The only one he could find was the harmonica club, so he joined up and played with them for about a year. 
Front Row (L to R) Ed Watson, David Lickfeldt (Vice President), Jannett Harrington, Ken Ward, Ike McClosky (President). Back Row (L to R) Ron Leombruno, Jan Ring, Leo Pollard (Treasurer).Photo by Eldon Green.
      Then one day, McClosky saw a notice on a bulletin board inviting anyone who would like to play country music to call. The outcome of Ike’s phone call was an invitation from Ray Kelly to join him at his home for conversation and maybe to play a little. Ike readily accepted. 
      Ray Kelly came from the mountains of Virginia. The two mountain men enjoyed themselves and decided to meet once a week at Ray’s home. They did this for two months before Ken Ward, a mandolin player who is now 94 years old, joined them. The group had started to grow. 
Old Time Country 
      And that was the start of the Front Porch Pickers, a group of musicians dedicated to preserving traditional old time country music. The one thing they all had in common was their love of country music. Soon, others started to show up, instruments in hand, ready to join in the hootenanny. 
      Before long Jim Kelly (no relation to Ray), Jas Kinnear, Joe and JoAnne Podgurski also joined, and they started to meet in the Armstrong and Horizon rooms. JoAnne took on the job of director. She has never taken a music lesson, but plays the slide guitar and loves to sing. 
      “I come from a very musical family,̶ JoAnne explains. “I have been singing since I was four, when my father, who played four instruments, would take me on Sunday afternoons to the restaurant and bar where he entertained, sit me on the end of the bar and I would sing ‘Hey, Good Looking’ to an appreciative audience.” 
      “My brother, who at 12 was an excellent drummer and would occasionally play in my father’s band, had one problem” she giggled, “he would drop his drum sticks. My father finally tied a string to the sticks and threaded the string up the sleeves of his shirt–same as mittens in the winter.” 
Mountain Music 
      Country music had its beginnings in Appalachia, the mountains of Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, in the late 1800s and early 1900s. That music was sometimes called hillbilly music. 
      Those were simpler days prior to TV and cell phones. Songs and stories were passed down from generation to generation and they learned and played by ear. The music therefore was simple and people played to their own ability. It was and still is the perfect family activity— it’s lots of fun, and anyone can participate regardless of age or skill. 
      The Front Porch Pickers’ present membership of 35, with an active core of 28, is drawn from the Greater Sun City Center area. It is not unusual to have upward of 75 people come to their Wednesday afternoon practice sessions to listen and join in the singing 
Generations of pickers 
      “Banjos and country music are synonymous,” says Jim Kelly, who has been playing the banjo for 50 years. “It is a happy and melodious instrument. Basically it is a drum with strings stretched over it.” Kelly also plays the piano, accordion and harmonica. Keeping up the true Appalachian tradition, Jim is teaching his two grandsons how to play the banjo. 
      To prove that age is not a limiting factor in playing and enjoying country music, 94-year-old Ken Ward plays a ‘Bandolin’ with the Pickers. This is an interesting instrument; a combination of a banjo and mandolin. 
      The Front Porch Pickers welcome anyone who wants to spend a couple of enjoyable hours singing and toe-tapping to their music. Join them any Wednesday afternoon in the Armstrong Room at 1:00 p.m. They also have their own ‘Minnie Pearl’ for those who remember the TV series “Hee Haw” and the original Grand Ole Opry.
      Come and join in their Hootenanny– you will be glad you did.