Band of brothers: The Troubadours take the stage Friday at the Nevada Theatre
Special to Prospector
It only takes a few minutes speaking with Peter Wilson, Moe Dixon and Mountain John Hilligoss to understand the bond between the trio of musicians runs deep. With over 40 years of friendship under their belt, their concert scheduled for tomorrow night at the Nevada Theatre will be as much a gift to each other as it will be for those lucky enough to be in attendance.
Long-time Nevada county resident Peter Wilson said the three first began playing music together in 1977. “We are all solo acts, singer-songwriters and we’ve all been doing it our whole lives.” The three balladeers did not see much of each other for a couple of decades until about eight years ago when Mountain John suggested they get together for a weekend at a family cabin near his home in Western Pennsylvania. Wilson said, “Once we got there, we automatically started writing songs and it was so much fun, we did it the following year and the following year and for six years in a row.
Dubbed “Troubadour Camp,” the annual get together saw the birth of some 60 original songs. The friends found their way to a studio and recorded a full-length CD and decided to put on a show or two, first in Pennsylvania and then, about five years ago, in Grass Valley.
This time they are bringing their camaraderie and musical talents to Nevada City. Wilson said, “This will be a reunion. When the three of us get together, it’s the most natural thing in the world for us to make music. At this point, we don’t know what is going to happen, but it will be really fun, and it will be the three of us on stage.”
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Each member of the trio has a long and successful solo career in his own right. Wilson dropped out of college in Southern Vermont to become a folk singer in the 70s and that is where he met Hilligoss and Dixon, he said. “They were my role models and mentors. We all played the New England folk circuit and they showed me some of the tricks of the trade, lent me some of their equipment from time to time. We jumped in cars and drove for thousands of miles.” Wilson eventually found his way to Northern California and has never left.
Wilson said Mountain John Hilligoss has played all over the world. “He spent a good part of his life living in his truck and playing music. He’s kind of done it all as far as the singer songwriter country music thing.” Johnny Cash said Mountain John has “the greatest voice in country music.” Hilligoss has logged literally millions of miles on the road, performing with some of the biggest names in country music, including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Emmylou Harris. Part cowboy poet, part storyteller and part singer, Hilligoss said, “The three of us were born with gifts. Those gifts are stories, songs and poems. It has always been the same with us. We wind up writing songs. We wind up writing poetry. We wind up telling stories, crying and laughing. It’s been that way since the first day we all met.”
Hilligoss said the relationship he has with the other two troubadours is unique. “What Peter and Moe and I have when we are together is unlike any other musicians that I have ever been around. When we are together, I can guarantee something magical is going to happen. It can be the most serious thing that changes your entire life. It could be the funniest thing in the world that you have ever heard or ever will hear, or it could just be a story of the road and what life has been like.”
Hilligoss created a video series called “America’s Last Troubadour” that has aired on TNN and the Nashville Network and has written a book entitled, “America’s Lost Dreamer.” He said he travelled so far chasing his dream that he got lost. “It took people like Moe and Peter to come and get me and lead me back home. Otherwise I would still be out there lost, or not on this planet anymore.”
Moe Dixon has a long successful career in the music business including creating music for film and working with some of the biggest names in the folk and Americana genre including Pete Seeger, Nicolette Larson, Doc Watson, Maria Muldaur, John Denver, Little River Band, Three Dog Night , Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Buddy Guy and Robben Ford. A bit of a renaissance man, he is a professional skier, professional wind surfer, professional musician and is spending a good deal of time travelling the planet on his motorcycle. Splitting his time between Hood River, Oregon and Copper Mountain, Colorado Dixon said he still plays music with Wilson and Hilligoss because of the special relationship they share. “These guys are really good people and really good old friends. It’s magical. It’s about way more than the music. Anyone can play Bach but it’s much more difficult to make magic. Making magic with them, it’s just really, really easy. It’s mind boggling.”
According to the “last troubadour,” attendees of this reunion concert can expect great stories, great music, great poetry and great friendship. “That is what is going to happen on that stage Friday night,” Hilligoss said. “It’s our responsibility to share our gift with others. This could be the last time you see the three of us together. We are excited to see each other, and we know we are three of the luckiest troubadours you will ever run into. We just want to sing until we drop dead.”
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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