Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Christison Musicians

(poster by fM)

Prospecting is in my Christison blood, but there is another talent that runs through the Christison family – musical ability. It seems that those who weren’t bitten by the gold bug honed their musical talent. And, in two cases, without music (and the U.S. Air Force) two marriages may never have happened.

Ernest Christison never seemed to care much about prospecting; he got into cattle ranching at an early age. But he could fiddle a tune! He played for dances and gatherings in Fairplay, Salida and Howard. Ernest’s granddaughter, Betty Regnier, remembers him playing “Devil’s Dream” on the fiddle when she was a little girl.

Ernest wasn’t the only one of Wilburn’s children to play an instrument. His younger brother, John Christison, was a professional musician—a piano player. According to one source, he joined the circus as a musician and married a trapeze artist! John is listed as a musician in the 1885 Colorado Census and was the leader of the Aspen City Orchestra in 1889. By the time of his death in 1890 at the age of 31, John was the leader of the Wheeler Opera House Orchestra.

(United States Air Force photograph)
Unites States Air Force Academy Band - Ken Christison right corner

The music talents of the next generation are unknown to me; however, the Christison musical talent came through loud and clear when my Dad, Kenneth Christison, Jr., began playing the trombone in school in Los Molinos, California. Ken Christison joined the Air Force in 1961 and was stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. He played in the Maxwell Air Force Band. He also met my mother, Connie Revelle, in Montgomery and, after they were married, it’s where I was born. Dad was stationed at the Air Force Academy in 1966, bringing him to the state of Colorado where 3 generations of his family had lived before him.

(United States Air Force photograph)
The Falconaires

As a bandsman of the United States Air Force Academy Band, Dad played trombone in the Marching Band, Symphony and, for a year or two, the Falconaires, a jazz ensemble. Dad played on the Falconaires album, “The Snake Creek Diversion Project,” a respected jazz and funk recording. Here’s a YouTube video I found with the recording of “Memphis Soul Stew.”

Every day the Air Force Academy Band played breakfast, noon, and supper formations, marching the Air Force Academy cadets to their meals. The band also performed concerts throughout the year at the Academy. My favorites were the Christmas concerts. Dad was stationed at the Air Force Academy for eighteen years. He was also the instrument repairman, which made him indispensable to the band.

Growing up with music, I learned to play the flute, piano, and guitar in elementary school. My brother, Brian, played the trumpet and guitar, too. I played flute in the band through Junior High and one year in High School. That was 1981, the year Douglas County High School Marching Band marched in the Rose Parade. After marching five miles through Pasadena, I really didn’t have any desire to march again!

(Douglas County News, Castle Rock, Colorado)
The Range Riders

My musical interests turned in another direction a couple of weeks after the Rose Parade when a friend asked me to play guitar in a country-western band he was starting with his cousin. Ron Gresham, his cousin John Gresham, and I became The Range Riders. We played for a few community gatherings and a dance or two, but we found we were better as a gospel group than a dance band. And John and I have been making music ever since!

Today we play in a bluegrass gospel group that leads the worship service at church once a month. I’ve added a banjo and hammered dulcimer to my musical instrument collection. I can play both a little. I’m a pretty good rhythm guitar player and a decent harmony singer. John plays mandolin and sings, too. We enjoy playing old country western songs with John’s father, who plays guitar. And the Christison and Gresham music talent hasn’t ended with us—I enjoy playing guitar in the contemporary praise group at church with my daughter, Kate, who plays the bass and my son, Kenny, who plays guitar.

This post was written for the 83rd edition of the Carnival of Genealogy hosted by Janet Iles at Janet the Researcher.