“I’ve never done [busking] before until I moved to Chattanooga,” explained Ovington, who hails from Maine. “I always played on the road with bands, and we always looked at busking as being something kind of for musicians who weren’t doing very well.
“That’s changed since I met Stratton [Tingle], who does SoundCorps,” said Ovington. “It’s actually more about bringing music to people you wouldn’t ever see where you’re playing.”
On Sunday, Oct. 23, the Chattanooga Market hosted buskers of all kinds, including many musicians, at its second annual Buskers Festival.
Before moving to play near the front of the market, Owen Saunders played a fiddle alongside Ovington, who occasionally joins him for a song or two on the city’s street corners.
Music is Saunder’s main hobby, but he says he has a number of other professions, including remodeling, plumbing, butchery and carpeting.
“I do things like a butcher, a carpenter, a plumber, and I do some remodeling,” said Saunders. “Some of my friends were [busking], and I found out it wasn’t against the law about a year ago, I thought you had to get a permit from the city.”
Aside from his many work skills, he also has learned how to play a variety of instruments.
“I have a whole band in my living room. I can play things such as the guitar, the banjo, and the bass, but the fiddle is my money making machine.”
Owen’s love for music was apparent because he was anxious to play his fiddle and loved playing at the Busker’s Festival.
Further in the Market, other duos were playing, including banjoist Ron Williams and guitarist Tom Morgan.
“I started recording in Nashville when I was 17 in ‘69,” said Williams. “I ran into Tom when I was doing the Pine Breeze Recordings back in the mid ‘70s.”
He started off as a rock n’ roll player, but in college, he ventured into classical music.
After moving to Chattanooga, he helped record the eight LPs of the Pine Breeze Recordings, which included old-time musicians.
During the recordings, he learned how to play numerous songs from them.
Opposite Williams was Morgan, and the duo played what the latter describes as a mixture of folk and bluegrass.
“Busking is from the old country, throw down a hat and sing and tell the news with songs,” said Morgan, who has been a professional musician since the 1950s. “I got into busking this time because [Williams] asked me to.”
Morgan mostly plays the banjo and guitar, but he knows how to work his way around numerous instruments.
“I’ve been getting paid to play music since I was six years old. That must make me a professional, right?” jokes Morgan.
When asked if he had a profession outside of music, Morgan said, “Well, I am retired from the Air Force and still get my social security check every month, if that counts.”
Although many buskers perform alone or in duos, some perform in bands as well.
McGill and Company, led by lead singer and guitarist June McGill, gathered and played songs together.
“We got into this busking last year, actually,” said McGill. “We really enjoyed it, so here we are again.”
Eric Geissinger, who plays the dobro, said, “I play in a bluegrass band here, and we just once in while do this
just for fun.”
“This is the only busking I’ve ever done. I enjoy it,” said Audie Finnell, the band’s banjo player. “It’s just for the joy of it, I just like to make music.”
Another duo, dubbed Crazy Flute, played on Sunday.
Nicknamed for the instrument he plays, Jack Holland grew up learning how to play the flute.
Holland, along with his lifelong friend and percussionist Keith Talley, started the band during Make Music Day Chattanooga, which took place for the first time ever on June 21 this year.
“I’ve been playing native flutes since I was really young, my father is Lakota,” said Holland. “I’ve been playing my
whole life, [Talley’s] been drumming most of his and we’ve been friends since we were like teenagers.”
“About seven years ago, I decided I wanted to do something musical,” said Talley. “I was looking around
trying to find something, and I found hand drums.”
From there, Talley decided hand drums were the right instrument to learn.
“[Holland] was looking around, and he was like, well, I want to start doing something in music again, but I need somebody who can do drums,” explained Talley. “I can do that.”
On another spectrum of musical instruments, Jerry Wallace plays the didgeridoo, which was originally created by Australia’s Aborigines, near the front of the market.
“I heard a friend play one at a campout around a fire one night, I never heard anyone play one live before,” said Wallace.
To him, it was the perfect addition to his drumming circle. The musician he saw playing a didgeridoo taught him how to make one out of PVC pipe and gave him pointers on how to start playing.
“I went online, and looked up some tutorials, and taught myself how to do it,” explained Wallace.