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  • Lauren Knatz

Peck Foster & the Bluegrass Brakemen

Updated: Jun 4, 2019

Back in his heyday, Peck had a bluegrass band called “The Bluegrass Brakemen”. They would perform on the old dining train in New Freedom, PA. Now that train is only a memory, but standing proudly in its place is a restored train, part of the train museum of New Freedom. Despite the shining paint job, some days if you close your eyes real tight, you can hear its mighty engine roar.


The lore of trains runs in the veins of these residents. My friend Peck, a prime example, brims over with stories so vivid in detail you really do feel like you’re right there.

Quick with one liners, he told me yesterday that the name of his band really had nothing to do with trains at all, it referred to how many breaks they took during their performance. 🙂 And to spice up the story that much more, he added they had an upright bass player at one time, but his instrument was too large to move down those narrow aisles, so the band was downsized to two friends, a banjo and a fiddle.


Hank Williams Sr to this group is just about as sacred as the sound of the old trains of their youth and not so far off in timbre with his high pitched lonesome sound. As I introduced one of Hank’s songs this day, I mentioned how challenging it can be for me to reach those piercing notes that he is so famous for.


As soon as those words left my lips, I remembered a story I had been told by a resident, now seated in the back row, about going to see Hank one summer day. I also recalled the animation in this resident’s face as he recounted the weather that day at the local outside venue where Hank played.


“It was thundering that day and Hank challenged the audience to get up and sing with him," he said. “I was 22 years old and I got up there with him but I couldn’t hit those high notes.”

Shortly after that he said, "We saw lightning and had to get off the stage in a hurry.”


So, in real time, I am standing up in the front of the room with my guitar, pitching that story to my friend in the back, making sure I told it right, and got to the part about the thunder.

As if I had timed this in advance, we heard what sounded like thunder coming from above. Everyone stopped, became quiet and soon began to laugh. It turned out they were moving furniture upstairs.


Sure sounded convincing to me...


The power of story, music, thunder, and Hank Williams, Sr.

Singing with Peck


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