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Hague's Rick Bolton: A Life in Music

 

An article from the April 2005 issue of the Lake George Mirror

By Anthony F. Hall

 

"As a young man, I was chasing a dream. As I got older, I realized the ultimate gig was a mile down the road, playing with and for my friends and then going home to my wife and kids. That's really making it."

That's local legend Rick Bolton's idea of a successful career in music, and by that definition, he's made it."

From playingin garage bands on northern Lake George, where he traveled to gigs by boat because he was too young to drive, to touring out west, only to return home and help launch a thriving music scene in Saratoga, Rick Bolton has led a life in music and found the music that reflects his life.

"I grew up in Hague," he recounts. "When summer hit, we got some culture, but not enough to hurt us. I buried myself in my room in winters and learned to play guitar. I listened to the Beatles and the Stones, and I worked backward toward the music's roots.

"I got lucky. I was exposed to old time guitar players, banjo players and fiddlers, here and in northeastern Vermont where I went to college. That's the music that makes sense to me"

Those traditions have found their way to the bands he's led for thirty years, including, most famously, the T-Bonz. They began playing together 25 years ago, and reunite every summer at The View at Indian Kettles. The T-Bonz draw even bigger crowds than they did when they played at the Cave, when Bolton's father was Hague's supervisor and his mother the town's post master. "We're a great dance band," he says. "We mix country with rhythm and blues and reggae. We do covers, but we mix them up. At this stage of life, we play the music we like. And we never know who's going to show up to sit in with us."

His other bands include Big Medicine and Rick Bolton and the Dwyer Sisters, which includes his wife, artist Sharon Bolton, and her sister Molly.

"I'm busier than I've ever been," he says. "I'm performing four nights a week, in summer, sometimes seven nights a week." That's on top of a day job with Warren County. Bolton also hosts Open Mic nights at Saratoga's City Tavern." We get everyone from kids to professionals who want to try out something new. We even get poets and storytellers I don't ask anyone what they're going to perform - it's their ten minutes."

Bolton has lived in Saratoga for the past twenty years. In the last six years, he says, "the music scene has just taken off. Sooner or later, a place just gets touched," he says. "It happened to Austin, Texas, it happened to San Francisco. I can envision the same thing happening to Saratoga. Within blocks, you can hear jazz, acoustic folk, blues or rock. There are a lot of influences conducive to vibrant original music. There's a definitive Saratoga style, and there's an audience for it."

A sampling of that Saratoga style can be heard soon on Saratoga Pie, a compilation of Saratoga bands that Bolton has helped produce as a benefit for the Saratoga Center for the Family. "There's alot of money for the arts in Saratoga, but often places that serve people don't get the attention they need. There are battered women and abused children in every town in the Adirondack Park, but people never talk about that," he says, explaining the purpose of the benefit. "They need our help."

As Bolton describes it, Saratoga's music scene is not that different from Hague, where, he says, everyone knew everyone else's business, but everyone looked out for one another. That's probably why Bolton's happier playing music here than if he had stayed out west. He may be "only in it for the beer," as the title of a recent CD puts it, but he's made a full, rich life out of it. •