Originally Published: August 12, 2010 8:45 p.m.
Although Prescott is far removed from the sounds of the Civil War, Irish gandy dancers laying railroad tracks in the 1800s, and Virginia hillbillies sipping homemade mash whiskey, the "Davis clan" of Prescott keeps those sounds alive.
They formed a bluegrass band, "Just 4 Mama," and their music is the clan's weapon against deteriorating families and eroded family values - "the family that plays together, stays together" is their philosophy.
"It is tons of fun to play music with your kids and to show people that families don't have to fall apart, and that you can have a good time together and laugh," said Christina Davis, 51, who, along with husband Jim, 57, and daughters Hilary, 22, and Chloey, 19, formed the traditional bluegrass band.
Chris plays guitar, Jim plays standup bass, Hilary plays mandolin, and Chloey plays five-string banjo.
"I always loved bluegrass but it was so dorky for a high school kid in Southern California to listen to it," Chris said. "I loved it in my heart and soul but never played it until later."
When the Davises settled in Prescott 21 years ago, Jim joined the now-defunct Mingus Mountain Moonshiners, first playing washtub bass and later standup bass. He also re-haired fiddle bows for extra money.
"We grew up listening to bluegrass, and we were like, 'Aw, man, not again,'" Hilary said. The bands Jim played with eventually broke up and his playing days seemed over until the two girls, at the insistence of Jim and Christina, started playing mandolin and banjo and caught the bluegrass bug.
The family for years has attended the Prescott Bluegrass Festival, taken their instruments on campouts and jammed around campfires, and visited other bluegrass festivals.
Two other Davis children, Jordan and Verity, are deeply involved with music but moved from Prescott to pursue individual careers.
With Jim working a full-time job, Christina running a daycare from their Prescott home and the two girls going to school, the family seemed to be living separate lives.
"Then Chloey came up with the idea to play music together," Christina said.
On warm evenings, the girls don cutoff shorts, everyone sheds their shoes, and they gather on their back porch evoking the sounds of Appalachian hollows and the smell of Kentucky bluegrass.
The band's name, Just 4 Mama, came about when the girls would be tired of practicing, and Jim would encourage them "to play one more song just for mama."
Their first gig was about four years ago and happened on the spur of a moment.
"We threw the instruments in the van and drove to Las Fuentes (Retirement and Assisted Living home in Prescott) and asked if we could perform," Christina said. "I was so nervous my hands were shaking and my knees were knocking."
Their audience consisted of "five guys asleep in wheelchairs."
But the band got bitten by the performance bug, and now perform anywhere from the courthouse plaza, along Whiskey Row, at weddings and parties, and just about anywhere they are invited.
"Playing Whiskey Row and the plaza is a blast," Christina said. "You see vagrants, families, and little children stop and smile and start tapping their toes."
Money earned from their performances goes to Hilary who attends Northern Arizona University through its distance-learning program, and to Chloey who attends Yavapai College. The two girls are using the money to pay for their college educations.
"It's just a fun, wholesome, toe-tapping good time," Hillary said.
"I can't see a downside to it," Jim added. "(Bluegrass) started on back porches in the old days, and we're still doing it that way.
To talk to Just 4 Mama band members or for booking information, call 778-6933.
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