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Ask Sonny Anything… Worst gig ever?

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Steve….welcome in to our shin dig. Reminds me sometimes of Lavonia, Georgia, or Columbus, Ohio. The good times.

The worst circumstances. There were several that I would think twice before going there again. Now, I have a choice… then I didn’t.

1. Winter of 1953 – We were working in Knoxville, TN for Cas Walker, since November 6. Bobby was 22 (just released from the Marine Corp and back from Korea), I was 16. Downtown Knoxville, flatbed truck bed, 25 degrees, snowing hard, 1 week before Christmas. When Cas said play, you play or go…. in this case we had to play or we wouldn’t get our $25 that week. But Lord, it was cold. My right hand was numb, I couldn’t feel the picks, trying to play the banjo and it had a skin head. Enos Johnson and L.E. White were there with Bobby and I. Thirty of the coldest minutes known to man.

2. November 1955 – Quebec Canada, snowing for a week, we had been playing every night for that week, no crowds, Not enough gas in the car to get back to Wheeling….Stress 101….5 PM…Kids were playing Hockey in the street. 7 PM a few people started to gather. 7:30…No one showed up to open the building, we needed every penny to buy gas…Food? What’s that? We needed gas for the hungry car. Top priority.. I found a window unlocked which I opened, climbed in and with a flash light found a light switch, unlocked and opened the front door, stood there and collected $490… did our show, people were happy, we were ecstatic, they loaded the car, while I locked the front door, locked the back door, turned off the lights, climbed back out the window, went back to Wheeling…still broke, but lived in the USA to play another day.

3. Presque Isle, Maine – Summertime 1968. Bobby, Dale Sledd, Ronnie Reno, and I (that’s me of course, how else would I know…DUH). We go on stage at the fairgrounds with over 5000 people in the bleachers. By our 3rd or 4th song the large, unhappy crowd had thinned down considerably. They left in droves of 20-50 each…’twas a mass exodus. There might have been 200-300 diehards remaining. Man, we didn’t even want to look at one another. Embarrassed, there must be another word, I know what that word is too, but it is not appropriate in mixed company. We felt better after I went to the office and collected our dough. I found out they had advertised us as The Osmond Brothers. I can just hear the conversation between a couple old ladies…”Which one is Marie?”

Steve, this probably doesn’t answer your question but these were a few of the trying times which makes one appreciate the good ones, and also makes one realize that there must, simply must be a higher power.
s

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Hi Sonny. Sure Fire is one of my favorite tunes. Can you tell us how that one came about? All the best, Chuck.

Chuck V.

Chuck, come on in here…Thank you for your time. It’s appreciated you know. Sure Fire is a mandolin tune written by my brother Bobby. The Wilburn Brothers, Doyle, Teddy, Leslie, and Lester are the people responsible for quite a lot of the successful paths we took which brought us to this town and being able to further our career playing the music we grew up around. And not to mention a membership in the Greatest show in the history of Country/Bluegrass Music…The Grand Ole Opry…back when that membership really meant something.

I mention all of the above to get to the point that the Wilburns owned a publishing Company with the name of Sure-Fire Music. We recorded many of the songs Teddy found for us, and Bobby wrote several too, all which were published by Sure-Fire… One being an instrumental with the name of Sure Fire. Great tune played by close to 100% of all mandolin players.
s

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Ok, I’ll bite. Tell us about the great con job of the recording industry. Truly enjoy your music and have been a fan as long as I can remember. Thanks for giving us an inside view. Your music has always been the best.

Larry Stahl

Larry, I don’t want to do this, but it says ask me anything. I do appreciate your time and I thank you.

1959. We realized that we HAD to have a good record deal and The Grand Ole Opry. The Wilburn Brothers seemed to be the most probable to get that done for us.

Fast forward to Doyle Wilburn’s office, Nashville, April of 1963. Doyle is on the phone with Owen Bradley, head of Decca records in Nashville. He is telling Owen that we are good and Chet Adkins is going to sign us on RCA this afternoon. Owen can get us for Decca if he’ll do it NOW.

Owen says No. We’re devastated.

Yes, we had been to Chet at RCA and he turned us down flat. Doyle says not to worry, he’s not done yet. He puts a call in to New York, the absolute head guy of Decca (seems like I remember his name as Sid). Doyle tells him the same story and that Owen has turned us down, and Decca would be losing a good group to RCA if he didn’t do something right them. And he closed that with “Have I ever steered you wrong?” He hung up and Doyle looked at us Bobby, Benny Birchfield and I and just smiled and winked. He said, “Owen will call in about 10 minutes.”

I will swear to this as truth. Under 10 minutes his secretary opened the door and said…”Mr. Bradley is on Line 5.” Doyle picked up and said “Owen, how you doin’?” “Yeah, They’re still here….sure, we’ll be right over.”

So, all this happened within a period of 45-60 minutes and we signed the first of 13 one year contracts with Decca.

We told Doyle we needed the Opry and he promised that in 18 months. 13 months later, late July 1964 we were members of the aforementioned Grand Ole Opry. Wilburns were a powerful bunch mid ’50s throughout the ’60s . s

—–

Hi Sonny, It’s always so good to read your posts at Banjo Hangout and on Bluegrass Today. I have Chief MP-13 built in 2007, which is a good un of course. Sounds and looks awesome! Do you know how many of the MP Chiefs were made? Thanks so much!

Gary

Gary….Thanks for following Banjo Hangout and do you realize how long the Hangout thing has been going? I said that because I want to remind everyone who reads this that Terry Herd and John Lawless have endured me for one, uno, ein, year with this episode. My goodness.

Gary you asked how many Maple Chief banjos were built…I would guess probably 250-300 range. Maybe 50-75 Mahogany and Walnut. That number is a guess. I don’t want to actually get down in the floor with books and figure it out. Too hard to get up. It was all fun though. June 16 will be 22 years. And I didn’t spend one cent advertising the Chief banjo. I wanted them to sell themselves and they did. I didn’t want to be in the banjo building business, just make a professional quality banjo, reasonable price. I did that. Only a few banjo companies left…reason… folks started building they own…(they comes from Raymond Huffmaster.) That’s my opinion.

s

—–

Kirk and Kate Schaumannk wanted to know about Jim Mills’ Old Banjo Seminar. I’m sorry to say I don’t know that but I will try to get your interest known to Jimmy and perhaps he’ll follow through.

s

Ask Sonny Anything is a recurring feature where our readers pose questions to the great Sonny Osborne, one half of the iconic Osborne Brothers

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Seattle Enacts Gig Worker Paid Sick And Safe Time Ordinance During COVID-19 Crisis | Jackson Lewis P.C.

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The Seattle City Council has enacted the Paid Sick and Safe Time for Gig Workers Ordinance, which temporarily provides paid sick and safe time (PSST) to “gig workers” for online-based food delivery network companies and drivers of transportation network companies with 250 or more gig workers worldwide. The ordinance takes effect July 13, 2020, and ends 180 days after either (1) the termination of the Mayor’s civil emergency, or (2) the termination of any concurrent civil emergency applicable to Seattle that is proclaimed by a public official in response to COVID-19, whichever is later. However, the law’s other legal requirements, such as recordkeeping, will stay in effect for three years.

This law applies to all such gig workers who had a work-related stop in Seattle at least once in the 90 calendar days before requesting to use PSST. These gig workers may use PSST in 24-hour increments for any reason covered by the ordinance, including:

(1) caring for themselves or a family member for a physical or mental health condition, including a doctor’s appointment;

(2) caring for themselves, a family member, or a household member for reasons related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking;

(3) when their family member’s school or place of care has been closed; and

(4) if the company reduces, suspends, or discontinues operations for health or safety related reasons.

The ordinance will require covered entities to pay a gig worker his or her “average daily compensation,” which is based on each day worked for the covered entity during the highest earning calendar month since October 1, 2019, or since the commencement of work for the company, whichever date is latest.

There are two options to calculate accrual of PSST. First, covered entities can provide gig workers one day of PSST for every 30 calendar days worked in whole or in part in Seattle since October 1, 2019, or upon starting the gig, whichever is later. Alternatively, covered entities can simply provide five days of PSST to gig workers starting on the ordinance’s effective date and let them start accruing one day of PSST for every 30 calendar days going forward.

In certain circumstances, hiring entities may be able to request reasonable verification from the gig worker after three consecutive days of PSST.

Covered entities must create a written PSST policy and provide at least monthly notification of the gig worker’s average daily compensation, and the accrued, used, and available PSST.

This law creates a private right of action for violations of the ordinance. Prevailing gig workers can recover treble (3x) economic damages, interest, a monetary penalty for retaliation, and reasonable attorney fees and costs.  Gig workers can also bring actions on a class basis and obtain equitable relief.

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Gig workers face shifting roles, competition in pandemic

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NEW YORK — There were the two-hour, unpaid waits outside supermarkets when San Francisco first started to lock down, on top of the heavy shopping bags that had to be lugged up countless flights of stairs.

And yet even after signing up for several apps, 39-year-old Saori Okawa still wasn’t making as much money delivering meals and groceries as she did driving for ride-hailing giant Uber before the pandemic struck.

“I started to juggle three apps to make ends meet,” said Okawa, who recently reduced her work hours after receiving unemployment benefits. “It was really hard, because at that time, I could not afford to stay home because I had to pay rent.”

Okawa is one of an estimated 1.5 million so-called gig workers who make a living driving people to airports, picking out produce at grocery stores or providing childcare for working parents. Theirs had already been a precarious situation, largely without safeguards such as minimum wage, unemployment insurance, workers compensation and health and safety protections.

But with the pandemic pummeling the global economy and U.S. unemployment reaching heights not seen since the Great Depression, gig workers are clamoring for jobs that often pay less while facing stiff competition from a crush of newly unemployed workers also attempting to patch together a livelihood – all while trying to avoid contracting the coronavirus themselves.

U.S. unemployment fell to 11.1% in June, a Depression-era level that, while lower than last month, could worsen after a surge in coronavirus cases has led states to close restaurants and bars.

Marisa Martin, a law school student in California, turned to Instacart when a state government summer job as paralegal fell through after a hiring freeze. She said she enjoys the flexibility of choosing her own hours but hopes not to have to turn to gig work in the future. The pay is too volatile — with tips varying wildly and work sometimes slow — to be worth the risk of exposure to the virus.

“We are not getting paid nearly enough when we’re on the front lines interacting with multiple people daily,” said Martin, 24, who moved in with her parents temporarily to save money.

Alexandra Lopez-Djurovic, 26, was a full-time nanny in a New York City suburb when one of the parents she works for lost her job while the other saw his hours cut.

“All of a sudden, as much as they want me to stay, they can’t afford to pay me,” she said. Her own hours were reduced to about eight per week.

To make up lost wages, Lopez-Djurovic placed an ad offering grocery delivery on a local Facebook group. Overnight, she got 50 responses.

Lopez-Djurovic charges $30 an hour and coordinates shopping lists over email, offering perks the app companies don’t such as checking the milk’s expiration date before choosing which size to buy. Still, it doesn’t replace the salary she lost.

“One week I might have seven, eight, 10 families I was shopping for,” Lopez-Djurovic said. “I had a week when I had no money. That’s definitely a challenge.”

Upwork, a website that connects skilled freelance workers with jobs, has seen a 50% increase in signups by both workers and employers since the pandemic began, including spikes in jobs related to ecommerce and customer service, said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork.

“When you need to make big changes fast, a flexible workforce helps you,” he said.

Maya Pinto, a researcher at the National Employment Law Project, said temporary and contract work grew during Great Recession and she expects that many workers will seek such jobs again amid the current crisis.

But increased reliance on temporary and contract work will have negative implications on job quality and security because it “is a way of saving costs and shifting risk onto the worker,” Pinto said.

It’s difficult to assess the overall picture of the gig economy during the pandemic since some parts are expanding while others are contracting. Grocery delivery giant Instacart, for instance, has brought on 300,000 new contracted shoppers since March, more than doubling its workforce to 500,000. Meanwhile, Uber’s business fell 80% in April compared with last year while Lyft’s tumbled 75% in the same period.

For food delivery apps, it’s been a mixed bag. Although they are getting a bump from restaurants offering more takeout options, those gains are being offset by the restaurant industry’s overall decline during the pandemic.

Gig workers are also jockeying for those jobs from all fronts. DoorDash launched an initiative to help out-of-work restaurant workers sign up for delivery work. Uber’s food delivery service, Uber Eats, grew 53% in the first quarter and around 200,000 people have signed up for the app per month since March — about 50% more than usual.

“Drivers are definitely exploring other options, but the issue is that there’s 20 or 30 million people looking for work right now,” said Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy. “Sometimes I joke all you need is a pulse and a car to get approved. But what that means is it’s easy for other people to get approved too, so you have to compete for shifts.”

Delivery jobs typically pay less than ride-hailing jobs. Single mom Luz Laguna used to earn about $25 in a half-hour driving passengers to Los Angeles International Airport. When those trips evaporated, Laguna began delivering meals through Uber Eats, working longer hours but making less cash. The base pay is around $6 per delivery, and most people tip around $2, she said. To avoid shelling out more for childcare, she sometimes brings her 3-year-old son along on deliveries.

“This is our only way out right now,” Laguna said. “It’s hard managing, but that’s the only job that I can be able to perform as a single mother.”

Other drivers find it makes more sense to stay home and collect unemployment — a benefit they and other gig workers hadn’t qualified for before the pandemic. They are also eligible to receive an additional $600 weekly check from the federal government, a benefit that became available to workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic. Taken together, that’s more than what many ride-hailing drivers were making before the pandemic, Campbell said.

But that $600 benefit will expire at the end of July, and the $2 trillion government relief package that extended unemployment benefits to gig workers expires at the end of the year.

“So many drivers are going to have to sit down and decide, do I want to put myself at risk and my family at risk once I’m not getting the government assistance?” Campbell said.

______

Follow @cbussewitz and @Alexolson99 on Twitter

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GIG and Enso set their sights on ‘ambitious’ 1GW solar and storage pipeline

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Macquarie’s Green Investment Group (GIG) and Enso Energy have signed a joint venture, targeting 1GW of subsidy-free solar capacity across England and Wales.

The companies say they have identified the initial projects that will form their “ambitious pipeline” of solar and battery storage sites, all of which have are already grid secured and are being submitted for planning approval.

According to GIG and Enso Energy, the subsidy-free developments will be backed by power purchase agreements (PPAs).

Ian Harding and Andrew King, co-founders of Enso Energy said the partnership with GIG brought together two organisations with “the same vision, to dramatically accelerate the delivery of the benefits of low-cost solar energy to communities up and down the country”.

Solar Media’s head of research Finlay Colville said: “Our in-house market research team came across Enso and Macquarie’s UK solar plans back in April this year. Currently, we are showing ten sites – all nominally at the 50MW-dc level – at early stages, within our monthly pipeline analysis on UK solar. Activity appears to be all pre-application at the moment, with planning seemingly confined to screening and scoping at the local level, and spread mainly in the South East/West of England.

“To put this into context, it is worth recalling that there is currently a pipeline of pre-build large-scale solar sites in the UK well above 8GW, that has evolved since the end of incentives back in 2017. Of this, about 5GW is at pre-application stages of screening and scoping, inclusive of the initial 500MW of Enso/Macquarie activity. However, there is a further 3GW-plus that has gone into full application either waiting for approval or having been approved. Screening/scoping is a low-cost effort; the real money enters the game when full planning applications for 50MW solar farms get into the planning portal.”

The sites will take advantage of newly available tracking and bifacial solar technology, helping to maximise the amount of energy they can produce whilst minimising their footprint.

Battery storage will allow the projects not only produce more flexible electricity output, but also provide auxiliary services and stability to the grid.

Edward Northam, head of Green Investment Group Europe, pointed to the company’s origins in the UK as the “world’s first green investment bank” to highlight all it brings to the project.

“The UK’s solar market holds huge potential to create green jobs and help the UK get closer to its aim of becoming a net zero economy. By combining GIG’s deep technical and financial capabilities with Enso’s highly experienced development team, our partnership has the skills and expertise to unlock that potential, bringing low-cost, low-carbon power to communities right across the UK.”

GIG has supported 7.5GW of renewable projects in the UK, in particular through corporate PPAs. Enso Energy – previously known as Green Frog Development – has 1,500MW of distributed generation in the UK, predominantly gas-powered balancing plants.

Colville continues: “Macquarie’s alignment with Enso is interesting also, mainly owning to Enso being a newish entrant to large-scale UK solar farm planning. The strategy of the companies is therefore something that will be interesting to monitor going forward. Macquarie could certainly have chosen to enter the pre-build/planning phase in a different way, acquiring shovel-ready activity from the host of experienced pure-play solar developers that dominate the current 3GW-plus of sites that have had planning submitted.

“The success of companies that have sought to invest at such an early stage is mixed within the UK solar industry. A few have been highly successful, most notably BP Lightsource, Bluefield and ib Vogt, as examples of companies whose early-stage investments were driven by retaining ownership through and beyond the build-phase. Many others however have not been successful, reflecting the fact that pre-build application is a skillset in its own right, justifying the role of the greenfield pre-build flip model of developer.”

In December 2019, BP Lightsource heralded the return of large-scale solar build-out in the UK, revealing it is pursuing a 1GW project pipeline in its home market. As of last November, the company had deployed over 2GW of solar projects globally.

Similarly, Bluefield Solar Income Fund was reportedly looking to “exciting” new investments at the end of last year, predicting subsidy-free solar in the UK to gain momentum.

“One recalls the grand plans of Scatec years ago trying to get into the UK solar market that highlighted the need to have a partner locally that could deliver on planning success,” Colville finishes. “In an interesting twist, fellow Norwegian operated Statkraft recently announced its plans to enter UK solar at the pre-build phase. Similar to Macquarie, Statkraft has also chosen the domestic-partnering route with a somewhat unproven entity in large-scale UK solar.

“Whether Macquarie or Statkraft will have success through this route is very much an unknown today; either way, each company has the cash and ambition to easily change tactics and move into pre-build shovel ready portfolio purchasing going forward. There will be no shortage of greenfield developers today, currently building up hundreds of MW of shovel-ready portfolios, more than happy to take a call from either of these companies going forward!”

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