Dick Kimmel performs for love of music and biology

Rachael Jaeger
Staff Writer

Dick Kimmel, bluegrass musician who integrates his biology interests into his songs, took the stage on Thursday at 7:30 in the Elias J. Recital Hall as part of the Performance Series.

His music partner, Kelly Coyle, also was present and the duo exchanged playful banter during their show. 

They started with a few older bluegrass tunes, including “Keep on the Sunny Side”, which was about maintaining a positive look while life felt down.

Ada Blenkhorn wrote the song in 1899, inspired by her disabled nephew who asked if she would push him in his wheelchair on the sunny side of the street.Coyle added that it had also been featured in the 2000 musical, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” He led in the singing while Kimmel joined him in the chorus. 

The two created a team and balanced each other out in their rhythms and their natural comedic personalities and attitudes.

After Coyle announced that they would play “You Ain’t Going Nowhere”, a newer song from Bob Dylan, Kimmel stared at Coyle, taking pretend offense. 

“It’s only forty years old!” Coyle exclaimed. 

Kimmel asked, while pointing: “Do you want to go over there and stand in the corner?” 

As the show went on, it became evident that Bob Dylan had influenced both these local musicians.

Before they played “Ain’t Going Nowhere”, Kimmel mimicked Dylan’s pitch and scream while he ran his fingers through the guitar he was playing. In the back, a few members in the audience cheered, also acknowledging their love of Dylan.

After the musicians had their fun, they resumed their own style. 

They also resorted to another song called “Turn Your Radio On”, composed by an enterprising pastor who lived in the Appalachian Mountains. 

Kimmel asked the audience, “Do you say Apple-LATCH-in or Apple-LAY-cian.” 

A show of hands revealed that it was the latter. When Coyle responded, it was the more Southern sounding, but Coyle had also spent some time down South.

Kimmel told Coyle that sometimes when they perform, that when Coyle sings, it slips into the other way. Coyle had not realized that. 

Kimmel concluded the evening with his favorite song and one that he had written called” Fly Away to New Mexico”.

As a biologist, he learned that every generation of monarchs goes through cycles of migration of different journeys when the weather becomes warmer, such as from Texas to Iowa or Minnesota to Canada.

Recently, New Mexico invested in land for the monarchs’ preservation which is the central theme of the song’s focus. It is all about a new generation of monarchs hatching and surviving, then flying away down in New Mexico.   

All in all, while the musical experience was different, it was refreshing and it was inspiring to witness two musicians, who have played professionally for years—forty for Kimmel.

Kimmel has recorded more than a few dozen albums, including his four most recent works for Copper Creek. A feature article for Bluegrass Unlimited magazine called him the “Ambassador of Bluegrass”.

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