On Saturday mornings, Oxford Farmers Market is packed with shoppers looking for fresh produce. But when the weather is clear and sunny, the market is also filled with music.
Dave Sams is one of two musicians who come out to play live music, serenading customers as they shop or look around.
“It’s so much fun to sit down and play,” Sams said. “Watching families, dogs, babies and youngsters in new clothing styles. I can play pretty much anything I want. I can just relax and enjoy, so I’m having a good time.
Sams was around 10 or 11 when he first picked up a guitar. He also plays the ukulele. The Hamilton resident studied music, focusing on voice, at the University of Miami for a year and a half. He then dropped out and played in bands all over Europe while serving in the military.
“It was all about public relations,” Sams said. “We have organized events in support of NATO. We were playing festivals and fairs, beer tents and wine tents.
After returning from Europe, Sams toured the United States with different bands and artists.
During the pandemic, Sams didn’t have much work to do. He was friends with Larry Slocum, the market manager, and Sams emailed him. The market allowed him to play, but Sams was shy because there was already a successful band playing every Saturday.
“I tried to fit in,” Sams said. “I tried not to play too hard and not sit near them, so we could mingle and both could work.”
People can hear Sams cover songs from Americana, The Grateful Dead and Kate Wolf. He enjoys playing classic rock and acoustic blues. Sams mentioned that he also accepts requests from people shopping at the market, and these are usually songs he knows.
“It seems like the right crowd,” he said. “It’s just kind of integrated to play this folk and artistic stuff. [The costumers] are artistic and rootsy people. Many of them are my old hippies.
When Sams isn’t playing at the Farmer’s Market, he can be found teaching at Third Street Music in Hamilton Monday through Thursday, and he occasionally brings a student to perform at the market. He also enjoys writing arrangements for acoustic guitar.
Jericho Old Time Band was the band that was already playing at the market when Sams started. The bluegrass band consists of four members: Dale Farmer, Warren Waldron, Judy Waldron and Amy Clay. The group was formed through their love of music.
“There’s just a big network of oldtimers and bluegras everywhere,” Farmer said. “We just got together to jam at the Farmer’s Market, very informally.”
Soon, Jericho would be invited by members of the community to play at several different events. The band even starred in a movie, “The Mountain Minor”, which was released nationwide. The movie started showing in theaters, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit, so Amazon picked it up. The film has since aired on Amazon, Public Television, The Family Channel, Heartland Network and Retro TV.
The group of four specializes in performing and singing songs passed down from generation to generation. Some of the songs they sing are 100 years old.
Like Sams, Warren Waldron asked Slocum if their band could play Market.
“I thought our music would fit in pretty well,” Warren Waldron said. “[Slocum’s] the answer was “absolutely”. I said, ‘What Saturday?’ and he said, ‘Every Saturday.’
Even though the band has gained some recognition, the group of four still come to play at the Oxford Farmer’s Market because it’s good practice and they find it fun to connect with other people through music. . The group enjoys hearing about how customers remembered the songs they sang as children.
“People walk past and then they start swinging with the person with them,” Judy Waldron said. “They’ll start dancing as they pass.”
The band always ends the Farmer’s Market with “The Bell Cow”, and the four watched as the vendors took over the lyrics and will all sing along as they pack their bags for the day.
Farmer mentioned that he felt a sense of community while playing at Oxford. And as someone who’s not from the city, he feels like a part of it.
“I can walk around and people say hello to me like I’ve lived here all my life,” he said. “That sense of community and contributing something to communities through music has been wonderful.”
Jericho always invites people to participate, and they love it when other people play with them.
“I’d like people to find an instrument, bring it in, and come sit down,” Judy Waldron said. “If they want to play with us, that’s what they have to do. Learn the songs from us and play and sing with us. It’s a community.