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Playing this summer: Sins of the Pioneers

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 24, 2011 - PROFILE: With a name like Sins of the Pioneers, you know right off the bat that the musicians in this band have a slightly warped sense of humor. And although this St. Louis band isn't likely to break into a Sons of the Pioneers medley of "Cool Water" and "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds," the two groups do have something in common. The country vocal group, Sons of the Pioneers, included two brothers in its original lineup back in the 1930s. But the ante's been taken up by Sins of the Pioneers -- featuring brothers Mark "Sunnyboy" Mason on bass, brother Tom on drums, and their father, "Wild" Bill Mason on trumpet.

The trio built on that family core and started working as Sins of the Pioneers in the early 1980s. Despite several personnel changes over the years, the group is still going strong. The original band started with a focus on Western swing, but soon expanded its musical palette to include a range from New Orleans style jazz and R&B, vintage rock, and just about anything else that strikes its fancy. In any given set, you're liable to hear music by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams Sr., Bob Wills, Screaming Jay Hawkins and New Orleans great Eddie Bo. Mark Mason answers a few questions about the Sins of the Pioneers to preview the band's appearance this Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Carondelet Park Concert Series.

HOME: We're all St. Louisans, except for our guitar player, John Webb, who is from Coventry, England.

AGE: Some form of this band began in the early 1980s. Some of us have played together in other aggregations for decades before that. We're grizzled guys ranging from the early 50s to the early 80s.

INSTRUMENTS: Myself (Mark "Sunnyboy" Mason): bass, vocals. My brother, Tom Mason: drums, vocals. Our father, Trad Jazz local legend "Wild" Bill Mason (veteran of Gaslight Square's heyday and about 20 years on the Goldenrod Showboat with the St. Louis Ragtimers): trumpet, vocals. "Gentleman" Jim Brennan: keyboards, vocals. John "The Conqueror" Webb: guitar. Geoff Seitz (former national fiddle champion and renowned violin maker): fiddle, vocals.

HOBBIES: I host and produce a radio show on KDHX (88.1 FM) -- "Howzit Bayou?" -- on Tuesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. - New Orleans & Louisiana music and such.

LAST CONCERT ATTENDED: I just got back from The Louisiana Cajun & Zydeco Festival in New Orleans.

LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Getting up and going back to work at my day job.

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO: We're all pretty devoted to preserving traditional music forms - New Orleans jazz and R&B, Country swing, blues, rootsy rock & roll, etc. But we want to keep it interesting by mixing them up and kicking them in the butt.

QUOTE: "No retreat, no surrender." Bruce Springsteen

Check out the Sins of the Pioneers Facebook page for more info and the band's complete schedule.

Carondelet Park Concert Series

Sponsored by the Carondelet Community Betterment Federation, this venerable series is now in its 23rd year of presenting free concerts on Sundays in the summer.

But there's one big change this year. Unfortunately, the classic bandstand that served as the stage for the concerts and dated back to the World War I era, burned down on June 7. The series will go on however, with bands performing in one of the portable trailer stages that are used in other series sponsored by University City and Brentwood.

Concerts begin at 6 p.m. and go until 8 p.m. Lawn chairs or blankets are advised, and you may bring coolers with food and your choice of beverages. In addition to the Sins of the Pioneers concert this Sunday, this diverse series will present the St. Louis Ragtimers on July 3, Fanfare on July 17, Memories of Elvis on Aug. 7 and the country swing of the Palominos on Aug. 14. For more information and a complete schedule, go to https://www.ccbf-inc.org/concerts.html .

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer who has long covered music.

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