The Museum of the Rhythm Bones Society

History of the Rhythm Bones Society

The Society's roots began long before the formal organizational meeting at Bones Fest III in 1999. Dr. Fred Edmund was a rhythm bones enthusiast who sold bones, sent out a monthly newsletter and developed a rhythm bones instruction course titled "Bones Unlimited" which is now on our website.


One of the people who Fred found was Everett Cowett, and he talked Ev into hosting an event in his back yard that is now known as Bones Fest I. Eleven people showed up including Fred. Ev's daughter, Martha, gave her dad a website named Rhythm Bones Central which has been central to the development of the society.


The next year Ev hosted Bones Fest II at a local park and 15 people showed up including Steve Wixson. After the Fest, Steve went home and using his computer experience, did an exhaustive internet search for rhythm bones and related terms and found about 100 websites and lots of other rhythm bones players.


Bones Fest III was hosted by Russ and Wilma Myers and 34 people attended. In final event of the day, the group (shown above) met and formed the society using by-laws patterned after those of the Jew's Harp Guild. The new members elected Officers and Board Members who met and approved the creation of the Rhythm Bones Player newsletter with Steve Wixson as Editor. Ev Cowett was the first Executive Director, Russ Myers was the first Assistant Director and Steve Wixson Secretary/Treasurer.  Other Board Members who are not still serving are Sky Bartlett, Sally Carroll, Jonathan Danforth, Gil Hibben, Dr. Mel Mercier, Jerry Mescher (deceased), Russ Myers (deceased), and Tim Reilly.


Bones Fest IV was hosted by Steve and Janet Wixson and was a 2 and one-half event which has continue over the years. Scroll down to read summaries of all of the Bones Fests.  Steve Brown introduced t-shirts at Bones Fest V, and this has continued over the years.


History of this Website


This website started as a gift from Martha Cowett to her dad, Ev Cowett. Martha had said, "What do you give a father who doesn't want anything." Her answer was a rhythm bones website, and so Rhythm Bones Central, now with the URL was born. The Cowett family started the tradition of Bones Fests (three of which they've hosted), and have been instrumental in the formation of the Rhythm Bones Society. The website has been instrumental in all of these activities. Martha maintained this website from 1997 to 2002, when she passed the job on to Jonathan Danforth. We've kept her original homepage, because it's a good reminder of where we came from, and a good reminder of that family feeling. In 2010, Steve Wixson using Adobe Dreamweaver added new navigation and features including video. Note that the hands in the Rhythm Bones Society logo are those of Ev Cowett. Click HERE to see that original homepage


Bones Fests Through the Years


In the history of bones playing, it seems to have been pretty rare that a lot of bones players gathered together for the sole purpose of playing rhythm bones. But we do just that, every year. This wonderful new tradition was started by the Cowett family, and has grown every year since then. Although recently the Bones Fests have included many more people and been slightly more formal, we try to keep the feel of a family reunion when we get together.


Below are some short summaries of our Bones Fests. More detailed information can be found by clicking inside the Text Boxes below that will take you to the Newsletter article on that Fest.

Bones Fest I was held at the Cowett residence, in Greensboro, NC, on Saturday, September 20 1997. 11 bones players attended. Dan Cowett handled the sound. The Cowett's performed as a family. Fred Edmunds demonstrated from his instructional video. Russ Myers demonstrated pitch changing.
Bones Fest II was also held in Greensboro, NC, at Bur-Mil park, on September 26 1998. 18 people attended. Russ gave a history of rhythm bones. The Cowett's did some synchronized playing. Carl Hedrick was funny.
Bones Fest III was hosted by Russ and Wilma Myers on their back deck in Brightwood, VA on September 25, 1999. 34 people attended. Joe Birl told us how he got a patent for his black plastic rhythm bones. Matteo played wonderful castanets. Mel Mercier played one-handed. Four lady players entertained as a group. Spike Bones and Dave Boyles had a bone-off contest. The Rhythm Bones Society was officially organized.
Bones Fest IV was hosted by Steve and Janet Wixson in Chattanooga, TN, on September 22-24, 2000. 45 people attended. At the request of members, this was a 3 day event held in the Mountain Opry building and the Wixson's home. A public performance was given on Saturday night.
Bones Fest V was hosted by Steve and Jennifer Brown in Phillipston, MA on August 3-5, 2001 at the Red Apple Farm. 44 bones players attended including Nick Driver from England. The Reiner family provided live music in addition to CDs. Steve Brown introduced Fest t-shirts. There was a large public performance on Saturday evening.
Bones Fest VI was hosted by the Cowett clan in Greensboro, NC again, on the campus of Guilford College.on August 2-4, 2002, More than 50 bones players attended. The planetarium provided excellent acoustics.
Bones Fest VII was hosted by Gil and Linda Hibben in Louisville, KY on July 25-7, 2003. We had more than 60 bones players in attendance! The Kentucky Theatre was our venue and it was perfect being only three blocks from the hotel. The Hibbens provided great food including a Sunday Brunch at their home where we got to see Gil's workshop for making world class knives. There was a big turnout for the Saturday night performance.


Bones Fest IX was held in Signal Mountain and Chattanooga, TN, on July 8-10, 2005, hosted by Steve and Janet Wixson! It was pretty much a repeat of Bones Fest IV. There was a baseball cap for attendees instead of the normal t-shirt, and Yirdy Macher from Denmark personalized the caps in great calligraphy style. It was the first Fest for youn Olivia and the last for John Perona. Workshops and performances gallore.
Bones Fest X was hosted by Jonathan and Melissa Danforth in New Bedford, MA, on July 28-30, 2006! There were 89 paid plus a few more as shown in the photograph taken at the Whaling Museum. Mel joined Jerry Mescher and Bernie Worrell at a trio and Jerry and his wife, Sharon, played in the Mescher Tradition.
Bones Fest XI was hosted by Dave Boyles and Don Gilmore at the magical Riveredge Nature Center north of Milwaukee, WI on August 18-20, 2007. The Gillette Bothers led some jams. Finbar McCarthy, Lisa Edgar and Razzamatazz and Frogwater provide live music for performances. To cap it off we had our own stage at Irish Fest, one of the largest of Irish Fests. And the first performance of the Mescher trio.
Bones Fest XII was hosted by Spike Bones and Scott Miller in St. Louis, MO on October 17-18, 2008. Starting at Tigin Irish Pub, receiving a Proclamation from the Mayor, a large historical collection of rhythm bones items, trip to the top of the Gateway arch, and lots of performances. The scheduled boat ride was canceled due to the 50,000 Obama with was exciting no matter your politics.
Bones Fest XIII was hosted by Gil and Linda Hibben again in Louisville, KY on August 28-30, 2009. The Clifton Center with its great stage, sound and lighting was great for performances. The Rascals of Ragtime and our own Ceili band provided great backup music. One highlight was Kenny Wolin during his performance dropping to his knees proposing marriage to Teri Davies. She said yes.
Bones Fest XV was hosted by Dennis Riedesel in San Antonio, TX on June 9-12, 2011. This could be called the Performance Fest as we had almost 9 1/2 hours of public stage time. The mornings were at the Alamo Plaze while the evenings were at the Texas Folk Festival, one of the largest in the country. The Saturday dinner river curise was a highlight. Also Sky Bartlet met Jessye Weinstein and they later married.
Bones Fest XVI was hosted by Mary Lee and Frank Sweet in Orlando, FL on August 9-11, 2012. The Fest began at Pleasure Island in Downtown Disney for dinner and bones playing at Raglan Road Irish Pub. We met Jim Steakley who learned rhythm bones at age 99. We then went to B.B. Kings for a Blues Bones Show. Sunday morning ended with a Gospel Bones Workshop by Mary Lee and Frank Sweet.
Bones Fest XVII was hosted by Steve Brown in Leominster, MA on August 9-11, 2013. There were several firsts, playing on a live television show, performaing and teaching at a Senior Center and a Boys and Girls Club, and the first ever Rhythm Bones Flash Mob. Friday dinner had Bob Goulets' band Le Vent Des Cantons. More great workshops by Bill Vits and Kenny Wolin
Bones Fest XVIII was hosted by Bill Vits in Grand Rapids, MI on August 7-10, 2014. The Fest started at the One Trick Pony restaurant with member San Slomovits' band entertaining us. We had our second Rhythm Bones Flash Mob around Celtic Kilroy frozen as a bronz statue. More great workshops and the special session to remember Percy Danforth with Sue Barber and Percy's son Malcolm attending.
Bones Fest XIX was hosted by Skeff Flynn in Shepherdstown, WV on August 6-9, 2015. The Fest started with a jam led by Skeff's band, the Shedhoppers. There were several high quality workshops. There was a remembrance session for Walt Watkins and Jerry Mescher. The Saturday evening performance in the Opera House had the Tin Roof Pickers playing for performers. There were more late night jams
Bones Fest XX was hosted by Gerry Hines in Homer, NY on August 4-7, 2016. The Homer Center for The Arts was a great home for the Fest. The workshops continue to improve playing of attendees. The Friday outreach outings were to a Senior Center and Lime Hollow Nature Center to teach kids. The Saturday night public performance was to an enthusiastic audience.
Bones Fest VIII was at the Lake Anne Plaza in Reston, VA, near Washington, DC, hosted by Sally and Terry Carroll on August 20-22, 2004. It was Kenny's first Fest and where he met Tim Reilly. Sally introduced workshops to the Fest tradition and Kenny taught an advanced workshop. The individual performances were varied and Wixson and Brown tried to emulate Jerry Mescher & Bernie Worrell's duo. Bones Fest XIV was hosted by Kenny Wolin and Teri Davis in Old Towne Alexandria, VA on July 23-25, 2010. This could be called the Workshop Fest as there were several outstanding workshop that can be viewed on this website. On Saturday we performed an Irish set at the Farmer's Market City Hall Pavilion Stage. The highlight was Sunday when Kenny and Teri were married by the shore of the Potomac River.