The best Sowell could suggest was for everyone to get some Gatemouth Brown records and listen to them.
At that time, "Mountain Stage" was broadcast live at 3 p.m., which meant sound check and rehearsal with guests started early in the morning.
Solomon said there were five guests on that show. Several of them used the band that day, but rehearsing with Brown was brutal. They couldn't get through a single song.
"Gatemouth would stop, look around and start shouting, 'That ain't right. That ain't right.'"
It went on and on. Brown was blunt, coarse and difficult.
"He was almost abusive," Solomon said. "And I remember thinking, 'I don't give a damn who you are, that's no way to treat people, especially people who are trying to make you sound good.'"
Solomon acknowledged Brown was a great guitarist and, difficult or not, "Mountain Stage" had him back several times.
Not always smooth sailing
Along with some difficult guests, the band said there have been plenty of close calls and every now and again, a legitimate catastrophe. Luckily, the audience seldom remembers them.
Sowell had a guitar capo in the wrong place just seconds before the start of Sarah McLachlan's set. If he hadn't realized it seconds before he played the first note, Sowell would have ruined the Canadian star's song.
While in Alaska, Thompson went missing during the latter half of the show's first hour.
"I was downstairs practicing on a piano, and someone came looking for me," he said. "We were recording the show, but we were broadcasting live in Alaska."
The problem was, the guest who was supposed to close out the first hour did only two songs, instead of the usual four or five. Suddenly, the band needed to go onstage to do the show's theme that separates the first hour from the second.
Thompson said he ran all the way up the stairs, but he was too late.
"For the first time, we didn't do that theme."
Once, Hill just couldn't get the bass line for a Lucy Kaplansky song.
"It was a song she was really pushing. It was on her new record. She did the song, and I just got lost," Hill said and groaned.
The song was ruined.
As a special consideration to Kaplansky, a frequent guest on the show, Groce agreed to bring Kaplansky back out with the band while the audience was still there and try the song again.
"We never do that," Hill said.
The plan was to record Kaplansky playing the song with the band in front of the audience. Later, engineer Francis Fisher would insert the new version in place of the one Hill ruined.
"And I blew it again," Hill moaned.
Kaplansky forgave him, though Hill said the next time she came to town, he wore a paper bag over his head when they rehearsed with her.
Lipton said they're all professionals. They rehearse as best they can, but mistakes happen from time to time. The toughest part is not letting the mistakes eat you alive.
He said, "Maybe as a guitarist, even more so than a drummer or bass player, it's blatantly obvious week after week that there are some incredible players who come onto the show. Not to say that it's not intimidating [now], but it was really intimidating at first."
Many of the guitarists who come on the show are flat out better at the guitar than he is. Some of them are better than he ever could be, and Lipton said it took awhile for him to be OK with that.
"Early on, I really screwed up," he said. "I don't even remember who it was, but I went home thinking I had no business doing this, that somebody else should be. And you know what? The next week rolled around and you realize that life goes on."
Everyone on the show is getting older, but retirement among the Mountain Stage band is almost unthinkable.
Adams said, "Oh sure, I think we've all wondered how much longer can we do this, but it would be such a hard thing to walk away from. It's such an unusual opportunity."
"As long as I can keep up," Hill said. "As long as I can keep the rhythm and keep the beat."
Sowell can't see the point of retiring. "What am I going to do? Retire so I can spend more time playing music?"
Thompson, who turned 70 in December, doesn't see the point of giving it up either. Music is more of a vocation than an occupation. It's what he's done his whole life and what he wants to do as long as he lives.
Lipton echoed the sentiment.
"That's one of the things we tell kids when we go around with the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. It's one of the great things about being a musician, whether you do it as your job or just do it for pleasure. You can do it until the day you die."
Kennedy laughed and said, "I just came on two years ago. Retirement? Really?"
But what about Larry?
Still, they do wonder about the show's future. They acknowledged the management transition from co-creator Ridenour to Adam Harris, who took over as executive producer about two years ago, was smooth.
"It's been no real change for us, I think," Solomon said.
However, potentially losing Groce is a different matter. Groce has set a loose timeline for how he might start trimming back his duties in about a year and maybe eventually leave the show entirely.
Lipton said, "Well, I'm not a person who likes change, but the show has already changed a lot over the past 30 years."
The guitarist thought they would weather the change, adapt, as they always have.
Sowell shook his head and laughed.
"Larry has been talking about retiring for 20 years."
"Mountain Stage" can be heard on West Virginia Public Radio at 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.