A Brief History of Mud in Yer Eye
In 1978, the late Bill Workman came to Cleveland from the Boston area where he had been in an "open" contra-dance band called Roaring Jelly (a band still in existance). Bill thought the same idea would work in Cleveland. The "open" concept of MIYE allows musicians, from beginning to advanced levels to join the band, developing their musical skills in a contra dance setting.The intent was to help them learn, first of all, how to play in a band, and second, how to play contra dance music. In Bill's own words, "Come, bring your instrument and play what you can, as well as you can, for as long as you can."
In the Spring of 1978, Bill met Louisa Bonnie at Cleveland's first, live-music community contra dance at Haydn Hall on the campus of Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University). Louisa, who had been involved in contra dancing in the New England area, was calling the dance. They joined forces that Fall for the second contra dance, held on Cleveland's west side, in the party room of the Great Northern Towers in North Olmsted, where Bill was living. Among the dancers that night was Beth Nagusky, another veteran of New England style contra dance. Bill, Louisa and Beth would begin a concerted effort to hold contra dances regularly. At that second dance were a number of students from Oberlin College, both dancers and musicians, who helped keep the dance going smoothly. Also beginning to form that night, was the "house band" who would play for all the contra dances for the next three years. At first it was informally called "The Cleveland Contra Dance Band", then the "Nameless Country Band". By the late Fall of the following year, 1979, one of the regular band members, Mark Laskey, came up with the name "Mud In Yer Eye". As Bill Workman said, "It was voted on, and no one looked back."
As an open band, the early Mud In Yer Eye was made up of a variety of personnel. "There could be as few as five or as many as twenty for dances and rehearsals." said Bill. Many dance and folk musicians in the greater Cleveland area have sat in and played in "Mud" from time to time. The core members of the band that first year were Bill Workman on fiddle, Marthe Hess and Louisa Bonnie on penny whistles and other wind instruments, Mark Laskey on guitar, and Andy Sinclair played upright bass. Also coming into the band that first year were Bob Mellman on guitar, Dick Ashbrook with assorted percussive instruments and concertina, and Chuck Levy on banjo.
Another aspect of those first years was bringing in outside musicians and dancers with contra dance experience. In 1979 the big event was hosting the New England dancing master Dudley Laufman for workshops and a dance. Other performers who came to Cleveland in those early years included Todd Whittemore with Rodney and Randy Miller, Sandy Bradley and John McCutcheon. Louisa Bonnie remembered that "It was part of the education.....for people to see what the music could be....I thought it was important to have other musicians visit. It exposed people to how the music could be played."
By 1981, the original dance had grown into two dances a month. One was on the east side of Cleveland, run by Beth Nagusky, and one on the west side, run by MIYE. Mud's dance eventually ended up at St. Patrick's Church Social Hall on Bridge St. in Ohio City. Every first Saturday of the month, excluding the summer months, MIYE played at St. Pat's into the late 1990's, when the dance moved to it's present location at the Masonic Temple on Detroit Ave. From very early on Carol Kopp was the regular caller for the west side dance. Bill, Bonnie and Beth slowly removed themselves from the dances, as Mud In Yer Eye and contra had both taken on lives of their own in Cleveland.