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Martha Scott Stey
Martha Scott Stey

Martha Scott Stey tells a story about the first time she came to Bethel, meeting other musicians, and starting a band called "The Beat Around the Bush Band." She talks about her love of the Bethel community and the people who make it a special place to live. She plays a few songs for the audience, and then plays music with Elias Venes. You can listen to more of Elias and Martha playing music in Elias Venes' part of the Bethel Communities of Memory Project Jukebox.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2011-27-02

Project: Bethel Communities of Memory
Date of Interview: Jan 25, 1996
Narrator(s): Martha Scott Stey
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Humanities Forum
Alternate Transcripts
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First experience in Bethel

"The Beat Around the Bush Band"

"Country Roads" remix

Acknowledging Peter Twitchell at KYUK

Eilas Venes and Martha Scott play "St. Anne's Reel and Liberty"

Learning songs from people along the river

Another song

Her feelings about Bethel

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I came to Bethel, oh, early 80's. I came on a Wien Jet, so that kind of dates me. I got off the plane with my mandolin. Went into the warehouse that was kind of like the greeting center at that time.

And a bunch of people came up to me and said, "do you play" -- one woman came up to me and said, "do you play that?" -- "do you play that?"

And I said, "well, yeah." "Will you be part of our band?" I really wasn't in Bethel 5 minutes. " Sure." "Sure. Well, then you can go to Aniak." I said, "what's Aniak?" "Well, that's a village up river."

So the first weekend I was here, I was on a small plane up in Aniak, sleeping at the mental health clinic, playing with music for and with people I had never met. So music has always been a part of my Bethel experience. That wasn't the only gig that the band had.

We were called "The Beat Around the Bush Band". There were usually 4 women in this band. At times there were five. [Marty Nerenstone, Galen Paine, Lynn Conant, Elizabeth Mayock and Martha Scott]. And we had a mandolin and a guitar, a banjo and a washtub bass.

Lots of other things. And we had a television show. River City Review. It used to play 7:00 on Thursday nights. And we were the house band. We used to do an opening number and a closing number. Lots of experiences. We were famous for rewriting songs.

For instance there's a famous song that Ann Murray did called "Delta Dawn. What's that flower you go on?" Well, we wrote, Delta Brawn, what's that after shave you've got on.

Could it be the stench of fish from days gone by. (Laughter). We also, we had a Christmas show I remember. That we sang, I'll be in Nome for Christmas. You can count on me. They just called my plane has stalled and I can't get to Waikiki.

So you get the idea. We wrote a mushing song, the story of the MTA. About the, a man can’t get on the train and can’t get off. Well, let me tell you a story about a musher named Sally on a tragic and faithful day. She kissed her husband.

No, she hooked up her dog and kissed her husband and family and went to ride in the great Kusko Race.

And she never returned. No, she never. Yeah, so you get the idea. All the harrowing things about her trip.

Well the one that we were famous for was a remake of a -- maybe I’ll do this on a guitar, instead of the mandolin. This was just a visual aide -- that was just a prop (Laughter) That’s right.

A song called "Country Roads". Take Me Home Country Roads. We rewrote a Bethel version that some of you will remember from way back then, that goes.

Almost Heaven, Bethel, Alaska. Kilbuck Mountains, Kuskokwim River.

Life is cold there. Cold enough to freeze.

And the northern winds, they blow you to your knees.

Just one road, takes you home to that place you belong, Bethel, Alaska. I'm a tundra mama, there's just one road still that takes you home.

Still I love her, Bethel, Alaska. Mud and potholes, up to my knees in water.

It's dark and dusty. The mosquitos on the fly. I got to get to Anchorage soon or I might die.

Just one road takes you home. To that place you still belong, Bethel, Alaska.

I'm a tundra mama. Just one road takes you home.

Now, I hear the dogs all barking in the distance. KYUK reminds me of no other place I've been.

And driving down the road I get a feeling that I should have put my honey bucket out and fed my dog.

Just one road takes you home to the place, yes, I still, I still belong, in Bethel, Alaska.

I'm a tundra mama, there's just one road that takes me home. There's just one road that takes me home. There you go.

I’m the -- I’m the only tundra mama left, I'm the only tundra mama left of that group. I have great memories.

We played a lot of great music in those years and I guess one thing that comes to mind about stories for me before I play a couple other tunes that I think people will know is --

I'd just like to take a minute and acknowledge a man who worked at KYUK for many years named Peter Twitchell. And he did a lot to collect stories from this area.

There are just, the archives are great and he also collected music. And some of the best stories from people who are still living and some of the people that we miss that are now gone are collected by Peter Twitchell at KYUK.

So I'd just like to acknowledge that. Are you interested in playing some tunes with me?

Elias Venes: Sure.

Martha Scott: A couple of our kind of songs. Great. Someone get a chair for -- let me grab one.

A lot of that -- Well, I do keep coming back. Well, I got one. Oh, here you got yours.

A lot of the happiest times I've spent in Bethel have been in the home of Elias and Bernie Venes. They feed me so I keep coming back.

And Elias feeds me a steady diet of some great songs.

Elias Venes: Kind of hard for her to revive an old man.

Martha Scott: The gray one. There you go. And we're not used to playing in this kind of stuff with all these lights but we're just going to pretend they’re not there. Okay. I'm going to do the hard one first. Get it out of the way.

This is called St. Anne's Reel and Liberty. I hope sometime we can play this that people will dance. If you feel like dancing then you won't notice the mistakes I make.

(Music is being played).

Don't make me laugh. He always does that.

We’re almost done.

Well it's better than --

Elias and Bernie have taught me some wonderful songs that have been friends along this river with people. Some of them are from Jimmy Kvamme, from up river in Aniak.

We've had some great music times with Melvin Anderson and this is a guy that can really play this thing. So I'm going to take the guitar. Just try. They’ll really like it.

We were over visiting Glady the other day and she, I played one the Jimmy Kvamme's songs on the radio. She said it's so nice to hear our music on the radio. So we're playing some of --

Elias Venes: Especially for Henry and Glady

Martha Scott: Yeah, lots of good coffee at their house, too. Which one did you choose. Got it.

(Music is being played)

Don't look at me, you'll make me laugh.

Can you hear it?

Martha Scott: I guess, while we're packing up to leave I just wanted to say how much I love this community.

And how much, no matter how far I've gone and how many miles I've traveled, this has been a place where I've learned about life. I tell people that I was born and raised in Colorado but I was -- I grew up in Bethel.

That's really the way I feel about it and I'm very honored that you asked me and my friends to come and play for you. Thanks.

Elias Venes: One time I left Bethel, too. I was going to leave forever. You know, I left --that was in the '40's.

Martha Scott: Me, too. I've done it five times.

Elias Venes: I left in the 40's, but I came back.

Martha Scott: You're back, too.

Elias Venes: Yeah. I'm going stay, too.

Martha Scott: There's more stories. Turn off your TV and go visit some of these people that live in this town. Wonderful people to visit in this town.