Two microphones are set up in Don and Sally Haugen's basement in Bettendorf.

On the right side, Don is on mandolin, wife Sally sings and son Dan is on guitar. On the left is family friend Dan Dickens on fiddle, with Dan Haughey's wife Lori on banjo and Lori's brother-in-law Joe Walker on upright bass.

Together, they're the Quartermoon Tinsnips (the name is a Haugen family joke involving a South Dakota camping trip with an outhouse stop by Sally's father, Pete Briggs), a bluegrass band that has played a growing number of venues in the past year.

The pre-history of the band goes back about 40 years when Don, just out of the U.S. Army and teaching himself guitar, met Sally, whose brother was a bluegrass musician. The two men were part of a bluegrass group for several years.

With the exception of occasionally singing in church with his wife, Don put music on the back burner for his job as a letter carrier in Davenport.

About four years ago, Dan Haugen called his dad to say that he'd taught himself to play guitar while his wife was off at nursing school. And Lori, once she received her registered nursing license and began working for Genesis Health System, borrowed her father-in-law's birthday-present banjo and taught herself to play.

She recruited her brother-in-law Walker, who has a jazz background, on bass.

"Joe's the trained classical musician, the only one who knows what he's doing," Dan Haugen said with a laugh.

The group was completed by family friend Dickens on fiddle, with only two or three years of self-teaching after previously playing bluegrass guitar. Don Haugen, who has a collection of several string instruments and is building his own guitar, switched to the mandolin for the group.

Quartermoon Tinsnips has been around for about four years, but it has ramped up in the past year since Don left his job with the U.S. Postal Service.

"Dad was retiring and had more free time, so we needed to do something to help him out," Dan Haugen said. "Within the last year, we bought a PA system and decided to just go for it a little bit," he said, laughing, "which may open us up to a lot more old folks homes."

Nursing homes are regular gigs, in fact, although they also play at their church, Grace Lutheran in Davenport, and even at a couple of bars.

The band plays Saturday night at Mojo's, inside the River Music Experience, downtown Davenport, and wants to bring their music to a larger and wider variety of venues in the near future, with hopes of getting on the bluegrass festival circuit.

All but Don Haugen were bluegrass neophytes when they started. On their first date, Sally recalls, he played the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

"I said ‘Whaaat?' " she recalls.

None of the other family members could be converted.

"The rest of us wanted nothing to do with it," Dan Haugen recalled.

"It took a little getting used to, but it's a blast," Lori said.

The group plays mostly secular and some gospel music, but it doesn't cotton to the "newgrass" label that's a mainstay for jam bands.

"We're genuinely focusing on traditional. We're ready to write our own songs. We just haven't gotten around to it," Dan Haugen said.

"There's so many good traditional bluegrass songs that no one has heard in our generation that we'd like to keep alive," Walker said.

"In the next couple of years we'll probably get our own hook on things," Dan Haugen said.

The band prides itself on harmony, either five- or six-part.

"We feel our strength is our harmony," Dan Haugen said. "Our vocal sound is a little dynamic."

Again, that's a case of family familiarity.

"I grew up riding in the car with Mom and she harmonized to everything on the radio. I hated that, but it works now," Dan Haugen said. "As time went on, when we started forming the band, it was easy for me to pick up and start singing harmony."

The band is thinking of writing and recording its own music, keeping with bluegrass tradition.

"We're just after that good harmony sound," Dan Haugen said.

 

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