Welcome Back, Whipstitch Sallies!

Welcome back Whipstitch Sallies!

Whipstitch- Proper noun- a shallow overcasting stitch indicative of superior quality and craftsmanship.

Sallie- Proper noun- a diminutive of the female given name Sarah.

Shortly after JHMF1, Patti and I came onboard the JHMF Sternwheel Steamboat to help out wherever we could. As an emcee for year 2 back in 2012, I was assigned the Boogie Stage. At that time, the stage was simply a 10x20 pole canopy, powered by John Hotze’s Boze tower sound system. The very first band I brought on was a group of very friendly, earthy and honest but elegant, ladies who called themselves the Whipstitch Sallies. This was their first year to perform at the John Hartford Memorial Festival. We became good friends and even shared some stage time together!

The Whipstitch Sallies were central Indiana’s “bluegrass rockers with panache” (The Indianapolis paper NUVO) with electrifying presence, traditional instruments, and tight harmonies.

The Whipstitch Sallies are:

Allie Lee, (now playing full time with Frank and Allie Lee, and The Freight Hoppers) clawhammer banjo virtuoso, guitar, harp and vocals.

Sam Herrin (now playing with Silver Sparrow and Bluegill in the Slaw), picking out blistering mandolin licks and vocals.

Katie Burk (now playing with The Half Step Sisters) bowing out spirited fiddle leads and vocals.

Kat Erikson (taking a break from performing full-time) driving the rhythm on stand-up bass and vocals.

The Whipstitch Sallies are all very good songwriters, with Allie and Katie having made our John Hartford Songwriter’s Challenge showcase, (Allie twice!)

The Whipstitch Sallies musical proficiency and sibling-like harmonies, along with mighty fine songwriting, which combined, stirs the term “Old Time Punk”, quickly earned them the love of our fest family to the point that they were booked consecutively through JHMF 6, which was their last fest as band. Life deals and we play. The Sallies went different directions with their individual lives, but have remained close friends. Enter Randy Kilper. Randy is  our JHMF co-promoter, artists relations manager, do-it-all and do-it-now, JHMF team member since day 1. Last year Randy approached the girls and asked about coming together for a JHMF year 10 special reunion. The ladies got together and worked it out and are we ever pumped up to have the Whipstitch Sallies reunion take place at JHMF10! I contacted Kat Erikson and gleaned a little more info.

EH- Where did you come up with the name Whipstitch Sallies?

Kat- Oh yes! That’s actually a great story. Allie and I met in a college poetry class. We’ve always loved playing with words, and we wrote a little together back then, mostly goofy poems.
When it came time to name our band, we sat in a diner for hours and wrote down a bunch of words we thought sounded fun. Whipstitch came up. It sounded folky and rootsy and we honestly just liked it. Sallies came up because we’re all ladies. It might have been Annie’s or Jane’s, but Sallies just fit.
An old friend of ours used to jokingly refer to us as The Patchwork Annies, which we got a kick out of.

EH- How did the reunion come about? Did you approach the fest or did they approach you?

Kat- Randy approached us asking about the possibility of a reunion last year. We live far apart now and it didn’t seem very feasible, but we all realized we miss playing together. We talked about it and when we realized we were all on board, we couldn’t pass it up. I guess we can thank JHMF for bringing us back together!

EH- Should we expect classic Sallies or all new stuff? or both?

Kat- We’ll be pulling our favorites from old set lists, like “Got Me a Letter”, “Oh, Mercy”, “Endless in the Lowlands”, and “Piney Flats”.

EH-Will there be Sallies gigs leading up to this, and beyond?

Kat- We do have one pre-JHMF show lined up at Duke’s in Indy on Tuesday, May 26th. That will be a ticketed show, and we’ll be posting details on our Facebook page as the date draws nearer.

EH- What have The Sallies been up to lately?

Kat- Katie’s band, “The Half Step Sisters” has a new EP “Bookends” out now. Check it out on Spotify. Allie plays with her husband Frank Lee in several projects right now. They have a new album “Treat a Stranger Right” set to drop in February. You can catch them with their full band, “The Freight Hoppers” at the Indiana Fiddler’s Gathering in 2020 and JHMF10!. Keep an eye out for Sam playing with “Silver Sparrow” around Brown County and Bloomington! If you’re lucky, you might even see her slappin’ bass with “Bluegill in the Slaw”.

The Whipstitch Sallies were annual crowd favorites at the John Hartford Memorial Festival. Always handy with a smile and greeting, The Whipstitch Sallies have a natural way about them, of stirring up the  spirit in one’s soul. As a matter of fact, it is way too easy, at any festival, to become so acclimated to the constant music coming from the stages that one can easily miss an act while visiting with an old friend. I recall such a visit coming to a sudden halt as the air filled with spine tingling harmonies, as an cappella intro to “Long Hot Summer Day” caught everyone's attention. I looked to the Hartford Stage and the Whipstitch Sallies were opening with that song. If you see them before their sets, shout it out! Their version is one of the tightest and most stirring I have ever heard!

Ernie Hill


John Hartford's Mammoth Fiddle Tune Collection

Stuffworks Press is tickled to announce the release of 176, mostly never heard or played, original John Hartford Fiddle tunes, compiled by Katie Harford Hogue, Greg Reish and Matt Combs! Read all about  John Hartford's Mammoth Fiddle Tune Collection here!


"All About Story Songs with Ernie"

Story Songs with Ernie is a concept performance, panel discussion amongst Story Telling Songwriters. We're going on 5 years of presenting this unique and enlightening workshop. It is not a "hands on " workshop but by the end of the set, we promise you will have a better understanding about the creative process of each songwriter, and maybe where your own creative spark lies. Story Songs with Ernie welcomed to JHMF9, Andrew Morris and Julie Bates(The Matchsellers), Alaina Hawf (Whispering Willows) and Bill Poss! Click Here to read All About Story Songs with Ernie.


Ernie Hill is a musician-singer/songwriter, freelance journalist from Figure Five, AR and a member of our John Hartford Memorial Festival Team. Connect with Ernie on Facebook or click the pic to go to his website.

Ernie Hill is a musician-singer/songwriter, freelance journalist from Figure Five, AR and a member of our John Hartford Memorial Festival Team. Connect with Ernie on Facebook or click the pic to go to his website.