DJ'S HANDLE SPRANG FROM CHET ATKINS HIT

By Berk Bryant The Country Gentleman

As many of you know, there is bluegrass music on the radio in Louisville. It pours forth with great enthusiasm from WFPL 89.3 FM each Sunday night at 8:00. "Sunday Bluegrass" with The Country Gentleman, Berk Bryant. That's "Country Gentleman," and not associated with, or a part of, the very popular "Country Gentlemen" group from the Washington, D.C. area.

Folks, listeners and friends have asked how I came to be the Country Gentleman. Here is the way it all began for me back home in Lynchburg, Va. in September of 1954, at radio station WWOD.

When I started my commercial stint as a disc jockey, I started from scratch. "Commercial stint." That means when I started getting paid for doing it.

Back in 1954 I was out of the Army and out of a job. My aunt, who lived next door, suggested that I go see the station manager of a nearby radio. Nearby, in this case, was no more than about six blocks away.

The first thing of this nature I had ever done, besides winding up the old Victrola we had when I was a kid, was to spend a couple hours a week in extracurricular activities on the campus radio station at VPI.

Well, I decided maybe I would. I went to see Chuck. We talked, and I told him what I had done, and at least I could operate the board. Finally he said, "Well, I don't really need anybody right now." A little emphasis on the need. "But, I do want to start a farm and country program." That meant he gave me a chance and a job. Now what was I going to call the show; what would I use for a theme? Yeah, the DJs used themes then, and who or what would I be? I remembered a magazine my grandparents used to get. I don't remember for sure but I think it was "Gentleman Farmer" or something like that. I wanted a name that was country related with a respectful connotation.

In the record library I found a record by an artist I had heard when I was at Tech. He was, still is, quite a guitar player. The picker was Chet Atkins and the record, what else, his great recording of "Country Gentleman."

Anyhow, it all just seemed to come together. I used the record for a theme; why not call the show "Country Gentleman Time." Why stop now -- I'll be the Country Gentleman.

I surprised myself as I began to get more and more response. The mail was good, the phone calls were good, and I was just enjoying the heck out of it. When I went back in the Army in '64, I didn't know it but I took the Country Gentleman right along with me.

I got into Army radio and was the Country Gentleman on closed circuit at Walter Reed Hospital and then on around the world to Korea. On AFKN Pusan, the Country Gentleman was there for two hours every afternoon in 1965-66. There's WFPL Public Radio now, and there are Bluegrass Festivals to MC and columns to write.

When I think back to that old Victrola at home, with the crank in its side, those old big 78s and the various assorted record players since, well, I just don't know how I ever would have made it without you.

I am glad to have the opportunity to be on the air again and share bluegrass, old-time and real/honest country with the many fans here in Kentucky. I am very fortunate to have a good collection of this music to choose from, and the cooperation of record companies and stars to enable me to continue with these programs. What's the use of having, if you can't share. Personally, I get the most out of my records when I have someone to enjoy them with me. All of you who are listeners make that possible. THANK YOU!