Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

It's time to review, preview and rumor about bluegrass music and other events of interest to bluegrass music fans. Some of the review takes us to some special events and happenings since we last occupied space in this worthy news print.

One particular event was a cruise on the River Queen out of Jeffersonville, Ind. A fantastic meal relaxing cruise and bluegrass, plus music from the River Boat Ramblers, made for a very special evening. A friend who visits with some irregular regularity from Ft. Lee, Va., was with us for the cruise. Richard Price, who heads a gospel bluegrass group in the Richmond, Va., area, was our guest. The River Boat Ramblers consist of one or more members of Kentucky Blue, depending upon how many can make it on a given night and you never know who may fill in. This particular night it was Dave Cottrell, wife Laurie and Raymond McLain. Raymond is currently playing banjo for Jim & Jesse. After appropriate introductions and a couple of breaks, Dave invited Richard to join them and do a number. Needless to say, Rich jumped at the chance and played for the rest of the evening. The River Queen, thanks to Dave Cottrell and Gery Greenwell, provided an unforgettable evening for local folks and out-of-towners as well.

Our Sunday Bluegrass show, WFPL 89.3 FM, as well as our listeners, were given a special treat on September 29 when Danny Jones and friend Wendell Cornett came in with guitar and mandolin and royally entertained the studio audience and the listening audience. Danny and Wendell, thanks a lot and COME BACK! We don't have enough live bluegrass music on radio.

That was an extra good night for them to show up as I had a very special visitor with me. Chris Clark from Wolverhampton, England, had just gotten to the States Friday night before and was in the studio. Chris and I have corresponded for 35-plus years. Our correspondence has been based on country and bluegrass music. Chris has been to the States only once before and that was back in 1980. He is probably the most knowledgeable Britisher, or foreigner for that matter, about American country/bluegrass music. Chris, unknowingly, timed his visit perfectly. He arrived on Friday night and Saturday we headed to the IBMA Fan Fest in Owensboro. Lots of good music, good friends and good weather. When Friday came around again we were off to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. When Chris was here in '80 we saw the Opry from about the second balcony.

This time we saw it from a totally different perspective. We were fortunate enough to visit backstage with my good friend Ray Pillow. C.R. Wilson was with us and Wednesday after the Opry visit, picked up Chris and made a return visit to Drake, Ky. They both wanted to browse through Freeman Kitchens' vast collection of records. C.R. then took a roundabout way back by showing and introducing Chris to Rosine, birth/home place of Bill Monroe.

Next big event in this month was the Tennessee Fall Homecoming at the Museum of Appalachia, Norris, Tenn. It was a perfect outing. We missed the Stewart Family's performance, but we did get to visit with them. Bill Stewart is one of the finest fiddlers Louisville area has to offer. Bill was at on time known as the youngest old-time fiddler on the Grand Ole Opry.

Some interesting "tidbits" picked up in our travels:

I had quite a surprise backstage at the Opry when I recognized a fine young Detroit banjo picker coming my way and wondered what Dana Cupp was doing there. So I asked. Regular listeners to my show will have heard Dana from time to time. So I asked and he said, "I guess I'm a Bluegrass Boy now." Blake Williams, Bill Monroe's former banjoist, is now playing bass with Mike Snyder. We saw "Rooster" Richardson along our way and he gave us the word on daughter Deanie. She has not left her group; she's simply playing fiddle for Holly Dunn (I think he said Holly Dunn) for a few months until festival season is in full swing again.

One more bit we heard: Wanda Barnett of the New Coon Creek Girls, oops ... formerly of the New Coon Creek Girls, is now taking her career in other directions. Wanda is one of my favorite female singers, but I am not too sure about this new direction. As with some others, however, decisions must be made, decisions that are sometimes not easy, but are felt to be necessary. If you must leave us, our best wishes for your success still go with you.

We have some new/recent CDs I hope to review; that is, tell you how they sound to me, in the next edition or so. If all goes as usual, by the time I get around to doing that, there will be even more to do.

Tips, recommendations and suggestions for near and not-so-near event planning: Do it now. See and hear the River Boat Ramblers on the River Queen sometime soon. Plan now to attend the Charlotte, Mich., 20th anniversary bluegrass festival next June 25-28. Make the IBMA Fan Fest at Owensboro a must in September.

Another definite would be the annual fall homecoming at the Museum of Appalachia, Norris, Tenn., next October 8-11, 1992.

To fill in between all of this and keep up, by all means tune to Sunday Bluegrass, WFPL, 89.3 FM, Louisville, every Sunday night from 8 to 10 for bluegrass, traditional and old-time. If you support bluegrass and this type of programming, please be listening in November — November 17 — for the Fall fund drive and show your support THANKS!!!

Congratulations, Michael Cleveland! Michael, ten-year-old blind fiddler from Henryville, Ind., won another contest in Alabama this past month. Good for you and keep it up, Michael.