Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

The IBMA Fan Fest happened the last week of September in Owensboro. I went down Saturday morning and checked out English Park first thing. Rain. Raining with soggy grounds and water standing. Spent a few minutes with our good friend, record vendor Charlie Chase, before show time, then decided it was too wet and messy, and headed to the Executive Inn to see who I could find. I had gone with the intent of finding Bill Clifton. He was there, somewhere, but my efforts to locate Bill failed. I really wanted to get with him as it has been some 30-plus odd years since we last got together. Maybe we will still make it happen if we can keep in touch.

Did see a lot of folks and met some for the first time. Art Stamper was there and introduced me to Don Stover, banjo picker from West Virginia. I've played him, but had never seen him. Also around the lobby I found Steve Day, Larry Stephenson, Bill Harrell, Charlie Waller, Del McCoury, Laurie Lewis and Emma Smith, and I hope I didn't leave out anybody. I had to leave early to be back for a commitment that night and did not get to any of the shows or go back out to the park.

One of our listeners from Indiana called in that Sunday night to say they were there and had Evelyn Perry with them. For those of you who may have forgotten or don't know, Evelyn Perry was known as "Daisy," and is the last surviving member of the original Coon Creek Girls. The New Coon Creek Girls were on Saturday, and during their show they brought Evelyn out to play with them. She has fairly recently began playing her fiddle and performing again. She told me earlier this year that she had not been playing for 30-35 years. She said when she met her husband and said "I do," she didn't know he was going to say "you won't" and so she had to put her fiddle away. After her husband passed away she finally decided she needed something to do and went for the fiddle. As far as I know, this was the first time that the New and the Original had gotten together. Sorry I missed it. The caller, one of our faithful listeners Joyce Sheppard, said the response was tremendous and I think that is great. I'll tell you right now, contrary to many beliefs -- too many -- our older performers are still loved and highly respected, which is definitely as it should be. A note of appreciate to all of those who realize and understand this.

A note to IBMA and the organizers, or should I say a comment I have heard repeated too many times: Surely, all things considered, it seems that programs could be handed out at the gate with the ticket. No one paying $15 or $90 admission, or whatever, should have to go somewhere up the street and buy a local newspaper to get a schedule of events or a program. IBMA, you can do better than that.

September 25 was a good night at Hodgenville at the Lincoln Jamboree. A long-standing favorite of many bluegrass fans, Carl Story and the Rambling Mountaineers, were there. Carl, in his late '70s, did an excellent show. When he got a deep breath and let go full force with that high falsetto he is associated with, folks, you knew that was Carl Story. He hasn't lost a bit of his punch. A lot of great bluegrass gospel still to come from Carl. He has also written some pretty good songs. One that was a big country hit a couple of different times and years apart, is "I Overlooked an Orchid." I will be looking forward to seeing him again when he comes to Shepherdsville next March.

The Reynolds Family were also on the show that night and certainly held up their part. I hope to see and hear them again in the not-too-distant future.

Shepherdsville got the Friday-night bluegrass shows going the 2nd of October and started off gooood. Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver were there and so was a pretty decent crowd. Doyle pleased them all in a big way. Need to keep it going that way, folks.

Also there this past month was Petticoat Junction, Larry Sparks, the Reno Bros., and the Country Gentlemen. See what YOU missed by not being there! You'll get a chance to make it up this month, so pay attention now.

November 6 will have the Goins Bros.; the 13th, one of the area's top favorite bluegrass stars, Ralph Stanley; 20th brings in the Warrior River Boys; and the 27th, the Charlie Sizemore Band. What more could you want-- top bluegrass stars and entertainment each Friday at 8:00 p.m. See you there?

We get a lot of calls concerning our show at WFPL and had two special ones on October 4. First we got a call at home as we were preparing to leave for the station. A gentleman who had called us once before, concerning an old song and group we had played one night, called again. This time he wanted to tell me he has been taping our program for quite some time and was sending it to quite a few other places, to friends and family. Those places that I can remember are Winchester, Va., Texas and Indiana or Illinois. One of the things he was telling me is the kind of thing that really boosts your morale and lets you know you are on the right track, encouraging in many ways. It seems the tapes he sent to Texas caught the ear of some youngsters, as in young people, and as a direct result they have invested quite a bit in instruments and formed a bluegrass band down there. Isn't that great!

The other call came long distance from Georgia, and was a real surprise. The young man who was our engineer at the station on Sunday nights, Dave Stewart, called in. Dave was such a pleasant young man and was a familiar voice to so many of our listeners who call in during the show. Actually he recognized many of them by voice as easily as they knew his. Dave is completing some of his requirements to pursue a career in the ministry. He said he hadn't found any bluegrass on the radio there yet. I told him he knows where they can get some. Thanks, Dave, for a very pleasant and welcome surprise.

We had a very successful trip to the Museum of Appalachia Fall Homecoming the 9th-11th of October. Really enjoyed renewing acquaintances and friendships. This is a time a high-school buddy and I get together every year and sort of catch up, compare notes, reminisce, enjoy the music and people, taking pictures, shooting videos (with his equipment) and really just in general having it like it used to be for a couple of days. That is a tremendous and rare opportunity.

John Hartford is always there and picks and plays all day, every day, whether on stage or just picking with whoever, whenever or wherever. This is a "parking lot/shade tree" picker's paradise. I am not one of them as I cannot play anything that you can recognize; however, I can stand around and listen with the best of them.

Saturday night we went to the Golden Girls Restaurant -- we had a tip -- and here was John out in the middle of the floor in a circle of chairs filled with fiddlers, guitarist, banjo and bass, all just playing up a storm. Don't know the individual names but there were some excellent musicians there; one I know, besides John, was Frazier Moss. Frazier is an old-time champion Tennessee fiddler. Frazier can fiddle in the back seat of a car from Knoxville to Alabama and back and probably not play the same thing twice. Also on hand this weekend was the Stewart Family from Louisville, Raymond Fairchild, Mac Wiseman, the Mule Lady Marylin Powell-Green, Grandpa and Ramona Jones, Tom Swatzell and Roy Harper, and the list goes on and on.

I do want to mention that Oswald and the Smokey Mountain Boys were there on Sunday. Oz is doing fairly well, although still recovering from his recent operation. His playing is normal but he can't sing yet. Charlie Collins, in a brief explanation to the audience, said the doctor told him it would be a couple more weeks.

If you didn't get there this year, there's next year, October 7-10. I talk to a lot of people who are there for the first time and they are always so excited that they found out about the event and were able to attend. They all say, "I'll be back next year." Plan now.

This month we -- WFPL and Sunday Bluegrass -- will need to rally support from our bluegrass fans. It is fund drive time at the station again. WFPL is, as most of you know, public radio. Public radio depends on listener support as a very important part of their being. During the drive, give us whatever support you can. Each call, each pledge, does so much to help the program or programs you enjoy, and can have a real impact on the future of your favorite program. An impact that influences everything about it, from keeping it on the air to possibly extending its time. In short, the more you show you are behind a program, the more you respond in every way, the more notice the program people will give that program. All of our programs need your support and, bluegrass fans, we know you are out there, you have proven that. Now let's renew your support and let those who may not be fully convinced of how many of you are listening, support bluegrass this month with a response unheard of in this area. Keep our bluegrass on the air and GROWING!