Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Roy Clark was on the Opry a few weeks back and made a very good point, talking about "Hee Haw" and fan support or reaction. As most of you know, "Hee Haw" was cancelled quite a few years ago. Of course, it didn't stay cancelled, because of the demand and response from the fans. A misjudgment call by the powers that be.

So after these many years of success, the powers that be — those powers that know much more about what you want to watch than you do — began to wave their magic mind set to change the show. You know, make it more modern, up-to-date, new faces, younger, to attract a larger audience. Boy, is that old excuse getting feeble, really feeble.

The results: Not that many new viewers were attracted and the old faithful were, to say the least, somewhat disillusioned. As Roy said, "Their (viewers') hearts just weren't in it."So once again viewer response brought about the desired results. The set has been redone and for the upcoming season many of those earlier shows will be rerun, bringing back such favorites as Stringbean, Junior Samples and, hopefully, Grady Nutt.

I'm sure that in the long run this will be another in the series of unheeded and unlearned lessons: IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T fiX IT.

What does this have to do with bluegrass, you ask? There is a lesson here and that is that fan response — fan clamor, if you will — can make a difference. The fans can get the desired results if they will make their voices heard and their wishes known. It does take all of us, not just a few here and there. All of us. Commercial radio stations don't believe we're out there, just as the TV networks didn't believe there was a strong base of "Hee Haw" fans. Some 20 years later they learned all over again that they are still there and don't want you "messing" around with "Hee Haw." It's fan power, folks. And it should not be self-defeating, with the attitude that it doesn't matter, they are going to do what they want to anyhow. They will as long as we are silent.

Moving right along and backing up, we had a fine time at the State Fair in August, doing the MC bit for Kentucky Blue, Williams and Ree and Riders in the Sky.

Kentucky Blue had a lot of good response from the crowd from the beginning and after their show. Williams and Ree — if you have ever seen them on TNN you know that "the Indian and the white guy" are funny. They tore 'em up at the fair. The Riders are one of the very best good old-time western-type groups around today. Very popular and especially popular with the buckaroos and buckarettes as a result of their Saturday moming network TV show. They are also heard on WFPL at 8 p.m. Sundays, just before our Sunday Bluegrass show.

The Riders, it seems to me, are attempting to do for western music what we are hoping to do for bluegrass: keep it alive and well and on the air. Just one more thing: They did a great bit when they brought most of the kids in the audience up on stage to sing with them.

A little novelty song led by Woody Paul, King of the Cowboy fiddlers. It certainly may not have been the easy way, but it was "the cowboy way." Thanks Riders— a show well done.

Don't forget The Museum of Appalachia Fall Homecoming is October 8 through ll. A lot of folks around here have indicated they are going. Don't miss it; it is a true experience. Take pictures, videos or what-ever You'll be glad you did. Look for us there and come over and say howdy. The museum is about l8 miles north of Knoxville, about one mile east of Interstate 75. It is a tremendous Fall outing and, depending on the weather, the leaves hust might be beginning to turn.

To our very dear friends on their 67th wedding anniversary, which Mom and Pop Lewis of The Lewis Family will celebrate October 25, our sincere best wishes. Not bad for a trial marriage!

Recording Review

The Last Christmas Tree
Old Homestead Records
>Bill Grant & Delia Bell

By Berk Bryant

I believe John Morris told me this was released several years ago by Bill and Delia. Old Homestead re-released it last year. So, perhaps it is an old one to review. I just got my copy and heard it for the first time in June when I was in Michigan with John. I liked it so well I have played all of it on my Sunday Bluegrass show (WFPL 89.3 FM), all except the Christmas number and I can hardly wait for the time to share it with you. I think this is, overall, one of the best I have heard from Bill Grant and Delia Bell.

There are some familiar numbers and others I had never heard. All are in top bluegrass style and should please any and all bluegrass fans. The numbers are "True Life Blues," "I'll Break Out Again Tonight," "Love Me Now," "John Henry Jr.," "Scarlet Woman" and "Beneath the Old Pine Tree."

Side B contains "Is the Blue Moon Shining," "When There's Nothing But the Crickets," "No One to turn the Windmill Off," "Gotta Get Away," "The Big Baptizing" and "The Last Christmas Tree." Half of these are Bill Grant originals. As it is, some of my very favorites on this tape are Bill's numbers. "No One to turn the Windmill Oft" and "When There's Nothing But the Crickets" are really something else.

I have seen Bill and Delia perform on a number of occasions and they always come through in top style. Bill and Delia do not keep a band or travel with a band; however there are a number of musicians around the country that they rely on, depending on where they are appearing. Here is where professionals shine, as the performance is always good, including their recordings. Go see them at your very next opportunity and I would recommend adding this tape to your collection. Order from Old Homestead Records, Box 100, Brighton, MI 48116.