Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

October left me with a lot to tell about First our trip to the Tennessee Fall Homecoming, Museum of Appalachia, at Norris, Tenn., turned out great. great in spite of the fact it rained late in the day Saturday and was cold, with a brrrr, Sunday. Many great acts were on hand and we did a lot of good visiting. My wife went with me this time and she did a lot of visiting and information swapping with the many fantastic craft people who were there. Jack Huffman, my friend from high school, came up from South Carolina as usual, brought his camcorders and we added lots of good video to what we have collected over the years.

I took one of Jack's cameras and, luckily, found one fellow early that I had wanted to meet for years—just missed him every year. But not this time. Elmer Bird, the Banjo Man from Turkey Creek, Hurricane, West Va. Elmer is an award-winning old-time drop, double-drop thumb, clawhammer banjo picker. He is a treat. We only got a few of his numbers on video as he was playing his last show for the weekend when we found him. As they say at the ballgames, there is always next year. Elmer Bird turned out to be one of the most pleasant people we have met. He fixed us up with his tapes, which I will play on my "Sunday Bluegrass" show and will review further down the page, or somewhere.

Elmer has quite a story. Four-time SPBGMA winner for old-time banjo, veteran of W.W. II, and appearances all over the country. Doing the old tunes and original ones, he has made his mark. Elmer Bird, I am glad I met you and I hope we will meet often enough to get acquainted. Knowing that John Hartford was a friend of his and had played on some of his records, I asked John what he thought of him. A simple answer that covers it all: "I produced two of his albums. That ought to tell you something." Indeed it does, John.

It was very good to see Redd Stewart there this year with his brother Bill Stewart and family. Redd thought it was a tremendous event. He found some old friends, Curly Fox for one and so many people who remember and recognize Redd and many of his songs. I very much enjoyed my short chat with him and my friend Jack found it to be one of the highlights of the weekend for him.

Raymond Fairchild gave me a real boost when he asked me to watch his table while they played. He handed over his money pouch, told me the price of the items and was on his way with no hesitation, twice. He remarked that, "You can't trust everybody with your money. I don't." When somebody says something like that about you it does make you feel good. I did. Thanks, Raymond, for the trust.

We saw the Tennessee Mule Balladeer, Grandpa Jones, Mac Wiseman, Roy Harper, Tom Swatzell and Oswald and so many others. It would take too much space to put in all the things we could remember about the conversations, so suffice it to say all were enjoyable and informative and I look forward to the next opportunity. We did see several folks from this area, including some of our listeners. Thanks for coming!

Bluegrass coming up in our area at Shepherdsville as of this writing will be the Kentucky Bluegrass Band, November 5; Goins Bros. and Larry Sparks, November 19; and December 10 brings in Ralph Stanley. All shows at 8 p.m.

C.R. Wilson has started bluegrass shows at Brownsville on Saturday nights. Watch this column and listen to "Sunday Bluegrass," WFPL (89.3 FM, 8:30-11 p.m.).

It is Fall Fun-D Drive time again at WFPL. WFPL is public radio, listener supported. We have to come to you for monies to keep the shows on the air, to keep the station in operation. Your support for your favorite program, whatever that may be, at WFPL is needed. Your pledges, your calls to the station and your views about the programs are heard. We will have our portion of the drive on Sunday, November 7, at the First Unitarian Church, 4th and York Streets. It is free, you are invited to attend and I promise you now that you will be glad you did. As of this writing, former Grand Ole Opry stars Lonzo & Oscar have promised to be there, The Schmitt Family and Kentucky Blue, PLUS, if things work out, some other surprises. Trust me on this, like Raymond Fairchild did and be there. Probably enough space used on this one this time, so make plans, see you on the 7th and get there early. Don't let me down.

Recording Reviews

By Berk Bryant

Goin' Back to Dixie
John Hartford

No, it ain't strictly bluegrass, it ain't exactly country, it ain'tfolk. What is it then? It's John Hartford all the way and it is fantastic. This is a CD/tape that I believe all bluegrass fans, except maybe those who are triple-coated with hardplate as used in security combination safe locks to prevent drilling, can and will like.

The title cut is a good one. "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight," a familiar bluegrass tune; "Heavenly Sunlight," "The Boys From North Carolina"; and "The Death of John Henry." All good, all John.

Some John Hartford originals round out the recording with "Little Girl With Her Hair All Down Behind," "M.I.S.P.," "We Did Our Best" and "Them Way Long Time Ago Times."

You will hear this on "Sunday Bluegrass,"WFPL.

Small Dog A-Barkin, P.O. Box 443, Madison, TN 37116.

Elmer Bird

This will be a combined review of four tapes by Elmer Bird, the Banjo Man From Turkey Creek. That's Turkey Creek, Hurricane, W. Va.

We have Elmer's Greatest Licks, Home Sweet Home, George How I Miss You and Bumble Bee Waltz; the last two feature John Hartford.

This is old-time clawhammer, drop thumb pickin' at its best. Anyone who likes clawhammer banjo will like any of these.

Included are many old familiar and favorite tunes such as "Rocky Top" (clawhammer style), "Katy Daly," "O1dMan," "Free Little Bird," "Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow," "Old Joe Clark," "John Henry," "John Hardy," and some I was not familiar with, "Jimmy Johnson Bring the Jug Around the Hill", "Hey, Hey the Fun's All Over," and "Southern Gal."

A great collection of tapes and tunes for those who favor the old drop thumb, clawhammer style banjo.

Write Elmer Bird, Rt. 2, Box 130, Hurricane, WV25526, or call 304-562-5060. Tell him I told you.