Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

SPRING! SPRING! SPRING! So maybe I am a little optimistic at the time I'm writing this, but after Xteen inches of snow followed by inches of ice, all mixed with 22-below-zero temperatures, I'm ready and I'll bet you are too.

A benefit show for Wendell Cornett on Feb. 13 at Shepherdsville was a success. Many, many local musicians and bands showed up to participate. I had a letter from Wendell expressing his thanks for our participation (spreading the word on Sunday Bluegrass, WFPL) and to all, bands and fans alike. He noted how the bluegrass community responded to this need and it showed how much bluegrass music and its people mean to him. Kinda reinforces this and how we do have to take care of our own. We have to look out for each other 'cause ain't nobody else going to look out for us. THANKS TO ALL.

Had a chance to talk with Gary Brewer at the benefit. Gary and the Ramblers have been on a package tour with Bill Monroe, James Monroe and the Sullivan Family, and are coming to Shepherdsville April 1.

During their travels Bill asked Gary to let him see his guitar for a minute. Seems the old genius of music had written two guitar pieces and wanted to show Gary how they went. (A lot of you didn't know Bill could play guitar, did you?) Anyhow, Gary began playing and picking up on what Bill had done and was asked to record the tunes with Monroe. This would be the first time Bill has recorded something featuring guitar solo. A date for the recording is not fixed yet but if it isn't done before the Ramblers make their European tour in March it will be soon after they return.

According to Gary, Bill said that Chet Atkins had wanted very much to record the songs. But, Bill said to Gary, "Chet ain't bluegrass." I have to agree, although he is one tremendous guitar picker. Actually, it was from Chet that ... but then I stray, and that is another story — one the boss lady may do someday.

I had a visit with Oscar Sullivan — you know, Lonzo & Oscar — this last month. I have been telling you about TMA. Well folks, let me tell you something: Lonzo and Oscar played a show — a traditional country show — in W. Palm Beach, Fla., Jan. 28. Ed and Joe Gregory, fair entertainment coordinators for the Florida State Fair, brought all of this together. There were 34 of the top TRADITIONAL, legendary, country superstars there. I don't know who they all were, but it included folks like Porter Wagoner, Jimmy Dickens, Ferlin Husky and Freddie Hart.

The stars were required to wear the traditional dress/costumes they did then — late '40s, '50s and '60s. It was run like a show on the Opry, with a host announcer to bring the acts on for a song, and no encores. They played to standing room only — that's SRO — in an 8,000-seat facility. Two shows with over 16,000 people.

To those bozos who would make every effort to nail the lid on traditional country and its artists and fans, stick that in your pipe and smoke it awhile. Traditional country is alive and well and there are fans out there who are starving to hear it.

Oh, by the way, the same show was going to be repeated Feb. 17 in Tampa. As of this writing it hadn't been played yet, but I am confident the results will prove it is the show to do.

A bit of a footnote to all of this. In 1954, Lonzo & Oscar and the then-manager of the Grand Ole Opry, John Kelly, packaged the Grand Ole Opry Show for the first time in a concert at Cape Girardeau, Mo. At 6:00 the grandstand was packed and 10,000 were turned away. This bit comes from Oscar.

A correction on the address to be used for the Traditional Music Association. It should be Traditional Music Association, P.O. Box 327, Park City, KY 42160-0327, or call 502-773-3055. This was a change I did not have when we gave the address before.

Friends, TMA needs your help. If you want to see and hear traditional country music have its rightful place, then get involved and contact TMA.

A couple of issues back I mentioned what I see as the loss of respect by the Opry for traditional country and its artists. Another phase in the continuing saga of all this took this form: Recently, under a new manager, the Opry gave out letters/memos that in effect told the older members not to expect to be on the show as often as they had been.

(What has become of loyalty, especially to dedicated "employees" who made your business a success — an unprecedented success at that? Maybe it died with Roy Acuff; I hope not. Ones who gave it staying power. The Opry is an institution of a kind that has no equal in its reputation to its fans and public around the world. "Don't expect to be on as often" is one heck of a way to say thank you to artists who have for over 30, 40 years and more, been there every Friday and Saturday night because they loved and respected the Opry and being a part of it. Dedicated and loyal people who made the Opry a part of their lives. Reinstate the old rules, do the fans and your reputation a favor, require the members of the Opry to be there every Saturday night with only two misses a year to remain a member of the show. Then we will all see how much being a member of the Grand Ole Opry really means to all of these new "STARS." The folks who made it what it is lived by those rules and survived, as did the show.)

Pickin' in the area this month at Shepherdsville: March 4, the Goins Bros. and Sam Wilson; 18th, the Kentucky Bluegrass Band. April 1 at Shepherdsville: Bill Monroe, James Monroe, Gary Brewer, and the Sullivan Family.

C.R. Wilson's show at the community center at Brownsville: March 5, Clear Creek Bluegrass Band; 12th, Larry Sparks and Tommy Brown; 25th, Ralph Stanley; and April 1, the Larry Stephenson Band. Don't forget the 2nd and 4th Saturday nights each month at Henryville, Ind., and the 3rd and 5th Saturday each month at Scottsburg, Ind.