Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Well, there is much to tell about this time, if l can just remember all I want to tell and get it in the generous allotted space on page 8.

First, about the Charlotte, Michigan, festival at the end of June. I couldn't believe I was in Michigan. I thought I had taken the wrong exit on the interstate some place. Every day in the '90s and no rain. A beautiful weekend for the festival.

A local group from the Radcliff area, The Changing Times Band, was there on Thursday and big impressions were made.

They (the band) were impressed with the size of the crowd already waiting for the show to start at 6 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. Well over 100, with a campground full. The crowd received the band in a big way. Quite a few remarks were in the vein of "one of the best bands that day" and "yes, we want them back next year."

Good show and good going, guys.

Another group that went over big on open stage and graciously filling in when and where needed was a Canadian group called Northern City Limits. I strongly suspect they earned an invite back next year.

So I don't forget, I must tell you about Tessie. Tessie Bongart, I think; not totally sure I have the last name exact. A couple Tessie came with told me about her on Saturday. I told Wade Mainer about Tessie and he recognized her from the stage and teased her a little. Tessie has the brightest blue eyes that just sparkled and a lovely smile. Wade is 88 and when he was teasing her I joined him and told him that Tessie made him look like a youngster. Tessie is 97. That's right – not a type or misprint -— 97. Sunday, Wade went back to her in the crowd and spoke to her and so did I. Tessie said she was enjoying it. She lives in Florida in the winter and comes back to Michigan in the summer. She said, "I'll be back next year," and Tessie, bless your heart, we'll be looking forward to seeing you there again then.

Wheeler King was there with some great video tapes of old country and a lot of old westerns. One I really wanted to tell about is a video called "Times Ain't Like They Used to Be." It is quite a mix of old-time bands, singers, pickers and the like. The bit that caught my eye and many others' is the very first on the tape. It is the three songs from the only known film of Jimmie Rodgers. "Waiting for a Train" is one of those. Good stuff. I liked all of this for the most part but I really enjoyed the Jimmie Rodgers part. These went very fast at the festival.

Wheeler King had another one; only a limited number of copies with him and they were among the first to go. This video is called, if I remember correctly, "Second Fiddle to a Steel Guitar." It has a large number of the traditional country artists. Most of these are ten bucks a shot plus a little postage. Contact Wheeler King, Rt. #4, Box 408, Tazewell, TN 37879. He will probably send you a listing of what-he has available oncluding all of the Roy Acuff movies.

I kept watching for Larry Sparks' bus to come in ... and no bus. I went over to talk with one of the bands and noticed a big, long limo — white, dark windows, driver in overalls, etc. I guess I thought O.J. liked bluegrass. Later, in passing by, I noticed the back door was setting open and lo and behold there sat Larry Sparks. Seems Larry found out or decided that it is cheaper to operate a limo than a big bus. Sold his and bought the long car. Makes sense to me. You gotta hire a driver anyhow, so let a band member drive, as it is frequently done. Might be easier to get the car worked on when problems strike.

All in all, the festival was just great. The Warrior River Boys, Jim & Jesse, Ralph Stanley, Charlie Sizemore, The Lewis Family and all the bands were good. Another successful festival and I, of course, am already looking forward to next year.

I had with me a big mailing bag of brochures from the Museum of Appalachia for the Fall Homecoming October 12-15 in Norris, Tenn. I made a couple of announcements about it and said that brochures were available. All of them were picked up by early evening Friday. Many folks from the Michigan festival are definitely planning to be at Norris. It is not too soon to plan for this event. More on it later.

Other festivals, etc.: Little Eagle Creek Bluegrass Invitational at Rynearson Farm, Westfield, Ind., September 14-17.

The Charlie Louvin Bluegrass Festival, August 3-6 at Tamarack Park, Pinson, Tenn.

Brown County Bluegrass Festival, Georgetown, Ohio, August 24-26.

For more detailed information concerning festivals, listen to "Sunday Bluegrass," 8:30-11 p.m. each Sunday [WFPL 89.3 FM].

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to John Gage, who is recuperating from a heart attack suffered in early July.

Recording Review

By Berk Bryant

I received a CD from Flying Fish to review and play. Title: Windy Days and Dusty Skies. Artists: Joe Carr & Alan Munde. Good?: Yes.

Although not hard-core, through-and-through bluegrass, this is a good listenable effort and I will be playing it Sundays [on his radio program]. It does have a hint of western flavor but I think with a fair listen most of you will like it.

Contains such numbers as "Jordan Am a Hard Road to Travel," "Two Different Worlds," "Milwaukee Blues," "Texas Blues" and "Put the Baby Down." Fifteen songs in all. "Mountain Girl," "Nancy Jane" and "Little Tumbleweed" are among my favorites here.

Listen Sunday nights, hear for yourself and I think you will agree. Some good, pleasant, enjoyable listening here.

Flying Fish Records, Inc., 1304 W. Schubert, Chicago, IL 60614. Call toll free 1-800-FYI-FISH.