Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

How does he do that?

Something I have been thinking of doing for a while sort of got a little nudge one Friday night at Shepherdsville recently: The anatomy of Sunday Bluegrass, the show.

I am pretty sure, actually real sure, that most listeners are really not aware of what goes on during Sunday Bluegrass [WFPK, 91.9 FM, 8-11 p.m., Sundays], or how I get it together. All radio shows are NOT done this way so this is not a typical example. This is just the way I do it.

Sometime over the period of several days and/or nights during the week, I pick out artists and recordings that I think I want to play something from. All of this goes into a couple of tote bags I use. Then, Sunday night it's off to the radio station in Louisville, 35 miles away.

I go in, check for mail in my box, and head downstairs to the studio. Cut on all equipment I will be using and check to be sure everything is working. Cue up the tape with the theme and then, and only then, decide what I will play. Decide what I'll start with, what will follow, etc.

I can usually set up two CDs, and one or sometimes two turntables. I can't put on another tape until the theme is finished and re-cued. As one song finishes playing, the process continues. While a song is playing I am going through CDs, tapes and records, deciding what I will put on next. In addition to all of this, I am answering the phone and talking with those all-important listeners who call me.

As you are beginning to suspect, this show is absolutely spontaneous. All the while, an effort is being made to keep up with what I am playing, for future reference. I also have to hear what is playing; I can't listen to it, just hear it. There is a difference between hearing and listening. The listening comes later.

The records have to be cued as do the CDs. You can't just drop a record on the turntable, set the arm over and have it come up right. You have to find the start of the number, the first note if you will, and back off about a turn or a little more, depending on what type of record you are using. This cues the record and makes it come on right when the turntable is started, instead of going woowAHH first. And you thought there wasn't much happening while a song is playing. All of this and answering the phone, sometimes taking notes I can't read later, and making sure the next thing gets going when it is supposed to.

When all of this is done and it is "time to go get a doughnut," I still manage to play an average of 53-54 songs on the "shortest and fastest three hours in radio." Just thought you would like to know.

But words just can't seem to do justice to this overall picture. Maybe sometime down the road the opportunity may come along to watch.

Best Fund Drive . . .

Speaking of the show, last month we had the spring fund drive. A tremendous "THANK YOU, BLUEGRASS FANS AND LISTENERS" is in order. This has been the best drive for Sunday Bluegrass since I have been there. This is the kind of response that pays off in the long run. Listener response in this way and in the general way to the station has brought the show from its one-hour start to the present three hours. Should prove that your voice and interest is heard and considered. Want more, say so.

Where It's At . . .

Here's where bluegrass music can be found this month:

West Point: May 3, Jerry Williamson & Redwing; May 10, Randall Hylton (this is a must). West Point is picking up the abandoned Otter Creek Park Festival and giving it a new home May 24-26. A combined event with their Civil War re-enactment. All of this, including Dry Branch Fire Squad, Northwest Territory, Redwing, Leroy Troy, Kentucky Blue, Bluetown and others.

There is, of course, free bluegrass music at Jefferson 4H Fairgrounds, Madison, Ind., the first Saturday night each month; Henryville, Ind., second and fourth Saturday each month; and Scottsburg the third and fifth Saturday nights each month.

CD for Sizemore

Charlie Sizemore was at West Point this past month and did a very good show. He has a new CD that I will be playing. A Rebel release containing "That's How I Got to Memphis," "Made In the Shade (If the Tree Don't Fall)," Louisiana Red Dirt Highway," "I Want My Rib Back," and nine more good ones. The band for this recording includes Charlie, Danny Barnes, John Berry and Will Parsons, with special guests Rickie Simpkins and Jimmy Stewart. Check local record stores or see Charlie Sizemore.