Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Did you start your new year off right? That is, did you go to a bluegrass show yet? Let me tell you. It was January 3, Shepherdsville, KY, the weather was spring-like and there was SRO. That's right, standing room only. Yes I said SRO, the biggest crowd I have seen at Shepherdsville. Reason: Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. Just goes to show what you can do if you really want to, I was not only impressed with the size of the crowd but by the number of young people. They were there and I found out that many of them are regular listeners to my "Sunday Bluegrass" radio show. At the close of the show, I was saying good night, [when] one of these young listeners told me we couldn't leave. because I hadn't said "It's time to go get a doughnut." I did and I reminded her that I go get a doughnut on Sunday nights, [but] on Friday night, it's time to go get a biscuit.

Ralph did a great show, of course. Opening for them that night was a good local group, The Beargrass Creek Boys.

As I am writing this, I am looking forward very much to seeing Dry Branch Fire Squad at Shepherdsville. As of right now, the weather seems a little iffy, but I'll go by what [Louisville television weather caster] Tom Willis has to say in the next couple of days. I think it's going to be okay, and with the number of fans Dry Branch has in this area, there should be another acceptable turn-out for them. Dry Branch, as many readers know, is one of the most entertaining groups out there. They are a group that must be seen to be fully appreciated. They fill the auditorium at Mitchell, In and so they should here.

I don't all of the February schedule for Shepherdsville as of this writing. On February 7, the Larry Stevenson Band will be there. Larry will also be at Jefferson County 4-H Fairgrounds, Madison, IN on Feb. 28. Advance tickets and information can be obtained by called 866-2324 (2826 or 3367). They also have a FREE bluegrass jamboree the first Saturday night of each month.

Skipping back another notch, there was good news gathered from my Christmas calls during the show the Sunday before Christmas. Oswald is recovering from a problem with his jaw and is doing better. He is still playing the Opry but he said it would be a couple of weeks or so before he could sing again. Best wishes, Oz.

Another call and the response to the question "How are you doing?" was "I'm doing better than I deserve." John Hartford has had a cancer problem. As he described it, " a very low level, highly curable cancer." Chemotherapy treatments are working and John says he is doing good and is looking forward to some dates he has. It was good to hear.

Hartford is working on a book about Ed Haley and he hoped that some of our listeners might be able to help. He said our listening audience covers a great deal of the area where Ed Haley played. If any of you good readers have any information or pictures and will to lend a hand or picture, contact John Hartford, Box 443, Madison, TN 37116. It will be appreciated.

I have been asked about the future of the Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Gary Brewer tells me it is definitely a go for this year and Ralph Stanley is already booked. That will be on the second weekend in September. Mark your calendar now, so it won't sneak up on you.

It looks very much like the International Bluegrass Music Association annual show will be coming top town this year. It seems like things are not as good as they could be in Owensboro. Who knows, with the proper support and encouragement to all of the right people in the right places, they could just take up residence here. Just think of all that money that follow them into town, especially in September. Are you doing your part?

If you didn't get the new CD/tape from Ralph Stanley, any fan of his will want this one. Short Life of Trouble – Songs of Grayson and Whitter, on Rebel Records. [It's] a bluegrass dozen of old great songs. "Train 45," "Rose Conley," "I've Always Been a Rambler," "Short Life of Trouble," "Nine Pound Hammer," "Shout Lula" and more. Ralph did several of these at Shepherdsville. I said this there and I will say it here: As I was listening to this, it struck me big time: if you are a serious or otherwise Ralph Stanley fan, this is pure, unadulterated, bottom line, raw Ralph, pure and basic roots. It is good.

I got the new video, Ralph Stanley's 50-Year Reunion - 50 Years 1946-1996, from Ralph. It is well done and brings back many musicians who have played or recorded with Ralph. Just a few who are featured are: Art Stamper, Larry Sparks, Ricky Skaggs, Dave Evans, Dwight Yoakam and others. Running 1:27, it should be added to every bluegrass fan's library.

Let's make this the year of bluegrass. Attend a festival or show. It keeps us off the streets and is good for us and enjoyable. Bill Monroe died last September, but his bluegrass music will live on and continue to be a strong influence in many areas for as long as there is music in the hearts of America. America's original music, our own, just as traditional country will live.