Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

It is now officially spring. Based on past experience (last couple of weeks at the time of writing this), I will venture NO guess concerning the weather at the time you are reading this. It is, however, without reservation, time to plan your festival attendance, if you haven't done so already. Plan now, attend later.

Rambler Jamboree

March gave some really good opportunities for different things. One of those was on the 11th when Gary Brewer had a "Rambler Jamboree" at the School For the Blind in Louisville. He had joining him that night The Tennessee Slicker, Leroy Troy. Sorry you missed it. As Snoopy would say, "It was a dark and stormy night…." Well it sort of was, with all of these reports of snow and rain, and other assorted miseries. Tell you the truth, I was a little hesitant to get out myself until — until — the six o'clock news came on and, bless him, Tom Wills was there. Tom said there would be no problems driving; the roadways would be okay. Enough for me, and I went, and glad I did. Leroy has a new CD coming by June. Got a bunch of guys on there with him this time. It is his first on Rounder Records and I believe the first time with others. He has been on other artists' recordings with bands but I don't think on his own. In spite of few folks, and weather deterrents, other events around town and the tube, they all did a good show, to the enjoyment of those who were there. That's what it's all about.

Oh, before I leave this subject, the Brewers are expecting again in September.

Randall Hylton at Shepherdsville

Also this past month, Randall Hylton was at Shepherdsville and presented his usual great show. Randall is among the few who can do a one-man show. And he does it and does it well. He is ready to sell Sylvia — that's his big Gibson guitar — who has been faithful and traveled many miles in the back of his rice rocket and other vehicles. No problems, they didn't fall out or anything like that; it was just time for a change. The new girl on the rack — and I didn't get her name — is a beaut. All shiny and bright, it will reflect a beam right in your eye just as if you were being flirted with right from the stage. One of these all-metal jobs. NO, Randall is not going into heavy metal — just the guitar, so he can work in a little blues guitar and numbers in the act. Just a few here and there. If the test tunes were any indication at the show, they will be well accepted.

Calling Uncle Josh

Sunday, the 12th, on my show (Sunday Bluegrass, WFPK 91.9 FM) I called Uncle Josh — Josh Graves, one of those never-to-be-forgotten contributors to bluegrass music. He gained fame with Flatt & Scruggs and was one of those, if not the one, to really introduce the dobro to bluegrass music. Best known for his time with Flatt & Scruggs perhaps, but before F&S he played with Wilma Lee, Stony Cooper & the Clinch Mountain Clan.

Uncle Josh has had some health problems for a couple of years. I am not sure exactly how long before, but about a month prior to my call, he had his left leg amputated above the knee. I had good reports on his progress but I wanted to get it straight from him and right direct to the listeners. He is in good spirits, IS NOT giving up performing and appearances and the music. He said his doctor asked him if that was going to cause him to give up his career. Josh, in typical Josh fashion, reminded the Doc that he hadn't operated on his hands or cut off his fingers. He's getting a replacement part, and if that don't work, he'll wheel out and play in his chair.

Uncle Josh, thank you so much for being a part of my show that night, thank you for such a positive attitude and for being there. May your recovery be speedy (but don't try to rush it too fast), your music on top, and you play for us until you are a really, really old-timer.

Oswald Update

An update on something I mentioned a few columns ago: Oswald is working on a new CD. In fact, the finishing touches are in the works. Three songs are complete and have met Os's approval. The CD will be titled Heartsongs, Hymns and Friends. It will, of course, feature Oswald playing, and playing with friends. Friends being, well let's see now, there's Glen Duncan, Eddie Stubbs, Kent Blanton, Charlie Collins, Charlie Cushman, Mac Wiseman, Jeff White and some surprise guests. With all of that, who could you surprise us with? This will be something for all of Beecher "Pete" Kirby's fans to look forward to. I know I will be, and I wish everyone concerned the best of success with this project. Pee Wee King left us last month and also left us quite a musical legacy. King and his longtime partner, a giant in the country field in his own right (albeit a rather modest one), Redd Stewart, made quite a splash. Redd was lead singer on most of their recordings, only one of which made it to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Do you remember which one? And if you really remember, how many weeks at No. 1 and how many weeks total? But getting back to Oswald — I have mentioned this many times — he is definitely one of my all-time favorite performers, just as Roy Acuff and the Smokey Mountain Boys all were.

Don Dean's Loss

Our sympathies to our friend Don Dean. Don's wife passed away this past month. Don has been down and played on our show several times. Many of you have heard him and know him. He is one of those thumb pickers (guitar) and a good one.

[Note: I would also like to express my sympathy to Don on the loss of his wife. Ann was a lovely person. We worked as legal secretaries at General Electric many years ago, and renewed our acquaintance in recent years when I became a regular at lunches with GE friends. At a luncheon last year we had an emotional conversation about her battle with terminal cancer. That conversation enriched my life, and I am sure similar conversations with others have enriched their lives as well. We will miss her. — Ed. Em.]

Schedule Check

Well, let's do a schedule check now for the next few weeks:

• At West Point, Music Ranch USA: April 1 (yep, that day), Cheyenne (Doug Slaughter and Allen Ledbetter) doing Everly Brothers, and Jaclyn Shields. This will be their first Kentucky Wonders show.

April 8, Legacy Show, this time Bob Wills, featuring Suzanne Rohrer. April 15, Touch of Gospel with Bob Geary from Valley Station and Sharon Beavers from Rineyville. April 22, Easter show with Mike Fryman and Judy Peach. April 29, Tommy Davenport in for Glen Phillips, Jamie McCoy in for Paula, and Jeremy Puckett, guest from Elizabethtown.

• On over the hill to Shepherdsville: April 7, Dean Osborn & Eastbound; April 14, Sam Wilson & Bluegrass Cols.; April 21, James King Band; and the season closer, April 28, The Kentucky Harvest Band.

• Are you a traveler? Then April 8 at Franklin, N.C., you can find the Franklin Bluegrass Show, featuring Dave Evans & River Bend, Vince Combs and Shadetree with Art Stamper, Curtis Blackwell, Randall Collins & Dixie Bluegrass Boys and others.

• You may want to see Mike Snider at Renfro Valley on April 14.

Wrapping Up

I suppose I've covered enough ground and column space for this time. Got to leave Paul a little room on the page to make a little money. And by the way, there's that little matter of Pee Wee & Redd. Well, I wonder if you went for the obvious, or for the right one. It wasn't the "Waltz" tune; instead it was "Slow Poke." Position No. 1 for 15 weeks and total time on charts, 31 weeks.

Y'all come now, you hear, and be tuned to WFPK each Sunday night for Sunday Bluegrass. Right, that's 91.9 FM from 8-11 p.m.

P.S. If I've got this right, we'll be moving (we, the Public Radio Partnership, WFPK, WFPL and WUOL) April 14-15, along in there. Stay tuned.