Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Here we are in August, and you know what that means. Good, neither do I. Well, it does mean we are approaching the end of Summer and that means that Fall things will be coming up. Some will be coming down in time, too, like leaves, etc. There's lots to do in Fall, however, and we'll get to that in another month. That's future, and now we'll start with past.

Good Experience in Michigan

June trip to Michigan was good. As you probably figured, it did rain on Saturday. I enjoyed it though. Had a unique although not really unique for a bluegrass festival experience. A gentleman brought me I was the MC a small wad of bills. He said it was found between the bleachers and asked if I would try to find the owner. I made an announcement to the effect that it was found and if it could be identified by amount, denomination and general condition it could be claimed. No one came around.

The next morning a pager was found. Again I made an announcement and required a description to claim. I also announced the money again. Almost immediately a gentleman came around and told me his mother had lost ten dollars in one dollar bills she had rolled up in her shoe. That was close enough for me, as it was right on. Very shortly after, a couple came around to claim the pager. It had a phone number taped to it which the lady was able to give me. No doubt it was hers.

To me this says a lot about bluegrass fans/people. No one tried to claim the items other than the ones it belonged to. Both items were turned in in hopes of being returned to the rightful owners, and this happened.

. . . and the shows were good, too.

The shows were good. Osborne Bros. were in good form. Got to chat with both of them. Jesse, of Jim & Jesse, was sidelined with back problems again. Luke McKnight, number one grandson, bus driver and coming-on-strong mandolin picker, did another great stand-in for Jesse. While I'm on the subject of Jim & Jesse, congratulations go out to Jim's daughter (and my buddy) Janeen on her marriage in July. Our best to the couple.

Ralph Stanley did his always-crowd-pleasing show. So good in fact he went longer than I have known him to. Mike Stevens, that fantastic young harmonica player from Canada, was there to guest with Jim & Jesse. Always glad to see Mike. One with a quick wit, I told Mike how nice his wife, Jane, looked and without batting an eye, Mike said, "That's not my wife, that's her sister." Mike, you may want to watch out for oatmeal in your favorite harmonicas.

The Lewis Family gave us an unintended scare Saturday afternoon. The Eaton County Sheriff's department brought the promoter, Jerry Yates, a message to contact Polly Lewis regarding a family medical emergency. Well, you know what we were all thinking the possibilities were. Couldn't seem to get through on the phone numbers they brought. Allan Mills of Lost & Found was trying to come up with a number for the Summersville, W. Va., festival where they were playing. After finally catching up with them, it turns out they wanted to see if they would be able to do their shows back-to-back. When they arrived, I told Polly they gave us cause for concern and told her the message we got. Polly shook her head and said she did not tell them there was a medical emergency. Travis' grandmother had died and they had to be back to Georgia Monday morning for the funeral and just wanted to set up the back-to-back shows. No problem.

A lot of good acts that included the Lost & Found, Jeanette Williams and others. All in all, a good show.

I should add that we hope Jim Wylder continues to improve from his bypass surgery and will be around for all the festivals to come. Also Jim, many thanks to you and Jerry for having me again.

Miracle in Mitchell

July 8, at Mitchell, Ind., a goodly crowd and myself witnessed a miracle. One of my favorite groups and favorite of many of our listeners was performing. Dry Branch Fire Squad, who I had not seen for too long, was going strong. I had a little time to visit before the show, and they had another friend visitor, Floyd E. Turner, Sr. Showtime and Ron was on a roll, as usual. Ron, never one at a loss for words, had the audience in high, high spirits with his stories, comments and other Ron Thomason talk. The music was good also.

About halfway through the first show, Mr. Turner came on stage with a guitar case, walked up to the nearest mike and told everyone that Ron had been after him for years to pick a number with them. He then said, "I'm not going to do it." With that he laid the guitar case down and removed the instrument, a 1938 Martin Herringbone D28, the sight of which brought an absolute glow to Ron's face. Handing the guitar to Ron, Floyd told everyone this was a birthday present from Ron's wife. The miracle? Ron Thomason was speechless, taken by a complete loss for words. He muttered something about having known about this guitar for 25 years. Floyd described it as having lusted after it for years. Ron regained slightly enough control to immediately launch into one of his picking fits on it. Intermission time and he regained his train of thought, collected himself and was ready to continue.

I heard Ron remark to Mr. Turner that it is like mint condition, which reflects what he had said earlier on stage. He introduced Floyd Turner as the best instrument repair man in the business. From the looks of that guitar, I believe everyone had to agree.

During their second show, Floyd told me backstage that the whole band had been in on the surprise. He said Ron had been wanting to get it for quite a while and was trying to work out a way to do it. As mentioned earlier, his wife had contacted Floyd and arranged for this to happen. This was Saturday night and he told me it had all been arranged since Thursday night. I love surprises, and with the help of Floyd Turner, Ron's wife and the band, Ron got the surprise of the year. I for one was glad to have been there for this.

Floyd E. Turner, Sr., The String Clinic "Where technology and craftsmanship converge," is located in Owensville, Ind.

Happenin' Shows

Sunday Bluegrass [Berk's radio show on WFPL] happenings in July included Nancy Cardwell from IBMA paying a visit on the 9th and fiddle player Steve Day coming by on the 16th. Nancy covered quite a bit of information on the upcoming (October) IBMA World of Bluegrass at the Galt House here in Louisville. Get in on the action, as it is one of the great bluegrass events of the year.

Steve Day was touting his new CD Fiddle Man. He had called me a couple of days before to say he was going to be in Louisville Sunday night and would like to come by. He had also called me earlier to ask if I got his new CD he had sent. Yep, I got it. Did you listen to it? Yep, I did. Did you like it? Yep, I did. Been playing it on the show, too. It got a further good workout that night, along with the latest CD from Continental Divide who Steve plays for these touring days.

Steve is a good fiddler. Have known him since days with The Kentucky Bluegrass Band and a fair stint with Gary Brewer and the Ramblers. In November 1945, Bob Wills had a #1 hit for three weeks and on the charts for 14 weeks with a song that was Kentucky related. Remember what it was?

Short Schedule

As I am putting this together I don't have schedules for all that much in August. A good festival in Milan, Mich., Aug. 10-12, with Jim & Jesse, Charlie Waller & Country Gentlemen, IIIRD Tyme Out, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Larry Stephenson Band, Osborne Bros., Lost & Found, Dale Ann Bradley & Coon Creek, Northwest Territory, Reno Bros., Melvin Goins and others. Looking forward to that one.

What is Real Country? Stay Tuned.

OK, so stay tuned, WFPK, 91.9 FM for Sunday Bluegrass, 8 p.m. every Sunday (when else?) night. The second Sunday I feature an hour of the "real country." Want to know what that is? Just tune in. If you do, you'll find out things like the Bob Wills #1 song for three weeks that was Kentucky related was, "Silver Dew On The Bluegrass Tonight."

Remember it's "the shortest, fastest and bestest three hours in radio."