Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

MERRY CHRISTMAS!! Keep those winter winds outside, try the … ? And that, class, is our question for this month. Rather appropriate don't you think? Fill in the blank, and your only small tip/hint is to think back, way back, to a commercial jingle on the Grand Ole Opry.

A Special Book

To start off, I want to tell you about a book. Not "just" a book, but a special book I received last month. (There were two books, actually, but I will tell about the other one after I have read it.) This one for today is "A PEOPLE AND THEIR MUSIC , The Story Behind The Story Of Country Music" by John Rice Irwin.

John Rice is a friend, a collector of things old and the stories that belong to them, and owner of the Museum of Appalachia where many of these "stories" are on display. For a rather magical weekend in October each year they take on a new life. At this point I have not completed his new book, but I have gotten far enough into it to realize that here is a telling of the roots that have needed to be dug up, put on the pages of preservation and passed on. The words, the hard, almost impossible, times he records here are firsthand accounts from the genuine folks who had no idea what they were, or that they would be a part of – an important part of – the musical history of our country. That they would have a far-reaching impact so many years in the future.

Reading these accounts, the reader will find that the folks who were laying a foundation were just doing what folks do to "get along." They were the TV, radio, the entertainment of the day that helped many survive. There are many who never gained fame and were not seeking it. Many of these players became famous and were not seeking it. There is a rather in-depth look at the Carter Family as told by the children of Sara and A.P. as they grew up and were involved in what their parents did. There are surprises of fleeting fame in such artists as Jack Jackson, a rather important and interesting figure in the early country music world, yet virtually unknown to so many today. As of this writing I have just finished reading about Bob Douglas, 100-year-old fiddler, champion fiddler who has beaten many of the top fiddlers in contests and has the documents to back up the claim. He still attends and performs at the Homecoming every year. Made his first appearance on the Opry earlier this year.

I am really not one to sit down with books and read, read, read. This one I will probably do that. I know that yet to come are great sections on Grandpa Jones, Earl Scruggs and many others. All of this is complemented by a fantastic collection of pictures. More when I finish "The Story Behind The Story Of Country Music."

Wonderful Surprises

As I have mentioned before, we get wonderful surprises when we sometimes least expect them, from folks we meet and those who call in to the show (Sunday Bluegrass, WFPK 91.9 FM, 8-11) Sunday nights. I apologize for not remembering the name, but the bass man with Dale Ann Bradley made a point of thanking me Veterans Day weekend at Shepherdsville when he found out I am a vet. Thank you, bass man.

Another surprise came in by phone when a caller told me he has been a listener for a number of years and this was his first time to call. In his comments he mentioned he had asked some relatives, I believe it was, who live in Roanoke, Va., if they had ever heard of the Country Gentleman, and got a very affirmative answer. All of this was a throwback to my days as a country DJ at my home of Lynchburg, Va. At some point he mentioned something about bothering me with the call, which never happens. I told him what Grandpa Jones told me once when he was getting ready to go on stage. I asked him if it bothered him when so many fans came to them. Grandpa's reply was, "It bothers us when they don't."

All-Hank Sr. Show

I get to do again this year what I have done on a sporadic schedule for a few years. New Year's Day, I will have an all-Hank Williams SR. show from 12 noon until 3 p.m. I love doing this show once a year. It is, and should be, a separate show from my regular Sunday Bluegrass program. As some of you probably know by now, the New Year's Day Hank Williams show is one I started when I was a country DJ. I started it about 1956 on WBRG, Lynchburg, Va. Decided one day I would do this on my 10 a.m.-2 p.m. shift. Admittedly, I was unsure how the listeners would receive four hours straight of one artist. I seriously underestimated both my listeners and, to a lesser degree, the overwhelming drawing power of Hank Williams. The results of this program greatly exceeded my expectations. Hank Williams is/was undoubtedly one of, if not the, all-time greatest country personalities to grace the American country music scene. I hope you will join me for that New Year's Day Special on WFPK 91.9 FM and thank the station personnel for giving me the time for this program.

That Lovable Lewis Family

Saw the Lewis Family at Mitchell, Ind., on the 17th. On the 14th Pop had an operation and was in intensive care when I saw them. A tumor the size of a peach was removed from his colon along with about a foot of colon. Pop was taken in about 3:30 in the afternoon, and just a little before 7:00 p.m. the doctor came out and told them everything was fine. Nothing they could find was left and he will be just fine. Little Roy said Pop just tore up the room Thursday night. Pulled out all of the IVs and everything else; he was ready to go home. Little Roy said that the nurses had no idea that a 95-year-old man could be that strong. Anyhow, the final analysis from everybody is that Pop is "a tough old bird" and is going to be fine. Our best to you, Pop and Mom, 95 and 90, together 75 years. Bless you again and again.

Here come the pickers …

Pickers, plunkers and others are coming to:

West Point Music Ranch USA: Dec. 2, Guests Out Of The Blues Trio Patrick Rohrer, Chris Fort, and Andrew Edwards, all of Owensboro; Dec. 9, Musical Legacy of George Jones, portrayed by Randall Mabe; Friday, Dec. 15, last show of 2000 by the Rancheros; Dec. 16, Verland Hatmaker as Elvis in Christmas holiday show; Dec. 23, M.R. USA Christmas party with Hugh Louden family and Santa; Dec. 30, Country Classics.

Shepherdsville: Dec. 1, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; Dec. 8, J.D. Crowe & The New South; Dec. 15, Bluegrass 101 and Blue Tradition; Dec. 22 & 29, no show; Jan. 5, 2001, Dr. Ralph Stanley & Clinch Mountain Boys.

Indiana University Southeast Campus Ogle Center: Dec. 8, Riders In The Sky, show time 7:30 p.m. Keep those winter winds outside, try the ????? Try the Wall Rite way, and there's your answer. I think I may have used this before so now you'll have an idea how well you remember.

One more time . . .

HANK WILLIAMS SHOW, JANUARY 1, ON WFPK 91.9 FM, FROM 12 NOON TO 3 P.M. Join me for that and every Sunday night for Sunday Bluegrass, same place, time 8-11 p.m.

May the bluegrass Santa load your stockings and tree with all kinds of goodies and music.

MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you, our faithful, loyal, dedicated and prized readers and listeners. God bless everyone, every day.