Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Wow. OK, it came and said boo and we are all still here. The computer is on, the CDs are playing, there's a picture on the tube and the toilets still flush, and so I really don't see any big difference. You're here, I'm here, so I guess it's kinda up to us to carry on. Let's do it, whada you say!

Dr. Ralph joins Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry is now complete. And by golly it took them long enough to get it figured out and finally do it right. I only hope they didn't wait too long.

As you probably know by now, Dr. Ralph Stanley was finally made a member of the Opry on January 15, 2000.

Ralph, the biggest, strongest, and most heartfelt congratulations go out to you from so many of my listeners and me personally. I know I speak for many, as is evidenced by the fact that you remain the single most requested artist I play, by a wide margin. I hope you are there until you are the one who will cut the lights off for the last time as you go out the door.

Again, Ralph, congratulations to you and all of the great Clinch Mountain Boys. I feel that, as much as anybody, Ralph, you personally, and the band, represent the loyalty and dedication to the music, your fans and to each other that often appears to be lacking and eroding today.

Dr. Ralph comes to Shepherdsville

Ralph was at Shepherdsville on the 7th of January. A good friend from West Point, Mr. Richard Briggs, who often goes with me, gave Ralph and the band his highest praise after the show.

When the encore portion of the show came, Ralph had gone to the back to the record table, and II (young Ralph) was handling this part very well with the band. They were doing one more and were reminded of some they had promised to do, and continued to do them. As they were finishing the last song, Ralph came rushing down the aisle to the stage. He told of a little girl who had asked him two or three times to do "Hills of Home," which he had promised he would. He said she was crying and he was coming back to keep his promise. Say what you will, that's an outstanding class act with the true dedication.

This caring was what Mr. Briggs found extremely impressive. That's just part of the reason that Ralph Stanley is the single most requested artist I play.


Every so often some of the truly great morale boosters come along, and very often at a time when you could use a little encouragement. There has not been a lack of these this year for me.

I received an e-mail this morning just before I began writing this column. (Sometimes I am not totally sure I have what I consider enough for a column.) I would like to pass the contents of that message along. As I think about it, I realize this is an example of how we touch other people's lives without knowing, and perhaps with good results. All the more reason to be careful of our own actions.

Those of you who are regular listeners to Sunday Bluegrass (WFPK, Sunday nights, 8-11) are aware that I normally remember friends with certain artists I play: "Keith, my friend, here's your fix from Dry Branch Fire Squad," and when I play Mac Wiseman I always play Mac for Bev, way out there in Boise, Idaho. Bev is from Louisville and her father frequently sends her tapes of the show. Bev has told me that a lot of their friends envy them for all of this good bluegrass and old-time country music that they she and husband Steve have access to. Of course, they share it. Bev works for a legal firm and I got this from her this morning via e-mail.

"We have an 82-year-old client that the police department abused, and a family has taken him in. I called to get some answers to a tort claim I need to get filed to sue the police department, and the family he is staying with told me he gets lonely and they bought him a Walkman but cannot find really good old country music tapes or bluegrass tapes. I told her about you and Daddy taping them and sending them. Tomorrow I am dropping off 100 cassettes to him and that is not even half of what I have. He is so excited. I just wanted to share that with you that someone else is being blessed by your works!!! Thanks."

Thank you, Bev. This is the sort of thing that makes it all worthwhile. Really, what more could you want.

And another . . .

Another very encouraging e-mail came to me at the station from a young man who is a listener. (I forward the mail I get at the station to myself and then I have them to read at home.) This young man is 15, and I won't use his name here as I didn't have the opportunity to ask him if it would be okay with him before I wrote this. He could be any, or at the least one, of many his age who likes bluegrass. The subject line of his message read "a letter of thanks." He told me his name, that he lives outside of Louisville, and how his dad listens to my show every week.

He says, "We listen to all of the show on 91.9 but I would have to say that yours is probably the best. I used to listen to it with my dad but now I listen to (it) even when my dad is not around. I just wanted to thank you for having your show on every week and putting in the time for the listener's ear."

Young listener, I truly appreciate your note and your attitude about the music and the program. This is just another example of what makes doing this show worthwhile for me. With your note and the one from Bev, above, I want to say, "What a way to start a new year," and, depending which side of the calendar you are on, "What a way to start or end a century."

February Pickin'

Time to peek at who's picking this month.

• Hickory Vaught and Dayle Eskridge are picking bluegrass every Sunday night at Gerstle's Sports Bar, Shelbyville Rd., in St. Matthews.

Question for the month is going to be one a listener called in to ask me. Who is the oldest female country singer around today, still active?

• Alan Phelps and ??? every Sunday night at the Hideaway, Bardstown Rd. and Bonnycastle.

• At West Point, Music Ranch USA, Feb. 5, another of their highly successful Legacy Shows, Johnny Cash, portrayed by Joe Morgan of Brandenburg; Feb. 12, Valentine's Day show featuring Kara Grey Wilson, 10, of Bee Springs, Ky. and Grant Bennett, 15, of New Hope, Ky.; Feb. 19, Mardi Gras show with Sarah Breit, 10, of Louisville, and Bob Geary, Valley Station; Feb. 26, Jamboree, Theresa Dunn and Adam Davis of Battletown; March 4, Legacy show, Tammy Wynette.

• Big time at Shepherdsville with Larry Sparks & Lonesome Ramblers on Feb. 4; the Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show on Feb. 11 (I encourage you to be there for this one); Goins Bros. on the 18th; Feb. 25 brings James Monroe & The Midnight Ramblers plus the Sullivan Family; March 3, The Sand Mountain Boys; and Randall Hylton on March 10.

• Bean Blossom Winter Fest held at the Honeywell Center, 275 Market St., downtown Wabash, Ind., on Saturday, Feb. 12, and Sunday, Feb. 13.

Saturday: Talmadge Law, Jeff White, Melvin Goins, Lynn Morris and J.D. Crowe.

Sunday: New Harmony, James King, morning Worship Service, IIIRD Tyme Out, Lewis Family and Doyle Lawson.

As best as I can determine, and you probably got this one pretty easy, The Queen of Country Music, Miss Kitty Wells is the answer.

Get out and support the show of your choice, the artist of your choice and enjoy yourself. Don't pass up all of this good music. See you there. And please, continue to watch for me on the radio, 91.9 FM; you know when.

I thank you for listening and for your support of our station and public radio.