Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

April was a little undecided about the kind of weather it wanted to bless us with. Sometimes warm and nice, sometimes downright cold and wet. Oh, but the flowers and trees did bloom, and beautifully. That sort of took the edge off, except when the uncertainty crept in as to whether to cover the blooms against the possible frost overnight. But with all of that behind us now, here is MAY. Hooray MAY. Spring is at its finest and things weather wise are settling down. And now — yes, dear bluegrass lovers, fans, readers and pickers — now is our time. Let's festival.

Lewis Family, Jim & Jesse

Well there were some other happenings in April we are going to remember, but first one thing that didn't quite make it into April happened the very end of March. The Lewis Family and Jim & Jesse made their annual appearance in Shepherdsville. On a Thursday night, as usual, and the place was nearly full. A great show as always.

Jesse was not there. He had a problem of a pinched nerve in his neck or something that was causing extreme pain. So bad he was almost unable to move or be moved. He was or had been in the hospital at that time and was due to get out that weekend . Last word I had was the cause was still undecided. The plan was to try therapy and hope he could make a date in Virginia that Sunday. Luke McKnight to the rescue. As most of you know, Luke is Jesse's grandson and is doing an admirable job with the band. He has learned well, works very well with his Uncle Jim, and is gaining ground for his own recognition. Luke works regularly with the group and polishes his skills every show. I noticed after the show he was sitting there on the stage with one of the other guys, getting a little practice on that Jesse McReynolds cross-picking mandolin style. Folks, this is one of those young people, 18 years old (I seem to remember being there once),who gives hope and promise not only to our music but to the future of our youth. More about Luke in a bit.

The Lewis Family still remains one of the entertaining groups to be revered. They hit stage at full throttle, put the cruise control on, and never let up from there. As an old saying goes, "You get your money's worth in the first fifteen minutes and the rest of the show is free." I pointed out to the folks that night (and this really does apply to so many of the bands) that all of that high-powered energy they display on the stage should be appreciated. The part we see there is an all-out effort to please and entertain us, the audience. That is the primary goal. The part we don't see and too often fail to realize is that it requires a lot of effort. In the case of the Lewis Family, Little Roy and Travis do all of the driving. Sometimes all day, starting early in the morning. They must be tired and yet they hit the stage as fresh as an early morning dew drop on a bright new bloom. Dedication. I recall a moment in Charlotte, Michigan, several years ago, when I was talking with Jim McReynolds — Jim does a lot of the driving for them — and he said, "Sometimes we are just so tired, but the minute you step out on that stage it's all gone." He didn't add, but I did, "Yes, but it is waiting for you right there at the edge of the stage when you come off." I know that feeling first hand, certainly not to the extent that all of them do, but I have experienced it. Keep that in mind the next time you see one of your favorite acts and maybe you will have a little more appreciation for their efforts.

Now Luke again — and maybe I should add that Luke is beginning to do some of the driving, much to his credit. Luke has a new CD. And it is a good one and, yes, he had help from the band, his grandpa and his Uncle Jim. CD title, Supergrass 2000. I have listened to this, used it on my show, and even got Michael Young to play a cut from it on his Roots and Boots show, aired just ahead of Sunday Bluegrass on WFPK.

There are enough good things here to go around. The traditional influence and flavor (with a healthy dose of J&J style) is there, as well as a couple of numbers definitely geared to the younger set. The very first one on there is the first one I played, "The Southbound Train." Also includes, "Roll On Buddy," "Ashes Of Love," "The Midnight Train," "Stormy Horizons," "Maybellene" (an old rocker, hint, like C.Berry), "Bye Bye Love," "Someone Like You," "A Teenager In Love" (the one Michael chose), "The Flame Of Love," "Blue Bonnet Lane," and one that did very well for Ray Price and J&J a good many years ago, "Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes." Luke, I hope it does well for you also.

Girls, as I pointed out on the show, the picture of this "handsome young man" on the cover could be worth the price of admission. Sincere best wishes for success with this, Luke, your grandpa, uncle and all of the band can be proud of you.

Really Big Move

Big, really big, event in April was the much anticipated, much ballyhooed and anything else you would like to throw in, long coming move to WFPK's new home. Actually Public Radio Partnership's (PRP) new home. There is always anxiety, uncertainties, and a few other maladies associated with change. This change will prove to be like a trip to OZ, locating the wonderful wizard and getting all of the wishes granted in a flash of technology. Our new environment is a world away from what we had before. I heard it said, and I am sure it could very well be, that PRP in Louisville is the best equipped public radio station in the country. Know what this means? It means thanks of behemoth proportions to you, public radio listeners and contributors, and to the Capitol Campaign participants. No less credit goes to the planners, organizers and staff. We are now blessed with some of the latest technology and equipment. This move, new equipment, and all associated gremlins, by necessity required learning (a process I will continually be undergoing until I can handle all of the new stuff), patience, a sense of humor and a whole lot of "Lord, help me get through this!" My limited experience at the time of writing this is that it is going to be everything it was touted and promised to be …and more. The new telephone system is another story in itself, and maybe I'll catch you up on that next time. I thought I would just jump in here and ask: There was a song about a bear — there have been several bear songs — this particular one was the "Teddy Bear Song." Remember who did it? Any idea when and how it charted? Back in the new digs, with three new CD players, a mini-disc player, tape machine and a turntable, my prospects for goof-ups are practically unlimited. Stay tuned, as you have for nearly eleven years, to see/hear what I'm going to do next.

Pickin' Menu

Well, let's see what the pickin' time and place menu has to offer this month.

• West Point Music Ranch USA will have a Derby Day Party and Cookout on May 6. May 13 will be a Conway Twitty Legacy show. May 20, a '50s show, car cruise-in, and sundaes. May 27, Memorial Day Show.

• Shepherdsville has finished the bluegrass shows for the season and will pick back up, probably in October. Will let you know.

• May 4-6, 13th Annual Lewis Family Festival, Elijah Clark State Park, Lincolnton, Ga. Featured will be The Lewis Family, Jim & Jesse, Osborne Bros., Dr. Ralph Stanley, Mac Wiseman, The Country Gentlemen, Doyle Lawson, IIIRD Tyme Out, The Larkin Family, Mountain Heart, The Marksmen, and more.

• While you're down there, come back by the 20th annual Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver's Bluegrass Music Festival May 11-14 at Denton, N.C. Among the great acts there will be Doyle & Quicksilver, The Country Gentlemen, Mountain Heart, J.D. Crowe, Reno Bros., Osborne Bros., Lou Reid & Carolina and others, to include The Original Quicksilver on Saturday,. May 13.

• Right here in our own nearby space will be the KENTUCKY BLUE/Grass Festival, featuring Kentucky Blue, J.D. Crowe, Brushfire, McLain Bros. and Blue Knight. That's at Pineridge Arena, Highway 55, Finchville, Ky.

• It ain't over yet. May 12 and 13, Riverpark Bluegrass Festival at Booneville, Ky., with Ralph Stanley, Jim & Jesse, Adairs, Goins Bros., Gary Brewer and others.

• Red Mule Bluegrass Festival, May 18-20. Patoka Branch Campground, Relief, Ky.: Ralph Stanley, Melvin Goins & Windy Mt., Lonesome River Band, Dean Osborne & Eastbound, and many others.

• Coon Creek Music Festival, May 25-27, Exit 76 of I-75, Berea, Ky., Dale Ann Bradley & Coon Creek, IIIRD Tyme Out, James King Band, Osborne Bros., Continental Divide, The McLains and others.

• Summer Shade Music Park's Kentucky Homecoming Festival, May 27-28: Lonzo & Oscar, Shirley Holiway, Boys From Kentucky, Nathan & Nerva, Joyce Leonard and others.

• May 26-28 at Rosine, Ky.: James Monroe, The Osborne Bros., Larry Sparks, Eddie & Martha Adcock, James Monroe II, Jim & Jesse, Lewis Family, Wayne Lewis and more, including an appearance and interview with The Bluegrass Boys.

• May is jam-packed in two or so weekends, and there's one more to go that folks here find inviting: May 25-26 , 30th Anniversary Special, Memorial Day Weekend at Hills Of Home Park between Coeburn and McClure, Va.: Dr. Ralph Stanley's festival with Ralph, of course, Jimmy Martin, The Lewis Family, Ricky Skaggs, David Davis & Warrior River Boys, Larry Sparks, Doyle Lawson, and a whole bunch more. I'm sure II will be there too.

More Than Enough?

Well, friends, that's more than enough for this time. Those festivals just about wore me out, but you can't say there's nothing to do or nowhere to go in May. Now how about that Teddy Bear? Well that was Barbara Fairchild, was No. 1 for two weeks Jan. 27, 1973, and on the charts for 15 weeks.

Stay tuned to Sunday Bluegrass and the other shows on WFPK. SB, Sunday nights at 8-11, 91.9 FM. Exciting things to come. That number again is 814-WFPK. Want to contact me? Use HYPERLINK. Mail to: Thanks. Be there.