Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Well, it's February, and the 14th means love, hugs, kisses and those very "special "cards and all of that. Reminds me of what somebody once said : "Life is just one fool thing after the other ; Love is two fool things after each other ."But I guess that's what makes the world go 'round, or at least the world of some young folks of either the male or female variety. Guess you don't sneak up to a girl's door anymore, drop the "valentine,"ring the bell, run and hide, peep out from where you are hoping she won't see you, hoping she will. Now from the fantasy world of my youth and romance to reality where, sadly, all of that has been lost.

Dr. Ralph at Shepherdsville

Music - wise, January started off in good form at Shepherdsville Music Place . As customary, Dr. Ralph started the year - always the first in the new year - in truly great form.

I must share this with those of you who haven't heard it yet. I told Ralph that when I put them on after the intermission, I had a little story I wanted to tell, and I wanted him to hear it. Time came, band and Ralph all in place on stage paying attention, and I told the following experience.

As most of you know, on my radio show closest to Christmas that I am there ( this year was Christmas eve ), I randomly call several of the artists that I play and put them on the air . This time everything fell apart early on. I was getting wrong numbers as a result of area code changes, some no answers and others I don't know just what.

Anyhow, I called Ralph, or tried to, and a lady answered. Thinking it may be his wife I asked "I s this Jimmi ?"Lady on the phone said "W ho ?"and I asked again. She said "N o,"and I then asked if Ralph was there. Very pleasant lady on the other end then told me, "I have had this number for about a year and I keep getting all of these calls for Ralph Stanley. I don't know who Ralph Stanley is ." Having to tend to the immediate business of keeping the show on the air, she got away before I could tell her.

Ralph and everybody had a good chuckle at that. I followed that up with a suggest ion that Ralph call that number when he got home and when the lady answered to say, "This is Ralph Stanley . H ave you had any calls for me? "

Hank Sr. Show Well Received

The New Year's D ay Hank Williams show brought in a lot of great feedback . T hanks to all. That is wonderful support and encouragement. A funny for me grew out of that in an indirect way. I had planned to have Jett Williams and Don Helms on by phone that day. Bad weather - snow where we live - was sufficient for me to stay home and let my recorded version run.

Just a few minutes before air time, I called Jett, talked to her husband Keith, and explained that I would not be making the call and why. I asked Keith if they would like a tape of the show. I know most of the folks at the Ft. Knox Post Office and went in up there to mail the tapes. Two of the ladies I know were working the windows. They are both named Mary, a lthough one of them spells her name a little different. She is the taller of the two and so, for the purpose of distinguishing between the m, I'll refer to one as L ittle Mary and the other as B ig Mary. Little Mary was waiting on me and I asked her if she knew who th e t ape was going to. As it was a ddressed in Keith's name, she said "N o,"and I said "T hat's Hank Williams ' daughter. " Big Mary, kidding and very straight face d, spoke up and said, "Hank Williams? Who is he, a ball player? " Her customer, a bit over six feet and rather stout, very deliberately said, "I think I'll hit her ... one of the all - time greatest country singers and ... ." Mary hastily said, "J ust kidding, just kidding. "Almost too late, as the other folks in line had joined in. As I went out the door chuckling I told her, "Mary, I don't think I would say that anymore. "

I hope no one objects if I share a couple of e - mail comments I received concerning the Hank Williams New Year's Day show, which ran for three hours:

"... a nd your thoughts on Hank Williams were really inspired. That's as fine a tribute to him as I've ever seen.

Thanks for sticking by the music. Your friends, Martha & Eddie."

"I thought that you were absolutely masterful in your presentation of that program. Many are the words to describe Hank but where I live, genius will do. "

"There is no doubt about it, an absolutely Great Program. You did an excellent job of picking out all those great s elections of Hank Willilams Sr. And yes, let's do it every year on New Years Day. Can't thank you too much. I have no doubt that all Bl uegrass and Country music Lover s who are listening feel the same. I'll send a letter to the station expressing how much the program is loved and how much we would like the same every New Year 's Day."

"I can't tell you how much I enjoyed your Hank special! My parents both grew up in rural Alabama during the '40s and my mom still tells stories about hearing Hank's live radio broadcasts out of Montgomery. The MOST ESSENTIAL ARTIST in my book. Country music, and American popular music in general, would not have been the same without his massive contribution. I was born 10 years after he died, yet I'd rather listen to a Hank record over any CROCK singer, any day of the week! I would have loved to have heard from Don Helms, since he knew/traveled with Hank. Jett would've been interesting also. Hey, there's always next year buddy!! Thanks for continuing to carry the torch for this great music. Lord knows, it might disappear from the airwaves altogether without the efforts of The Country Gentleman."

Sure, these are from friends and listeners, but it's the appreciation that they are so willing to express that I find so encouraging. I thank ALL who expressed their thoughts and ALL who were tuned in. I feel like the listeners are my friends, whether we have met yet or not. This was great kick -off for 2001.

Learn Something New Every Day . . .

Surprise, coincidence, strange, or a combination of all, sometimes provide unexpected results. I am in the process of reading "Can't You Hear Me Callin' - The Life Of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass ."Here I learned a bit about the Ryman Auditorium I did not know. I, of course, as most of you are, am familiar with the Confederate Gallery. What I wasn't too sure about was how it got its name. Referring to the Ryman, I read this line on page 68 and it immediately got my attention : "With the construction of a great balcony to accommodate an 1897 convention of Civil War veterans (henceforth known as the ` Confederate Balcony ' ), the Ryman attained a capacity of more th an 3,000 seats." Now why, you may ask, did this strike a chord with me? I have an original invitation that reads: "Nashville's Greeting to the Confederate Veterans, Richmond, 1896. ( All of this in those fancy old - time letters. ) By authority of a mass meeting of the citizens of Nashville, hel d Tuesday evening, June 9, 1896 (the day after my birthday BUT NOT THE SAME YEAR), the undersigned committee is honored in extending this invitation to the United Confederate Veterans, in session at Richmond, to hold their reunion of 1897 at the Capital of Tennessee. "This invitation was among my parents ' things. I think it involved some of the folks on my dad's side, although there were members from both sides of my family in the war. I just found this an interesting coincidence and hope maybe you did also.


Past time to wind down here so we had better do SHOW TIME.

All I have for West Point at this time for February is : Verland Hatmaker will be there on the 20th and 24th. On the 24th Emily Poe, fiddle ; Verland, guitar ; Rebekah Wellman, guest # 1; and guest #2, Randy Atcher. Something to think about : A n early Eddy Arnold song was on the charts for 46 weeks, at No. 1 for 21 weeks (longer in that position than any of his others). What was it?

At Shepherdsville: Feb. 2, Larry Sparks; Feb 9th, Karl Shiflett ; the 16 th, Melvin Goins ; the 23 rd, James Monroe ; and Mar. 2, The Sunnysiders. All of this good stuff will help you make it through the winter, if you can get there.

Many Thanks!

Thanks, folks, for all of you r continued support to my show, Sunday Bluegrass, WFPK 91.9 FM, Sunday night, 8 - 11. Thanks especially for the positive reaction to the Hank Williams show. Remember you can call me Sunday nights at 814-WFPK, e - mail me at or "I'll Hold You In My Heart. "