Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Oh gimme, oh gimme, I really wish you would, that watermelon hanging on the vine. Sound familiar? Well, it is watermelon, picnic, fireworks, a day-in-the-park time, and may as well throw in a pretty good parade complete with marching band. Well, OK, at least one day is - The Fourth, Independence Day, and all of that good stuff. Whatever you do and wherever you do it, keep it SENSIBLE and SAFE for all.

Big Mon Fest at Rosine

Memorial Day weekend took me to the 2nd Annual Bill Monroe Memorial Day Weekend Bluegrass Festival at Rosine. I was there Friday and Saturday. Visited with many friends, made new friends and really enjoyed every minute. How could you go wrong with such great acts as The Lewis Family, Jim & Jesse, Osborne Bros., Mac Wiseman, Larry Sparks, Eddie & Martha Adcock (who also provided the sound), Vince Combs, Larry Fuller and Gary Brewer, just to name a few. Among new friends: Jim Monroe (James' son), Lonnie Hoppers, Doug Hutchens and Sam Jackson.

This was the first time I had met or heard Jim Monroe. He is off to a good start. Not a lot of time to visit with him, but the time I had, he proved to be a very nice young man. Looking forward to getting better acquainted with Jim.

Lonnie Hoppers is one of the former Bluegrass Boys attending the reunion. "Former Bluegrass Boy" is not a good or correct term; once a Bluegrass Boy, always a Bluegrass Boy. Lonnie was very pleasant and handed off a good new CD, one that you will be hearing a lot of on Sunday Bluegrass.

Doug Hutchens, the gentleman who coordinated and pulled the Bluegrass Boys' Reunion together, did another excellent job of bringing this group of great entertainers together. I can't seem to get my act together to sit in on one of those sessions, but I do know there are great stories traded about Bill, being on the road, and what it means to be a Bluegrass Boy in Bill Monroe's band. One of the first qualifications was, you had to be a good musician. The legend of all of these gentlemen speaks volumes for itself.

Sam Jackson, Program Director, DJ/Host of the Fiddler's Grove Bluegrass Show (WANT 98.9 FM) Lebanon, Tenn., was the MC. He and I alternated and split up the days. I have found a new friend in Sam. I really enjoyed the two days we worked together. I will look forward to a repeat performance.

Joe Isaacs was playing for Wayne Lewis. Joe has a fine new gospel CD out. It is one for which he wrote all the songs. I played from it the Sunday following the festival and will be using it a lot. The CD has a good title, From A Cabin To A Mansion. All gospel.

Goodbye to the Old River Man

June 8 was a very mixed day. A two-event day - events that were at opposite ends of the spectrum. It was my birthday and I attended John Hartford's funeral. My good friends Bill and Becky Ray called and invited me to join them to Nashville for the service. Bill, a mate on the Belle, fiddle, banjo and sometimes calliope player, had many interesting encounters with John over the years.

It was a different service from the usual in that it was basically a music one featuring John's songs. Many top artists were there to take part or just attend. Eddie Stubbs, WSM, made a few comments and the program was underway. The service was at John and Marie's home in Madison - very fitting - on a bluff overlooking the river that John loved and associated with so closely in song and steamboats. A tent and mikes were set up in the yard. The casket of solid pecan wood, surrounded by flowers, beside a large picture of John with that big old grin of his, displayed one of John's trademark derbys resting silently on the top. One by one the musicians took center spot to add their bit, starting with a guitar instrumental. The Osbornes followed with "Sweet Sunny South," and then there was Tut Taylor and Vassar Clements from the original group, joined by others, who recorded Aereo-Plain. They did the title cut, "Steam Powered Aeroplane." Alan O'Bryant of the Nashville Bluegrass Band did a fine rendition, with a few slight breaks and little chokes, of "Delta Queen Waltz." The Squirrel Hunters - Bob Carlin, Larry Perkins, Chris Sharp, Mike Compton and a fiddle player - performed, and Mark Schatz did a dance on the "board." Emmylou and Gillian Welsh sang "Your Long Journey." Then it was Earl's turn - Earl Scruggs - and he performed what was said to be a favorite of John's, "Home Sweet Home." At this point Eddie Stubbs returned to the mike with a few comments and Earl followed with "Flint Hill Special." "Where Does An Old time River Man Go" was performed by Alan O'Bryant, and "Gentle On My Mind" by Tim O'Brien.

Then it was time for cherished and favored remembrances and stories related to John. There were many that came to the mike and many more that didn't. I am sure there are quite a few, including myself, who now wish they had stepped up. Next it was announced that the "choir" would close the service. With that, strains of "I'll Fly Away" came floating up on the slight breeze from just over the river bank, becoming a little stronger as the singers moved on up to the front. The sounds of it were very reminiscent of a scene in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" and I looked, fully expecting to see Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welsh leading the way. After taking their place in front of the crowd, and encouraging the attendees to join in the singing on the last verse, the choir turned and started slowly back to where they came from, completing a very impressive part of the service. With this, the musicians that were still around with instruments in hand, moved to the mikes and continued playing "I'll Fly Away."

John Hartford, December 1937-June 2001: Musician - Songwriter - Singer - Instrumentalist - Fiddle - Banjo - Guitar - Dancer & One Man Show - Steamboat Captain - Friend. There is a lot less music in the world today.

Marie, Jamie, Connie, Emily, Dustin and Sara, there are multitudes of us out here who share your sorrow. Of course, not like you do, but we do, and will miss him too. Blessings to you all.

I would like to express thanks to the Courier-Journal's Bob Hill for his June 7 column concerning John, and to a lady who had a letter in the June 13 C-J, with a very good file photo of John. Other than that, I saw nothing in the local papers or on the "top news channels" concerning the passing of three-time Grammy winner John Hartford. (Although I did not spot it in the version I receive in Radcliff, I understand the C-J ran an Associated Press article and a photo in their June 5 issue. I was also told that one of the stations had a brief late-night mention.)

I did the best I could for an hour, which probably should have been two hours, on my June 10 Sunday Bluegrass show on WFPK, with the generous aid of my friends Jean Metcalfe and Bill Ray, to remember John Hartford, an humble servant to the music, river, steamboats and a gentleman who never failed to acknowledge others. Where DOES An Old Time River Man Go? Goodbye, for now, John.

[Berk, it was my pleasure to be on your show. And I'd like to add my thanks to Bob Hill. He's the best! - Jean.]

Randall's Albums

An inquiry from a listener prompted me to e-mail Pat Hylton for information concerning the availability of Randall's tapes and CDs. Some folks have wanted to get some of his material. Here's the answer: Pat says, "I have all of Randall's cassettes and CDs and am filling orders as they come in for as long as the tapes last. I have a pretty good supply of most of them right now. The address is: Flag Records, P.O. Box 24533, Nashville, TN 37202. I can send them an order form and price list. Also, the order form and price list is available at Randall's website, which is: www.randallhyltonshow.com. You can go there and print the list out if you want. Folks are also free to e-mail me for information about the tapes (phylt2@aol.com)."

There's the answer, straight from the lady herself. My advice, get them while you still can.

Where's the music?

Music Ranch USA, West Point, Ky.: July 6, Benefit Hootenanny (call or e-mail for info). July 7, Jordan Young, Kendall Mabe. July 13, Rockin Rancheros. July 14, Rebekah Wellman, Adam Davis, Emily Poe. July 21, Wayne Wardle, Carol Mills, Emily Poe. July 27, Rockin' Rancheros. July 28, Nathan Jackson, Candance Lynn.

Babby's Steak House and Dinner Theater: July 23, 4 Fold Quartet.

Cedar Valley Park, Derby, Ind.: July 6-7, Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show, Clyde & Marie Denny, Tommy Brown & County Line Grass, The Sunnysiders, plus Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver (Sat. only).

Old Joe Clark Festival, Renfro Valley, July 5-7.

Vince Comb's Bluegrass Festival, Xenia, Ohio., July 20-21.

Old Time Fiddlers Contest at Rough River Dam State Park, July 20-21.

Wrapping Up

That's all for this time. Tune to WFPK 91.9, 8-11 p.m. each Sunday night, for Sunday Bluegrass, traditional country and old-time country with The Country Gentleman, now into the 13th year. Don't forget, we're on the web. Go to wfpk.org. A final thought from an e-mail stream listener: "My husband said the Lord must have a real hankering lately to hear a top-notch bluegrass band; that is why he has called so many of our great ones home lately. . . . Cyndi."