The earth is blooming, birds are nesting, trees have leaves, and a young picker's fancy turns to romance. Romance of the festivals he hopes to travel to, the stars and the legends that come out under them on a most pleasant summer's night. The romance of the hope to advance his or her abilities in the circle of a jam session. The romance of the stars, the light breeze, and from everywhere the wind blows comes the sounds of open-air bluegrass music. And for that time, all the world is all right and good and holds a certain peace and joy. This is bluegrass summer.
Even among all of this very idyllic mindset, we sometimes have to count our losses. One of those losses, the kind that is personal, heartfelt and shared by so many, occurred back in March. At best, I was only able to get a note in the April issue because of the timing. This time I want to say more about Randall Hylton. I felt like Randall was a very close friend, and he was. The 25th of March I played a one-hour tribute to my friend on my Sunday Bluegrass show, (WFPK 91.9 FM). I don't usually use notes for a show except special times when I want to be sure to remember all of the things I want to say or include. I had many comments concerning my thoughts and I thought I would put my notes here:
Sunday Bluegrass started with one hour in June 1989 on WFPL. Within two years it expanded to the present time of three hours and was moved to WFPK when the Public Radio Partnership was formed. The success can and should be credited to the listeners and the artists who make, and made, the music used on this show.
As did many, one of those artists became a very good friend, and was for many of those years. By coincidence, he too was from the state of Virginia. By further coincidence we had attended the same college, at different times: Virginia Polytechnic Institute. We both eventually followed the call of music in our life. He was a master at the guitar, songwriter of note, singer, and definitely an entertainer. My very good friend, and friend of every audience he performed for, left us last Monday, the morning of March 19, 2001. Now I am even more glad that the first song played on Sunday Bluegrass, and a very appropriate one, was Randall Hylton singing one of his own compositions, "The Music Starts Right Here."
Some of the responses I received from friends I had sent the news to couldn't be expressed any better:
• "Terrible news; a great loss to the composition of new bluegrass songs." BK (Bill Knowlton).
• "Berk, I'm really cut up about that, what a loss at such an age. I guess The Almighty is calling all the best talent in to that super show upstairs. Guess I'll watch my Ps and Qs from now on because I want to be sure of a ticket to watch that show." Chris (My English friend of 45-plus years).
• "Randall was one of my very favorite performers. He made people laugh so hard it was therapeutic. I sent the message on to those I have addresses for who would know him. He made a great impression on my life." Cyndi (Cyndi Ruff Mahler).
• "Thanks for letting me know about Randall. It's been a sad couple of weeks for bluegrass." James (Alan Shelton).
• He was no older than me. This is so sad. Thank you for letting me know. All the best." David (Holt).
Randall Hylton was my friend. Randall had the earned, deserved respect of fans, entertainers, musicians, writers and peers alike. He did things for me no one else ever did. He read things I had written and on one occasion he liked one enough to make a tape of it for me. I had the good fortune to join him on a couple of his show trips. We talked about the good - traditional - country music. We swapped jokes and stories, and we took turns driving. He played the music and I watched the table. Randall Hylton will be sorely missed by fans, family, friends and this business of music. "The Greatest Solo Act Since Charles Lindbergh" has taken his act out of this world.
This should serve as another reminder to all of us, to see the shows and concerts, meet the artists, especially those that we really favor. It doesn't matter how many times you've seen the performer and/or performance; we never know which one will be the last one. At least there will be no regrets for missing that last opportunity.
Polly Lewis Copley and I were visiting when they were at Shepherdsville Music Place last month. Polly told me about talking with Randall during visits on the road and at home. One of the things she was telling me was so thought provoking as to be almost scary. Randall had told her that when he was small he had a premonition that his grandfather was going to die with something rare. Soon after, this did happen. Later in life he had a premonition that his father was going to die from something rare. It happened. Then in February this year - I think she said February - in talking with him, he told her he had had a premonition that he would die soon with something rare. She said they were told by doctors that the type of brain aneurysm he had was rare.
Summing Up Randall
Sunday night, April 8, a caller told me he had been away and wanted to know how Randall was. He was very emotionally shaken when I told him. My visitor that night commented he (the caller) almost got to him, and I was the same way. The gentleman was so sincere. He mentioned he was going to call his wife at work. He thanked me for having introduced Randall Hylton to my listeners, many of whom would never have heard him otherwise, so they have said. This sums up the kind of person and performer Randall was, who could so touch the fans and friends.
Some very exciting things are happening at Public Radio here in Louisville. We are now "streaming." Read that again, I did not say "streaking"- STREAMING - on the internet. It is very exciting to me to know that my show can be heard around the globe. The word is getting out and listeners are joining us. We receive e-mail right to the studio during the program. Easy address: email@example.com.
It was very encouraging to get mail from Virginia, the D.C. area, Texas, Ft. Leavenworth, Georgia, and others. As it grows, I can't imagine where the next new location will be. I am sure the rest of the on-air folks at the station feel the same way. Broadcasting bluegrass, traditional and old time country to the world. Anyone remember the name of Ferlin Husky's band?
Maybe you haven't seen the movie or heard the sound track, and you probably do know what movie and what sound track. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou! At any rate, you probably know that the "character band" was known as the Soggy Bottom Boys. All of this and "Man of Constant Sorrow" has been a hit, any way you look at it. A hit and a tremendous shot in the arm and wake-up call for bluegrass and traditional/old time music. I had heard a rumor that the Soggy Bottom Boys were going on the road and mentioned this on my show. Buddy Martin almost immediately called to tell me that it is going to happen, that it was confirmed on the warm-up show for the Opry the night before. Watch and listen for them.
May time - Play time
• Music Ranch USA, West Point: May 5, Derby Day cookout at 4:30 p.m. Show time, Adam Davis and Andrea Warner. May 11, Rockin' Rancheros. May 12, Mother's Day show, with special guest new 5-piece band Family & Friends, The Lang Gang plus Jimmy Jack. May 18, The Rockin' Rancheros. May 19, Bo Dean Adams plus Linda Hunt. May 26, Carolyn Mills and Larry Sanders.
• Babby's Steak House and Dinner Theater (Jeffersonville, Ind.): May 13, The Wilburns. (Mother's Day Special: dinner 12:30-2:45p.m., concert 3 p.m.)
• Festival at Rosine, Ky., May 24-27, featuring Jim & Jesse, Mac Wiseman, Lewis Family, Osborne Bros., Eddie & Martha Adcock, Larry Sparks, Vince Combs, James Monroe & son Jim, and more.
Wrapping Up . . .
I guess it's time to call it quits for this time. Probably past time. Keep in touch one way or the other. Listen Sunday night from 8-11, WFPK 91.9 FM, and tell your friends out of the area we are streaming. Did you remember that Ferlin called his band The Hushpuppies? E-mail me at one or all of these: firstname.lastname@example.org - email@example.com - during the show firstname.lastname@example.org. Plan now and don't miss any good bluegrass festivals! !