Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

It has been HOT and dry. Oh well, we'll survive and get over it. If we really want to break the drought maybe we should all get together and put on one whale of a bluegrass/traditional country show, and that should do it. It can almost be expected to rain on a good bluegrass festival. So go prepared, expecting it to rain and hoping it won't. Something akin to washing your car.

Another Success for Charlotte

The Charlotte, Michigan, festival in June was another rousing success. Jim and Jesse were scheduled and neither could make it. Both were having treatments for health reasons. Luke McKnight, Jesse's grandson, did an admirable job of filling in with the Virginia Boys. They were well received by the crowd. No, it wasn't Jim & Jesse, but a situation that requires understanding and acceptance. The audience did its part and Luke and the Boys sure did theirs. Uncle Jim and Grandpa Jesse can be proud of you, Luke. You came across like a 20-year-old with 30 years of experience.

Here is an update as of mid July on Jim & Jesse from Janeen:

"Dad and Jesse are doing quite well. Jesse finishes his treatments this week. Dad has improved so much in the last couple of weeks! He had some scans done this week which showed that the cancer is shrinking! The doctors are extremely pleased with his progress. If all goes well, he only has one more big treatment and will then go on a maintenance dose for a few weeks. We are so thankful. Thank you so much for all your prayers and concern. We are looking forward to seeing you sometime in the near future! Love, Janeen"

The Doctor was In

Ralph was there and was heading into a full schedule, but then, when isn't he? I knew I would be seeing him in a couple of days in Louisville at the "Down From The Mountain Tour" kickoff. I told him I wanted him to introduce me to Emmylou and Patty Loveless. He said he would do that. Didn't see him at the meet-and-greet after the show and didn't see Emmylou there, either. So you win a few and you lose a few, but all was not lost. Did meet Patty Loveless. Ralph was on, I think, a 41-city tour (Down From The Mountain), and a stop in California for a part in a movie. Title of the movie is "Cold Mountain." Ralph will have a small part, playing a blind man. It will be in theaters; I just don't know when.

Lovely Patty

It was a real pleasure for me to meet Patty Loveless. I had told Ralph the weekend before that I had her new CD and really liked it. Of all the female "claim jumpers" - "country singers" jumping into and claiming to be bluegrass - I think, hands down, Patty Loveless has the best and nearest bluegrass CD and the voice to fit. She did "Pretty Polly" with Ralph at the tour show, and they got a response to match anything else done, and then some. Yea, I'll vote for Patty Loveless in the upcoming IBMA ballots. Keep it up, Patty; do it again and record us another one.

The whole show was pretty fantastic and should get top reviews wherever it plays. Best wishes for a most successful Tour. I understand Ralph may get a little well-deserved rest on this tour. He is traveling on his bus with just his bus driver.

In the Studio

Jim Lauderdale, who has done a couple of CDs with Ralph, was in the station [WFPK] last month. Visited Michael Young's show on the 14th. I enjoyed meeting Jim also. I have really liked his material and what he recorded with Dr. Ralph. On their latest release is a tune titled "She's Looking At Me." Michael asked Jim about that and he was saying it was a fun thing they recorded at Ralph's festival. If you have heard it you know it is a bit of a "discussion" as to which of the band members a lady in the audience was "really" looking at. Ralph has the final word, "Wait a minute fellows, I KNOW she was looking at me." At the end of the song Jim said a lady in the front held up a sign reading "I WAS LOOKING AT RALPH." Jim also added," I know she was really looking at me."

Following all of that, I had guest in for "Sunday Bluegrass." Bud Meredith, 83-year-old fiddler from Leitchfield, came in to play a tune. He brought a guitar player who turned out to be a friend we hadn't seen for quite a while, David Hunt, who came bearing a CD he had made. Bud played several tunes, and a few cuts from David's CD were played. Enjoyed having them in and, judging from the response by call-ins to talk with them when they finished, many listeners were happy with their appearance on the show. Glad they came.

Uncle Dave Days

My dear friends Wade and Julia Mainer were at the Uncle Dave Macon Days festival at Murfreesboro, Tenn., in July. I was hoping to go. I knew they were going, I just didn't have exact dates and events to include an Opry appearance by Wade and so I missed it, much to my disappointment. My friend Bill Knowlton was kind enough to give me an "after action report." (Edited slightly for space.):

"The 25th annual Uncle Dave Macon Days was as exciting and unpredictable as ever, torrential rains on Saturday notwithstanding!

"Of course the core of this year's event was the hosting of 95-year-old Wade Mainer as the Heritage Award Winner. Wade and 83-year-old wife Julia came down from their Flint, Mich., home to a round of interviews and personal appearances in greater Nashville.

"WSM's Eddie Stubbs was the first to interview the Mainers, on his Wednesday night show. Wade held forth on the Air Castle Of the South for almost two hours, taking breaks while Eddie played vintage Mainer recordings from the '30s. (He was on after a fascinating two hours featuring interviews with Jeanette Carter and Patsy Stoneman plugging Bristol, Tennessee's forthcoming "Bristol Sessions" 75th anniversary celebrations.)

"Wade and Julia then appeared on Thursday night at the Ryman Bluegrass series, performing and being well-interviewed by Eddie Stubbs between sessions of the Osborne Brothers and Rhonda Vincent. Happily, the entire night was broadcast by WSM. (Good to see Lester Armistead and Terry Herd at the show.)

"On Friday I had the privilege of driving Wade and Julia out to see the longtime home of Uncle Dave Macon, and to pay their respects at Uncle Dave's grave at Coleman Cemetery. Then the Mainers were whisked away by Old Homestead Records' John Morris for Wade's very first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.

"Fortunately I was able to hear Wade and Julia's appearance by the WSM booth at Uncle Dave Macon Days in Murfreesboro. After they sang `Take Me In Your Lifeboat,' the Opry audience gave him the longest round of applause I've ever heard on the Opry. An encore was mandatory, and Opry host Bill Anderson just about broke down at the end of the segment trying to point out that Wade Mainer once performed for Franklin D. Roosevelt! (Anderson reportedly wants the Mainers back on the Opry ASAP).

"On Saturday morning it was Calhoun, Kentucky's Uncle Doc Wilhite and his annual country ham breakfast (with his very own cured country ham) at the City Cafe. This prepared us well for the Uncle Dave Macon motorless parade; I drove Wade and Julia to the beginning of the parade so Wade could act as Marshall of the event.

"PRECIOUS MEMORIES: Leroy Troy doing the grand finale on Saturday night (he danced too!)...the incredible live remotes of REAL music WSM did throughout Friday night and all day Saturday (check out archived material on wsmonline.com...the best meal I've EVER had at a restaurant: Monell's of Nashville...the quick and sharp wit of Wade Mainer......the great jamming, jogging and buck-dancing all over the Cannonsburgh Park...Wade and Julia Mainer's glowing and nostalgic Saturday afternoon performance, well-emceed by 2001 Heritage Award Winner Eddie Stubbs...the enthusiastic participation in Uncle Dave Macon Days by Kyle Cantrell, Hairl Hensley and Keith Bilbrey...watching MaryE pick at an old-time music jam as the Saturday night show was over (she can really pick that guitar!)...seeing again the friends and acquaintances I meet every year at Uncle Dave Macon Days.

"I know I've left out stuff I'll remember the very minute I post this diatribe. Please forgive me if I left you, or some other significant item, out of this.

"I can't wait 'til 2003!"

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Bill Knowlton, "BLUEGRASS RAMBLE," WCNY-FM: Syracuse (91.3), Utica (89.5), Watertown NY (90.9), now into our 30th year. Sundays, 9 p.m.-midnight EDST: www.wcny.org (with Windows Media Player)

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Thanks much, Bill.

August Bluegrass

Better get in a few playing dates. I don't have too much right now for August. Mostly a little out of town.

· Aug. 12-17, Goldwing Express Bluegrass Festival, Wheel Inn Campground, Leslie, Mich.: Goldwing Express, The Lewis Family, IIIRD Tyme Out, Bill Grant & Delia Bell and many more.

· Aug. 15-17, Hillsdale County Fairgrounds, Mich.: Gary Brewer, David Davis & Warrior River Boys, Robert White & The Candy Mountain Express, Dean Osborne & Eastbound, The Chapman Family and more.

· Aug. 8-10, Milan Bluegrass Festival, Milan, Mich.: Jim & Jesse, Dave Evans, Larry Sparks, Karl Shiflett, The Lewis Family, Osborne Bros., Dale Ann Bradley, The Larkin Family and more.

· Aug. 22-24,Bluegrass In The Smokies, Sevierville, Tenn.: Doyle Lawson, Lonesome River Band, Larry Sparks, The VW Boys, Gary Brewer and more.

Crunch time, so I had better get out of here. Don't forget, "Sunday Bluegrass," each Sunday night 8-11. That's at WFPK 91.9 FM. Streaming from WFPK.ORG and e-mail me during the show at studio@wfpk.org. Hope to see or hear from you real soon.