Bluegrass Beat May 2002

By Berk Bryant

Oh, this is great! April showers bring May flowers, YESSS! The weather is clear and warm, the dogwoods are blooming, redbuds are blooming, bees are buzzing (making that honey) and the birds are fixing to bloom. You know, nesting. Spring really is here and I love it.

Good Bluegrass Start

April had a good start when The Lewis Family and Jim & Jesse came to Shepherdsville. Good friends all, and always a pleasure to see them and visit. Jim is having a problem in his throat, so be sure to keep him in your thoughts and prayers. A real plus for me, I'll get to see them again in June, as will any others who attend these festivals I'll be giving the word on.

Karl Shiftlett Live!

There has been a lot going on this past month, and let's hope the pace keeps steady. I had a real special time on my May 7 show (Sunday Bluegrass, WFPK 91.9 FM, 8-11 p.m. Sundays), when Karl Shiflett and the Big Country Show came in for a live appearance. Oh that was good. They are a going, moving-up-fast band. If that wasn't enough, there they were the next night at Babby's Steakhouse. Another goooood show and an enthusiastic audience. Watch for them and don't miss an opportunity to see them.

Bluegrass Museum Re-Opening

A big day on the 11th at Owensboro. The Grand Re-Opening of the Bluegrass Museum. Saw a lot of folks I hadn't seen for years. There was a reception after the ribbon cutting, which quite a few attended. A program led by Sonny Osborne and Eddie Stubbs. I noticed a couple sitting off to one side and told my friend that I was sure I knew who they were. I went over and, sure enough, it was Johnnie Wright and The Queen of Country Music, Kitty Wells. A brief chat with them. I thought they had retired, and I think they have, although Johnnie said they play a few dates. I guess they have essentially retired from the road. Either way, a real treat to see them again.

Not such a real treat, in one sense, was seeing a fellow I knew way back in the '50s. I would not have known who he was had he not been acknowledged during the program. Health problems, such as several stokes and other terrible things, have confined him to a wheel chair. Although unable to speak, as I approached him, unsure of just what to say or do, he stuck out his hand for a shake. In spite of his problems, a very big grin on his face that I had seen so many times over the years. I spoke with his wife, Shirley, for a bit and told her I remembered when they got married. Right after the ceremony, Don Reno and Red Smiley put him in the car and they were off for a show date. When the Reno-Smiley team broke up, this dancing fiddle man with a huge grin went to Porter Waggoner's band. You've probably got it figured out by now; it was Mack Magaha. Our best to you, Mack.

We had been in the museum earlier and did a partial tour. First folks we encountered when we went in were Tom T. and Dixie Hall. Great folks. Chatted a bit and got a couple of pictures. Continued on to see what we hadn't gotten to the first time. There is still some finishing to do, if a museum ever is finished. Especially one of this nature. For my part, it has been put together very well. In addition to the exhibits, a picture gallery, sound and sight areas, there is a gift shop. No museum should be without one. I did notice they had some hard-to-get boxed sets (Bear Family) of several artists. It is something a fan, an individual, really needs to see for him- or herself. Individual impressions will vary and still be good.

Another jolly good friend, all the way from Yankee land, the man at IBMA that wears the Krazy pants requiring a change of batteries almost as often as he eats, Bill Knowlton. Bill has a show up there in the state of New York on Sunday nights, same as me. We enjoy e-mails and a few good-natured jabs at each other. If the Krazy pants didn't do it for you, maybe you'll remember him as the MC (representative of the Solemn Old Judge) when they have the Old Time Radio Jamboree Show at IBMA. Part of the ceremony following the ribbon cutting showed off a very large plaque to honor bluegrass music's "first generation."

Following is a couple of excerpts from a note in which Bill describes some of the events mentioned. He has a far better recall of some of the names and folks than I. A portion of the excerpts are also by Eddie Stubbs:

What a great week in Owensboro! The opening festivities of the new International Bluegrass Music Museum was a Thursday afternoon none of us who attended will ever forget. Through the hard-working efforts of Sonny Osborne and Eddie Stubbs, a huge board of names of bluegrass music's "first generation" was proudly introduced to the assembled guests, with a good gathering of some of those pioneers present to get the tribute they truly deserved. It was a thrill to meet all of Tennessee's great McCormack Brothers, but also sad to see a very ill Mac Magaha of Reno & Smiley's Tennessee Cutups. I only hope he truly knew how much we all love him. Among others attending from the "first generation" were Art Stamper, Ernest Ferguson, New England's Bob & Grace French, the Bailey Brothers, Curley Seckler, and Patsy Stoneman (I'll think of more after I post this, of course). Ronnie Reno represented Don & Red as members of the Hall Of Honor. James Monroe, who donated one of his Father's suits to the IBMM, represented, of course, Big Mon (just up the road from Rosine). And Pete Kuykendall represented Pete Kuykendall (Kudos, BTW to Kitsy K. for all the work she did putting together this day of bluegrass memories, picking, singing and tributes).

My thanks to WSM's Eddie Stubbs for reminding me of the others who were at the International Bluegrass Music Museum's opening ceremony (honoring the First Generation bluegrassers). He reports: "You mentioned that you'd think of more names of folks or their descendants who were there. Here's a few more: Johnnie Wright and the Queen Of Country Music Kitty Wells (ARRRRRGH!! How could I forget KITTY WELLS and JOHNNY WRIGHT?!) Hazel Lambert (the widow of Pee Wee Lambert) and her daughter, the son and daughter of Carl Sauceman, Leon Bryan (the brother of the late Evelyn Bryan who was a featured female vocalist with the Bailey Brothers), and a few more. "You mentioned the Bailey Brothers; actually just Charlie Bailey was there. There were a number of photographers on hand, including Dan Loftin who was there representing Bluegrass Unlimited, so I'm sure that one of the numerous group photos will be published in the magazine. "Also, though not present, Mac Wiseman was an important part in the plaque process. As Sonny Osborne mentioned, Mac really wanted to be there that day but couldn't. "According to Wayne Magaha, who I chatted with yesterday, he said his father Mack seemed to really enjoy the day and all that went on. Due to the result of numerous stokes, the first one back in 1986, Mack is unable to walk or communicate, but several big smiles during his time with us in Owensboro indicated to the family that he enjoyed himself. Thanks for the help on the column, Bill.

Where the Music Is

It's beginning to look as if this is getting too long, so I'd better get on to where the music is or will be.

· West Point, Music Ranch USA: May 3, Southern Gospel. May 4, Country Classics country show. May 11, Country Classics. May 17, Southern Gospel. May 18, Country Classics. May 19, Talent Round Up. May 25, Country Classics.

· Babby's Steakhouse, Highway 62, Jeffersonville, Ind.: Vince Combs & Shadetree Grass.

·FYI (ticket time): Second tour of "Down From The Mountain: kicks off at Freedom Hall June 25, 7:30 p.m. Alison Krauss & Union Station, Dan Tyminski, Jerry Douglas, Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury Band, Nashville Bluegrass Band, The Whites, and Norman & Nancy Blake. If you didn't see it the first round, don't miss it this time. And if you did see it the first time, see it again. Tickets are on sale at the box office or TicketMaster.

Check in Sunday night, WFPK 91.9 FM, for Sunday Bluegrass, 8-11. Be sure and share with your e-mail friends that we are streaming. Go to the web site wfpk.org, click "listen now" and do it. Thanks, be careful, and go bluegrassing.