Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Wheew, pant, pant. October has been pretty much full speed ahead for about two weeks. Unfortunately it was a "good news, bad news" month. I feel like Calvin, the kid in the comics who had the tiger and the enormous imagination: "I was put here to do a certain number of things and right now I am so far behind I think I'll live forever." Let's just take it and run with it.

Smoakin' Bluegrass

I had Jim Smoak on my radio show in early October. GOOD NEWS! Jim visited Sunday Bluegrass (SBG) with a new/old recording, Jim Smoak & the Louisiana Honeydrippers, Bayou Bluegrass. Recorded in 1961, recently released on Arhoolie 9032 CD. Jim is doing some excellent picking - good numbers with a Cajun flavor and includes a little clawhammer. Thanks, Jim. Come back and keep it going.

Mixed News Section

Had a letter from Earl Phillips telling me Janis Lewis Phillips has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will be undergoing chemo treatments. Remember them in your prayers. She is doing pretty good but has up and down days. Earl also recently lost his older brother.

Back-to-Back Bluegrass

There were a couple of full weeks back to back. A really great time at Norris, Tenn., Museum of Appalachia Fall Homecoming. Met and got to listen to and get better acquainted with several of the acts. Got CDs that will be heard on the show SBG. Earl Bull, a really fired-up banjo player, got the real sound and just a knock-out group, Earl Bull & Clinch Valley Bluegrass. These guys should be heard.

Got something new/old from Uncle Josh. A Starday CD release, Josh Graves - World Famous Dobro. A lot of favorites, 12 of them. Then there is the group Shadow Ridge, CF Bailey & Doyle Collins. Twelve fine numbers, some original and some traditional. Now we come to a couple of "darlings" from Missouri, The Hammer Sisters. Two dear ladies - Ruth with the fiddle and Lillian doing the guitar and lead vocals. They are really appreciated. Some yodeling, some novelty songs and some traditional tunes. A lot of fun to work with. The Cluster Pluckers were there; you will just have to listen for them.

And now for the BAD


The hole in real traditional country music that began last year enlarged greatly again last month. As most of you will probably know by now, one of the all-time greatest showmen, performer, comic and fantastic backup singer and instrumentalist died the 17th of October. Bashful Brother Oswald, Beecher "Pete" Kirby, with the King of Country music, Roy Acuff, for over 50 years. I am a tremendous Roy Acuff fan, always was and always will be.

With that said, I believe Oswald contributed as much or more than any other single member to the success of Roy Acuff & The Smokey Mountain Boys. In essence it didn't stop there. Os was about the first to gain recognition with a dobro. According to Os, he heard a Hawaiian musician in Michigan. Os went to hear and watch him at every opportunity and would go home and try to play what he had heard. Basically Oswald was self taught. Self taught so good that his playing spilled over onto the likes of a young man by the name of Burkett "Buck" Graves who in turn inspired Jerry Douglas and who knows how many more. Oswald put the dobro, that instrument that hypnotizes with haunting unforgettable sounds in the hands of a master, that leads you on like a pied piper into country music. Remember that bluegrass was called country in that era.

Josh Graves is pretty much acknowledged for making the dobro an important part of bluegrass music. After all of those dedicated years at the Grand Ole Opry with Mr. Acuff, Oswald was finally made a full member in 1995. As was Uncle Dave, Beecher Kirby, "Bashful Brother Oswald" was one of a kind. The distinctive voice, comedy laugh, that unmatched touch of a master's hands given the ability to draw from the instrument of choice all that it had to offer. We salute you, Brother Oswald, we will never forget The Precious Jewel. Rest sir, you have earned it.

IBMA World of Bluegrass

OK, maybe it's time to move along now to IBMA World of Bluegrass Week. So much to do, so many to visit, so many contacts, both familiar and new. Even though I missed a bit more than I intended to, it was a great week. Had some good visiting time with Leroy Troy. Always enjoy a visit with the folks from Rebel, Pine Castle, Hay Holler, Copper Creek a long list. Individuals in this mix like Cliff Waldron and his wife, Kirk Brandenburger and Becky, Dean Sapp and his wife so many more.

They're all friends we look forward to seeing every year. Visitors from all over the country and other parts of the world. Isn't it wonderful how this bluegrass music we all love and cherish brings together for one accord folks of international origin and melts, molds us into one fantastic product of friends like family. We are all mixed into IBMA's World of Bluegrass, the catalyst being bluegrass music. Long may it continue.

Heads Up

See Ralph Stanley when the opportunity comes. Ralph has announced that he will be cutting back next year. Probably only 15-20 shows. Don't start a rumor; he doesn't have a health problem. The good Doctor has signed with a new agency. They will be booking on the biggest shows and, yes, his price will be up. Ralph II will be working with the band. Other reasons: Ralph told me he wanted to spend more time at home, be with the family more get back to church. I told him his fans, me included, would hope he was still out here as he has been, but Ralph has to do what is best for Ralph. It has been a long, hard climb and now he is reaping just rewards. The success and recognition Ralph is receiving now is more than well deserved. He will be at Shepherdsville Music Place in January.

Thank you, Ralph, for being there all of those years with the uncompromising dedication you have shown for the music - your music - to your band and to the fans.

Going On and Coming Up!

· Music Ranch USA, West Point, Ky.: Nov. 8, Fresh Cut Grass. Dec. 13, Skinny Lynard.

· Shepherdsville Music Place: Nov. 1, David Parmley & Continental Divide. Nov. 8, Sammy Adkins & the Sandy Hook Mountain Boys. Nov. 15, James King Band and David Davis & Warrior River Boys. Nov. 22, Don Stanley & Middle Creek. Nov. 29, Bluegrass 101.

· Bluegrass Brewing Company: Every Wednesday Open Jam sponsored by Bluegrass Anonymous and hosted by Mike Bucayu.

Thankful Time

Well, friends and neighbors, it's time to be thankful once again. Thanksgiving is coming around this month, followed by Christmas next month the end of another year. This day of reflection, do it. Really give it some thought this Thanksgiving day; that's what it's for. Think of all the blessings and be honest about it. Have good health, don't take it for granted; you are blessed be thankful. Good, faithful and true friends, blessed and be thankful. Freedom, think of those who don't have it and know we are blessed, be thankful. Maybe we don't exactly have just everything we think we want, but consider, we do have what we really need. Another blessing. And we have ________okay, fill this one in yourself. Remember this Thanksgiving day and enjoy it. We are truly and richly blessed.

Turn Your Radio On

To borrow, with apologies, Come and listen in to the radio station, WFPK 91.9 FM, Turn your radio on, turn your radio on ... Sunday 8-11 p.m. It's bluegrass, traditional country and old-time music. A blessing.