You gotta remember that I have to write this at least two weeks before you get a chance to read it. So with that in mind, flowers must be blooming, leaves are beginning to show, all indications are that spring is here! I love spring, I love summer, I love fall, but that Cold season I can do with out. Now I suppose we can put all of that behind us. This means now we think about going outside and outside should mean Bluegrass Festival.
Homefront programs last month had very special guests. Among those was a night of Art Stamper, Harry Bickel and the Hog Operation plus Dan Jones. I have been to several of the Homefront shows and this one + this one + had a FULL house. A good time was had by all. I believe there were some folks there who let their cooped-up bluegrass persona have full free range. It was bluegrass and old-time by folks who know how to do it. At the end of the taped portion they played a couple of their choosing, took a couple of requests and gave _em what they wanted. I asked that they get Dan Jones to sing "Fallen Leaves," and he did. Dan is known for what a great job he does on this number. Knowing I had requested it, during intermission several folks thanked me for doing so, as well as thanking Dan for doing it.
Well, I stray for a moment here. Every so often things come up to give you little reminders somewhat akin to a mild conscience prick. When this happens, it is a very good sign we need it. Mine came last month in the form of a very unexpected phone call.
The young man on the line told me his name was Randy Shucker. His cell phone made it just a little distorted and I actually missed the name at first. Of course, not having a wisp of a thought of Shucker also aided and abetted no connection. Repeating the name with a connection, the shock of the call set in.
Randy Shucker is the son of one of my best friends of 50 some odd years. His father Lou and I met when Lou was a college student in Lynchburg, Va. and I was a local country DJ. We both happened to be in one of the popular downtown stores checking out the records. As we talked, it turned out that Lou was not only a guitarist, but a Chet Atkins-style picker. I must add here that he was an excellent one. He knew and was friends with Chet.
We were the kind of friends that too many years passed before we managed to get together for all too brief visits. We had much in common with the music, magic and just in general. My mother and father both liked Lou very much. He visited with us frequently when he was in college. My mom used to say when she was fixing supper she would look up and there was Lou. She loved it. We went to concerts together; he and a couple of others palled around on weekends and never got into any trouble.
This is supposed to be going somewhere and here is where: I got a card from Lou every Christmas, always with a note, "I'm going to call one night soon." That didn't always happen. I thought of calling him a few times and that didn't happen, but we considered each other a best friend.
If there is someone + anybody - you want to say something to or tell them something special, to the point of it being a need, don't let it go. Don't let it go by. Randy's call was to tell me that my longtime friend had passed away February 27 at age 67. When this happens you remember everything and ask yourself, "Why? Why didn't I call him or her one more time." I knew Randy when he was very young and have not seen him since he grew up. I sincerely hope and know, that we will become much better acquainted in the weeks and months ahead.
Dr. Ralph's Museum, et al.
OK, let's see if we can now enter some `gooder things.' I talked to Dr. Ralph during my show, Sunday Bluegrass, last month. I was asking about the museum that is being built for him. It is going to be quite a deal.
Ralph said it was going to be a big three-story building. There will be a room for the Clinch Mountain Boys, a room for Carter and just a lot of things. Ralph said the folks at Clintwood, Va., a small town near Ralph, came to him about building the museum. Of course, he was rightfully pleased over the idea.
(I just checked my tape of the conversation to be sure I remember some of the things correctly.) The state of Virginia kicked in $500,000 to help build it. Ralph said the rest of the money was gotten in short order. When it's finished it will be about a $2 million museum. "It's just going to be a dandy." A May opening will be in August, maybe a little later. They will have some of it open at the end of May during Ralph's annual festival. They will do that so folks can visit during the festival weekend. Dates for that, by the way, are May 27-29. Location is between Coburn and McClure. Ralph says the best way to come is through Norton and Coburn.
"Berk, I'd like to tell the folks one more thing that's happened that I'm real proud of. The Associated Press voted me the Virginian of the year, 2004. I'm going to Roanoke on the 19th of March to receive the trophy."
New recordings coming are "A Tribute To The Carter Family" they have recorded. Also from Columbia there will be an old CD (recordings) by the Stanley Brothers. Release date on that, March 23. Congratulations to you, my friend and the sincerest best wishes for continued rewards. You, Doctor Stanley, have paid and paid your dues to the music you hold true to. There are countless rewards in the many friends and fans resulting from your dedication and determination. Not only from me, but from all of us, Thank you Ralph.
Playing in the area
_ Music Ranch USA, West Point: I do not have an April schedule from them, but something will be going on. Guess what and go see.
_ C.R. Wilson and Shepherdsville Music Show will wind up the season at the end of April and the schedule is loaded. April 2, Wayne Lewis, Doc Mercer & The Cumberland Highlanders. April 9, Melvin Goins & Tommy Brown. April 15 [THURSDAY] + read that again, [THURSDAY] + The Lewis Family & New Found Road. April 23, David Peterson & 1946 Band. April 30 (last show), Sammy Adkins & Tommy Brown.
That's about it for this time. There is one more thing: This will be my last column of Bluegrass Beat. It has been a long and most pleasurable relationship with Louisville Music News and all of the fine folks there. I sure hope all of you good readers, friends and folks have enjoyed these monthly columns and maybe gleaned some information or other wisdom from them. With that said I had better close, uh, there is one more thing BBBB.. APRIL FOOL!!!!
[Whew ... you really had me shocked and scared there for a couple of seconds! + Your semi-editor Jean.]
Do remember Sunday night for Sunday Bluegrass, 8-11 p.m. and streaming audio from WFPK.org. If you don't listen, you never know what you might miss or be missing. The shortest, fastest and bestest three hours in radio. Thanks to all of you for another successful fund drive this last time around.