Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Already, Christmas 2004 is here already! First thing you know it will be 2005. Hey, ever notice or even think about this: The distance from A to B and from B to A is not always exactly the same. Yeah, that's right. Here we are, Christmas is all but here and then one week from Christmas to New Year's. Now we are at New Year's and it's fifty-one weeks from New Year's to Christmas.


What may be the last John Hartford Tribute Cruise on the Belle of Louisville cast off on Friday of IBMA. I was told it was the second-biggest crowd for this event. But it almost didn't get away from the wharf. There had been so much uncertainty about having a cruise that very few, if any, plans had been thought of. A couple of unexpected contacts provided the spark to go.

It seems Pete Wernick called Bill Ray of the Belle. Pete had been on the last one of these cruises and called Bill to express his desire to be a part of another one if they were going to do it. About the same time, I had a note from Laurie Lewis, asking the same question and to please let her be a part of it. I had to tell her that it wasn't to be. I passed that on to Bill Ray. This was somewhat the catalyst and it all came together. I e-mailed back to Laurie and she was thrilled.

The cruise was a two-and-a-half-hour run with three great acts - Tony Ellis group, The Hartford Reparatory String Band with Bob Carlin, Jamie Hartford, Pete Wernick and others. Third act was, of course, Laurie Lewis. A goodly sum was raised and split between the Minnie Pearl Cancer Center in Nashville and The James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville. Congrats to all involved on a job well done.

Gift for Bluegrass Fans

It's the `better to give than to receive' season and it really is. If I may be so bold, or busy body - take your pick - I'll bring to your attention a very good gift selection for that traditional, old-time and bluegrass enthusiast on your "Gosh I don't have a clue what to get him/her" list. Just out, it's a four-CD set, "Can't You Hear Me Calling - BLUEGRASS - 80 Years of American Music." It contains 108 songs from Roy Acuff to Jack Youngblood. The reach is all the way back to 1925 and works its way up to 2002.

It would be a bit unfair and inaccurate to say you will like everything this set has to offer because of varying tastes in our music from individual to individual. So, when you find one of those, click next track.

For the true traditionalist, I think there will be much, much more here that you will like, than there is you won't like. There are too many to name all, but some of the best names include Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, The Carter Family, Mac Wiseman, Jim & Jesse, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Don Reno, Jimmy Martin, The Osborne Bros. and many more. That would be enough, but it also includes a booklet with good notes and pages of great pictures, all from Columbia. I have had listener calls regarding this set. Put together from Columbia Records. Noticeably very clean sound, considering the recording dates of many of these.

Winning Bluegrass

Another goodie recently out: "All Star BLUEGRASS Celebration" CD & DVD. I am not sure if they come as a set or not. CD has all the numbers on the DVD. This DVD is a winner, in my view. Taking part in all of this are Ricky Skaggs, Earl Scruggs, Dr. Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys, The Del McCoury Band, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Travis Tritt, Bruce Hornsby, Patty Loveless and Nickel Creek. When Ralph & Patty are on the same stage, that's it. This is a good DVD. Honestly, when I first looked it over I wasn't all that sure. When I put it in the player, I was sure. Worth your consideration. Either another great bluegrass gift or an excellent companion piece for the "Can't You Hear Me Calling" set. This is a Sugar Hill release.

Don't Forget

A little program note: Don't forget to tune in to the New Year's Day Hank Williams Show. This is a "tribute show" I actually first started around 1954/55. This was during my time as a country DJ on a commercial station at my home in Virginia. One New Year's Day I just decided to try this. At that time I was on from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. I didn't know how the listeners might react to four hours of one artist.

With no prior announcement of what I intended to do, I started the show with a fiddle tune, about halfway through, pulled it down, read the newspaper item of his death (which I still have) and began playing Hank's records. All 78s at that time. Three turntables and moved from one to the other. It proved to be a big success. So good in fact that after a couple of years the station could sell every 15 minute-segment of the show.

I have not been able to do this continuously since then, for various reasons. A few years ago I was given the opportunity to revive this show at then-WFPL and continue on WFPK after some reshuffling was done under the Public Radio Partnership. Thanks to Gerry Weston and others at the time, it's the Hank Williams SR! New Year's Day show from noon to four. Hope you will be with me. Tune in to 91.9 FM, WFPK and streaming audio to the world from

Pass this to your e-mail friends who are out of reach of our signal.

What's left for this year?

Shepherdsville: December 3, David Davis & Warrior River Boys. December 10, Williams & Clark Expedition. Dec 17, The Cherryholmes Family. Next show, January 7, 2005: Dr. Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys.

Scottsburg, Ind., Scottsburg Jamboree: December 3, Alley White & Reynolds Station Band.

A benefit show for "Uncle Josh Graves" will be held at the "Gibson Showcase," Opry Mills, in Nashville, Tennessee on December 11, starting at 2 p.m.. Uncle Josh has had numerous health problems and his medical expenses are tremendous. This will be super show and we would encourage each of you to attend and help us spread the word on this event. Just some of those performing will be:

* Tim Graves and Cherokee

* The Legendary Kenny Baker

* Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys

* Cherryholmes Band

* Eddie and Martha Adcock

* Steve Helton and "The Flint River Boys"

* The Chris Sharp Band

There will be some suprise guests performing also. The show will run from 2 to 9 p.m.. Cover charge is $15, but remember, this is a benefit to raise money for a worthy cause. Help spread the word and lets fill the house for this legendary performer.

And now, my friends, it's time to settle down, find the Christmas CDs and just ride out the year. They go by so fast anymore. There's much to look forward to, much to reminisce about and seize the moment to make the most of it. Remember what this season is all about, really. Keep your activities safe, spend time with family and friends. Keep in mind that what you do today, you've got to remember and live with every tomorrow.

Sure hope you'll tune in on Sunday nights, 8-11 for Sunday Bluegrass and on-the-air friendship. Best and blessings, friends and listeners and MERRY CHRISTMAS.