Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

This is the time. Yep, the time. You know: Roses are red, Violets are blue, Cupid's arrows will get you too. Betcha none of you remember when, to deliver those fancy Valentine cards to that special little darling down the street, you would slip up to the front door, drop it in front of the door, ring the bell and run and hide. Peek around to see if she gets it and hope you didn't get caught. Maybe it does seem a little dumb now, but those were the times before we changed them. You really went all out if you gave your hoped-for Valentine a box of candy. Wow! Well they are not really gone as long as they are properly stored in that RAM of the old bean at the top of the neck.

Great Night with Dr. Ralph

Last night [January9] was a great night. Dr. Ralph Stanley was at Shepherdsville Music Show. A good crowd, although a little shy of what there usually is for Ralph. I think that red way down in the old thermometer made some difference.

When it was over, I suggested to a friend that the really serious folks were there. I heard many folks remark how great Ralph was sounding. Many said they thought he sounded stronger, better than they had heard in a couple of years.

I had the pleasure of introducing the second show. Didn't say this but wish I had thought of it in time. The first time I saw the Stanley Brothers they were playing shows between the movies at a theater in Appomattox, Va. Got to talk with them some between shows. From playing between the movies to being in the movies has been a long way for Ralph. Had time to get better acquainted and visit last night both at the show and at The Kitchen after the show.

Good time with others also. Enjoyed a visit with James Alan Shelton and my buddy Nathan - Ralph's grandson. Nathan is quite a young man.

Art Stamper was there. Mighty good to see Art still out and about some. Art played one number with Ralph. Hang in there, Art. Many, many folks are pulling for you. Art is undergoing chemo again and feels REALLY ROTTEN on the first week or so following the treatment....Anyone out there with a few extra minutes....if you feel like sending him a card it would probably lift his fact send several over the course of his really helps the spirit hang in there when you know you have folks behind you. His mailing address: Art Stamper, 837 Proctor Lane, Shepherdsville, Ky 40165.

Steve Sparkman had a brand new banjo that Gibson built for him. He went to Nashville to pick it up before the show. He couldn't wait to give it a run. Changed the strings and let it rip. Steve was as proud as a new daddy or a kid with a new puppy. It was just a good night and good visit with all the gang. Ralph said they would be back next year.

Hank Show

The New Year's Day Hank Williams show went very well again this year. Many good and kind comments from listeners everywhere. My English friends recorded it and didn't miss a second. Colin Clark had to be at work that day for a long day, so he set his gear up to record from the computer and was able to get much needed rest and still have the show. (Over there it is Monday morning when I come on. One a.m. Monday morning). Maybe that's called getting your sleep and listening too. You know what I mean, the old "You can't have your cake and eat it too." Thanks, Colin. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks, too, for making the extra effort to listen.

Riders' Super Fan

In case you missed it, I want to mention Byron Crawford's January18 column in The Courier-Journal. A great story that once again spotlights what kind of folks are in this music business, in this case a western group of the traditional type.

Byron's story concerns a young fellow, 4 years old, who is a super fan of the Riders In The Sky. It was birthday time and Mom was sending out invitations for a b'day party. The Riders were at the top of the top of Jackson's guest list. A little difficult for the innocence of 4 years to understand why Mom felt pretty sure they wouldn't be able to make it to the party.

She sort of gave in and did what Moms do and do best. She contacted their booking agent, told him what a dedicated fan Jackson is and also that she fully realized and understood that it was unlikely they would be able to attend. Maybe at best they could or would send a birthday greeting she could read at his party.

She couldn't have been more surprised when she got a return phone call to see when he would get out of preschool on his birthday. The Riders planned to call at 6 p.m. Incidentally, Jackson prefers to be called "Too Slim." Well, 6 o'clock came and went and no call. What happened, the Riders were out west and out west means a different time zone.

Score another for cell phones. Mom and Jackson were in their respective classes at church when a call on the cell phone came. It was Too Slim himself. A very fast trip downstairs to number one son's class made the connection. Too Slim joined with Ranger Doug for a yodel and they and Joey "the Cow Polka King" joined in for a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday." Then it was pass around the phone for individual greetings. Truly not everybody's way but "It's The Cowboy way" and if I may add, it's The Riders In The Sky way.

I have met these guys a few times and they ARE a class act. Thanks, Byron, another excellent story. And Riders, another high rating on the good guys meter. One little postscript. After all of this, they sent Jackson "Too Slim" Borders a Riders In The Sky guitar signed by all.

Another Birthday

While I am on the birthday thing, the 25th of this month is Dr. Ralph Stanley's birthday. Roughly two thirds of his life has been devoted to music of the mountains. A dedication started with brother Carter and continued following Carter's death. It is no secret to any listener of Sunday Bluegrass [Berk's radio show on WFPK 91.1 FM, 8-11 p.m.] that I can be numbered among the top Ralph Stanley fans - his music, his dedication and Ralph personally. Happy birthday, Ralph and may there be many more.

February Play Book

Music Ranch USA, West Point, Ky.: February 7, Michael Goodman and Stephanie Boyd. February 14, Theresa Dunn and Dean Weddle. February 21, Christy Lawrence. February 28, The Kentucky Sisters.

Shepherdsville Music Show: February 6, Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers. February 13, Joe Isaacs (Dan Jones is now with Joe Isaacs). February 20, Gerald Evans & Paradise. February 27, True Gospel Echoes (all gospel show).

Carrie On Sunday Bluegrass

As of this writing, we are expecting Carrie Norris - Lilly May Ledford's granddaughter - to guest on Sunday Bluegrass February 8. Carrie is playing the music of Lilly May and in the tradition of The Original Coon Creek Girls. That's us, bluegrass, traditional country and old-time country. Sunday Bluegrass, Sunday night from 8 to11 p.m., WFPK 91.9 FM, sharing our music with the world via streaming audio. To get the stream, go to, click "listen live." My friends Chris, Colin and Sharon Clark in Wolverhampton do each week.

Let that very special someone know that they are your Valentine. Seems to me Valentine's Day would be much better served and serve better in the spring.