Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Been having some transition days in the past couple of weeks. Transition from warm to wet, back to warm, a pretty cool day thrown in, the some almost-hot days, a few more warm ones. All of this to let us know spring is here and the segue to summer is starting. HOO RAH!! I'm a summer person - okay, make that spring/summer person - myself. There are trade-offs and there are trade-offs. Some of them equal out. In the brrr winter we can usually expect to do some snow shoveling and in summer, definitely expect to do grass cutting. It's OK, I'll do it. Neither is my favorite thing to do, but of the choices I'd prefer to ride my mower.

Bus Driving Bluegrass

Last month a call came from a friend many of you know. Johnny Collins gave me a call. Wanted to let me know what he's doing. First off, he was getting over some work on his nasal passages that had caused him a few problems.

Next good news, Johnny is officially- unofficially - bus driver for Larry Sparks. As John put it, he has been "helping Larry out" since October, I think. Larry is having him guest on his shows.

Johnny has a long association with bluegrass music. Although an accomplished musician and performer, it has been his lot to drive the bus. Johnny was not a Bluegrass Boy even though he worked for Bill M. for quite a spell - yeah, as Bill's bus driver. Johnny told us the story a few years back how Bill would ride "shotgun" with him in the wee hours of the morning and often about three or four clock would practice his yodeling. Bill got the practice and Johnny stayed awake.

Thanks for the call, John. It really makes me feel good to know that you thought enough to want to call and let me know how things are going with you. I do appreciate it.

Later thatday...

Reflecting on that call got me to thinking a bit about what he said and about bus drivers. These unsung heroes of the music business bear a great responsibility. They are hauling a load that is very special to all of us. They get them from here to yonder safely and timely.

If you're honest, about all we think of is the star is here for us and we really don't give too much thought about how they got there or who got them there. Following a shaft of light cutting through the darkness and sometimes fog to a destination often hours - many hours - away. All concerned take it unspoken - I'll get you there and then it's up to you - for granted. No matter the time, the weather, the traffic and any assorted unexpected problems, the drivers deliver. As Hank Williams said, talking about the artist agency at WSM one time, "I think they take a map and a ruler and put one end on Nashville and wherever the other ends hits, that's where they book you the next afternoon and expect you to make it."

Thank that bus driver the next opportunity and give them an encouraging word. Maybe being a bus driver is like somebody said one time, "Doing a good job around here is like wetting your pants in a dark suit. It feels good and nobody notices." With apologies to the "parcel service," these devoted guys are UPS drivers also - United Pickers Service. Both efficient, effective and indispensable.

Cruising Down the River

I had the opportunity to ride The Delta Queen during the Great Steamboat Race Derby build-up week. A most enjoyable experience. Met some nice folks from around the country who were on a DQ cruise. Now don't jump to conclusions, I didn't say this was a Dairy Queen cruise. The food was good and not my every day fare. There were some fine frog legs, several choices of chicken, beef and all of the good stuff to go with them. The crew and staff were first class all the way. I could get used to that.

Strictly Bluegrass Festival

A little note to folks who have asked: Talked to Gary Brewer and the Strictly Bluegrass Festival will return to Iroquois Park this September. Details later.

Festival time is here.

June 10-13, The Festival of the Bluegrass at the Horse Park, Lexington, Ky.: Thursday, Valerie Smith. Friday., IIIRD TYME Out, Lonesome River Band, Lewis Family and Wildfire. Saturday, Blue Highway, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Dry Branch Fire Squad, Seldom Scene, J.D. Crowe. Sunday, Kentucky Blue, Billie Renee & Cumberland Gap, Pickin' Time, The Moron Bros.

June 13-17. Bill Monroe Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival with too many to name all, but including Rhonda Vincent, The Lewis Family, Joe Isaacs, James Monroe, Charlie Waller & Country Gentlemen, Larry Sparks, Jesse McReynolds, Jimmy Martin, J.D. Crowe, Larry Stephenson Band, Ronnie Reno & Reno Tradition, Gary Brewer and many more.

June 24-26 Charlotte, Mich., Rhonda Vincent, Tommy Brown & County Line Grass, Flint River Boys, Jesse McReynolds, Lilly Bros., Lewis Family, The Village Singers, Larry Stephenson, Osborne Bros. Karl Shiflett and a pioneer of the music, now 97 years young, MR. WADE MAINER and his lifelong sweetheart and wife, JULIA. This show should be high on anybody's list.

Wrapping Up

I guess this is about a wrap for this time. Must include my usual reminder concerning Sunday Bluegrass, WFPK 91.9 FM, every Sunday night 8-11 p.m. The word is spreading via Internet and so are the listeners. A new example: The past month, a note from Nova Scotia. You can help. Tell all of the folks in your email address book, especially those out of our signal area, to go to, click on listen live and tune in. Let's watch for us at a festival this summer.