Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Shout and jump for joy - spring is another month closer. I, for one, think it can't get here early enough or soon enough. Enough of this cold and all the things winter likes to serve up, uh, let's make that down. I never have to shovel an inch of sunshine and I've never found a road covered with sunshine to be a slick road. There is a road sign near us that says, "Slippery when icy." I have never seen one warning of sunshine. Bring on the springtime.

Photo of Art Stamper
Photo By Photo by Berk Bryant
Art Stamper

So long, Art

As everybody is aware by now, Art Stamper died of throat cancer January 23. Art had a mighty difficult row to plow, especially the last year or two. He plowed with his fiddle as often as he was able. I believe it was his music, fiddle and friends that contributed much strength to the fight.

As I said on the January 30 tribute show on WFPK, I am not 100% about this, but I think I have heard that Art's first public appearance was with the Stanley Brothers. His first recording, that I know of, was with the Stanleys when he was 14 or 16; I have heard both. He recorded four numbers on that Rich-R-Tone session.

Be that as it may, I found it to be ironic and "full circle" that his last public appearance was with Dr. Ralph Stanley. Art came to see Ralph at Shepherdsville January 7. He was invited on stage and played two numbers. He had some copies of his last and newly released CD, Wake Up Darlin' Corey, with him.

The illness took a great toll on Art as it finally took him and it also took a great toll on the music as well. Art Stamper was acclaimed and acknowledged as one of the best and most knowledgeable old-time mountain fiddlers in the country and perhaps the world. I might add, he was no slouch as a bluegrass fiddler, as evidenced by the amount of time he played for such notables as Bill Monroe, Dr. Ralph Stanley, the Goins Brothers and so many more.

Art will be remembered for the time he cherished in standing for hours in a hallway, on the street, or wherever, to encourage and fiddle with and give pointers to young people as long as they could hold a fiddle and a bow. If a small group of impromptu beginners, or others, finally drifted away, so did Art - to the next gathering he could find.

I must thank Blake Stamper, Art's son, for coming in to my show and for all of the help he gave me by participating and making it a successful program. Thank you, Blake and come back anytime.

As we all feel, our sympathies go out to all of the family. And to Kay, Mrs. Art Stamper, you were a wonderful caretaker of him for many years.

Where have I heard that name?

Pine Mountain Railroad. Now where have I heard that name before? Let's see, was it at Norris, Tenn., last October? No, before that? Oh, I saw it on a CMH CD. But more recently? Now I know, they were at Shepherdsville last month. A doggone good show, fellows. Energetic and crowd pleasers. They'll be back.

Strange who you meet sometimes. It turned out their bass-playing man, Bill McBee and I shared Army duties in the same field - different areas of the field - but, we each knew what the other would have been doing. Seems I sort of followed him in Vietnam. I think he came back the year I went. As they say, small world.

Bill also does PR for the band and hopes to stop by WFPK some Sunday night when they are passing through Louisville. That will be good.

More small world

Another interesting meeting happened this last month. My friend Richard Briggs often goes with me to Shepherdsville for the Friday-night bluegrass shows. On one such occasion last month, a friend I hadn't seen for quite a while came over to say hello after the show: Jim Armstrong, who I met in Virginia a few years ago.

Jim is originally from Louisville and we have a mutual friend, Bob Mitchell. Jim is a fiddle player and had a band in Virginia. After the show, a usual practice with a few of us is to go to The Kitchen and have a biscuit, coffee and visit. (No more donuts, Berk? - Your friendly former editor.)

Jim and his wife were barely seated when something was mentioned about history, the Civil War, etc. Before we knew it, Richard and Jim were deep in conversation. A friendship was quickly established and sealed when it came out that Richard Briggs and Jim's father were in the same unit in Germany during WWII, at they same time. They didn't know each other, but it made good conservation and a new friendship. Just think, this was brought about because two strangers met at a BLUEGRASS concert. Otherwise it probably would never have happened.

Not much to put in about who's pickin where but here it is, such as it is:

?SHEPHERDSVILLE: March 4, Moron Bros., Clyde & Marie Denny.

March 11, Wildwood Valley Boys.

March 18, Big Country Bluegrass.

March 25, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver.

April 1, Doc Mercer, Wayne Lewis & Cumberland Highlanders.

Well, the editor sprung an earlier deadline on us this time and I just made it. Well, it is the short month of the year. GOOD, maybe Spring will get here a little quicker. Dogwoods out behind our house look like they're ready to go now. Makes you think about getting your act together and heading for a bluegrass festival. They'll be in season before you know it, so don't get caught short - get ready.

Join me, every Sunday night from 8-11, for Sunday Bluegrass, WFPK 91.9 FM and streaming bluegrass, traditional country and old-time country worldwide. To let out-of-the-area friends know how to share in the show, tell them to go to our website, WFPK.org, click on "listen live," and follow the instructions. Hang in there;spring is on the way.