Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

April Fool, yeah you sure did. What did you do with spring? You just had to bring those co(brrr)ld days and nights out for one more shot. Well, at long last, as I am writing this, I believe your bad joke is over. Weatherman is talking 70s next week. So there, start behaving yourself now, May has taken over and a fresh breath of warm days, blooms and buds will burst forth without fear of being in cold storage.

Park Festivals Fizzled

I was rather excited last time over the prospect of four festivals ready to go, put on by the Kentucky State Parks. I attended the first one at Rough River. The show was good and provided a good opportunity to visit with friends I hadn't seen for a while. Friends like Larry Cordle. Unfortunately, the attendance left much to be desired. The folks I have talked with since can't seem to pinpoint a cause. Only you, the readers of this, the fans of bluegrass who want the shows and festivals and do not go, can answer this. The State Parks had a ready answer: The remaining three festivals were canceled, including the one at Frankfort featuring EARL SCRUGGS and Tom T. Hall. I can't imagine such a lack of interest in a bluegrass show that features Earl. It couldn't have been the price - advance tickets $20; at the door $25. I emphasize that this is something I was told and I do not know the validity of the statement, but someone said that advance ticket sales were only 20! What is your answer?

New News

This is one time I am able to get something in on the deadline and not have to wait until it is a month old. Half the time, things happen the day after deadline time. Monday, the 16th last, I had a call at about 8:30 a.m. The caller was Joe Gray, who is doing video/audio oral histories of the legends of bluegrass and old-time music for the International Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro. Joe told me they were going to Circleville, Ohio, to record Tony Ellis.

I have known Tony for 50-plus years and that is why I was invited. I, of course, jumped at the chance. Gray asked me if I could or would be willing to come up and be a part of it. I asked what time. They were planning to do the taping Thursday morning. Joe called me later that day to give me more details. He had talked to Tony and we had been invited to come Wednesday night and stay with them. They run Braeburn Farm Bed & Breakfast.

When I arrived at Circleville, I stopped at a service station to ask directions, thinking anyone there would be able to point me to the Bed & Breakfast. That didn't happen, but the lady did know where Zane Trail Road is and that did help. What didn't help was my left rear wheel hitting the edge of a curb and I soon had a big fat flat on that tire. I made it a short way down the road, crossed Zane Trail Road and turned into the first driveway I could find to get out of traffic. My next "good" move was to call AAA.

Then I called Tony, because I knew I couldn't be too far from his place and wouldn't know which way to go ON Zane Trail Rd. His wife showed up with him and he waited for AAA to get there and show me the way to his place. The person who lived there got home about the same time and I quickly explained why I was blocking his driveway. Fortunately, this fellow was understanding and didn't object.

Put the "donut" spare on and we went to Braeburn Farm. They have a rather large farm that has been in Louise's family for many years. Tony let the dogs out - two beagles and a St. Bernard that looks like "Howard Hugo's" younger brother. We took a walk about halfway to the back side of the farm, which stretches from one road to the next parallel road. It was a very pleasant experience of the type I haven't had to opportunity to do for much too long. Reminded me of the days I spent with my cousins on their farm during the summers when I was growing up.

Back to the house and soon after a bowl of some fine homemade chili. A little later Joe Gray and his assistant, Tony Slone, arrived. After getting acquainted and socializing for a while, we all headed off to bed. Downing a breakfast of Tony's homemade biscuits, scrambled eggs, country ham and gravy, it was time to get down to business.

Furniture was moved and lights, cameras and chairs were put in place. Up until this time I thought I was just going to be a contributor and then I found out I was to be the interviewer.

I don't know how much we recorded but I do know both cameras ran out of tape about three times. It was a truly wonderful experience. I do appreciate being picked to be a part of this.

Just a very brief summary: When I first met Tony Ellis, he was in his teens and I was the local country DJ. Tony was in the early stage of his development on the banjo. His first membership in a band was with the Virginia Mountaineers we had going. It wasn't too long and Tony moved on and up to join Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys. After about two-and-a-half years, Tony made another change and began developing his banjo style, which encounters and covers more than bluegrass music. I had not seen Tony for years and all of a sudden here he comes to Louisville on the Masters Of The Banjo tour. It is always a good thing to have opportunities to renew old acquaintances.

Oh, I knew there was something else about that trip to clear up and that's that ruined tire. I made a decision to get something that would get me back to Kentucky. Tony called a place near him that does vehicle work for him and found that they had some used tires, good enough for what I needed. Louise took my car to them while we were talking on tape and brought a van of theirs home. When the talking and visiting was done. we went to get my car. I was putting some stuff in my car while Tony went inside. I got there to take care of my bill and the fellow refused to take payment. He mentioned that he had some used tires around and the ones that were good enough to use he did and otherwise would just be thrown away. There are still good people in this world.

And so how was your week?

Just Happened to Mention

If that wasn't enough for one week, before leaving on my trip, I stopped by my bank to get some traveling money. I learned again right there what an offhand remark can lead to. I mentioned to the young lady who was helping me that I was going to Ohio for this project and that I have a show in Louisville on Sunday nights. She said her dad used to play guitar in Nashville, so I naturally asked his name. I was not prepared for the answer - Scotty Moore. She is the daughter of the Scotty Moore who played guitar for Elvis. I had met Scotty Moore several times and had been slightly acquainted with him. Now what are the odds of that!

A Peek at Who's Playing

May 6, 12:30 p.m., Kentucky Sassafras, at Kentucky Colonel's BBQ in Louisville

May 11 at First Quality, WHAS Crusade Benefit

May 19, Forestfest, Louisville

May 18-19, Bardstown Bluegrass Festival.

May 24-26, Hills of Home Park (Old Home Place) between Coeburn and McClure, Va., Dr. Ralph Stanley's Memorial Weekend Bluegrass Festival. Performers, to name a few: Ralph, Larry Sparks, Cherryholmes, Gillian Welch, David Davis, Jim Lauderdale and Porter Wagoner.

May 30-31 & June 1, Morehead, Ky., Pete Wernick's Bluegrass Jam camp.

(Date)Bluegrass 101 Bardstown Bluegrass Festival, White Acres Campground, Bardstown, Ky., Sassafras (two days), Moron Bros., Blue River, Timberline Drive, Ky. Wind, Dan Paisley and Southern Grass, David Peterson and Bluegrass 101.

I think that's enough for this time. Keep checking in on WFPK 91.9 every Sunday night 8-11, for bluegrass, traditional country and old-time country on the shortest, fastest and the bestest three hours in radio. Thanks, folks and see you there.