Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat
By Berk Bryant

Bluegrass Beat

OK, it's November, leaves are colored all kinds of colors and collecting on the ground. There's that bit of briskness in the air and a bit of a chill in the night air. This kind of air seems to make the skies much brighter and the stars at their peak. And that moon you can't beat it for effect.

Thoughts are really cranking up on the festivities to come. Halloween is just over and now everybody is looking forward to all of those shopping days for surprise Christmas gifts and Santa Claus. Wow, oh boy. Hey, wait a minute. Did we overlook something, forget, or have we sort of pushed it to the back burner. This is November. This is the month or should be, used to be of Thanksgiving. Yes, those blessings all year all of our lives. A time when there is that "other" special day that is set aside to bring families and friends together. Thanksgiving day is a traditional (oops, there's that word again) gathering of family, often described as a family day at grandmother's house for that special once-a-year meal. Rolls, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy and all of the other good dishes, including pumpkin pie. Yum, yum. All of this preceded by the saying of thanks for these fantastic blessings.

Busy, Busy

October was a very busy month. One of the bigger events was the Tennessee Fall Homecoming at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tenn. The usual attendance was down somewhat, as it is in many annual events this year. Saturday was a good day. Each day was good from my standpoint on Stage 3, the Overhang Barn stage which I manage. This year there were some of the biggest crowds at any given time that stayed longer around Stage 3. Extra chairs were brought out for the audience as many more as were already there and still many folks had to stand. It was the fine talent scheduled every day that brought the crowds, especially the group known as Dixie Gray. They were there for the first time last year and established a fan following as quick as any I've seen. Dixie Gray is three guys two brothers and the son of one them. Harmony: Wow! Right on and, as some say, would bring a tear to a glass eye. The guys immediately sold out of the CDs they had. Bet they'll bring more next year.

The Museum Of Appalachia band was good and did have "one of those moments." As they were playing, a group of school youngsters came up to the stage and the bass player motioned for them to come on up. They got right in a line and really got with it, dancing and just letting go. The audience couldn't get enough. The band was having the time of the week and so were the kids. All in all a very good moment right up there on par with a famous Kodak moment.

My very good friends Dr. Bill Foster and his wife Ann did an excellent job of entertaining the folks. Their daughter got there for Saturday and joined right in. Bill has a great sense of humor and he and his family play off of it in great fashion.

A very special surprise came for me when Raymond McLain came over for his turn on the show, followed by Mike Stevens. Mike is a fantastic harmonica player I met during my days at the festivals in Michigan. Mike is from Canada and has appeared many times with the Lewis Family, Jim & Jesse and others. He had not seen us for a couple of years or more. It was a real treat seeing him; he is really a great guy.

A few years ago one of the performers from Ohio, Dr. John Roger Simon, PhD, began research and study on Cowboy Copas. John was writing a book about Copas Grand Ole Opry star, great singer and a real fine gentleman. Hits such as "Filipino Baby," Tragic Romance," and "Tennessee Waltz."

Redd Stewart had once offered to sell "Tennessee Waltz" to Copas for twenty-five dollars. Things being tight money-wise, as they were then, Copas refused the offer. Ultimately, by a twist of fate, he did become the first one to record it. It was recorded on the King label and proved a very successful venture for Lloyd Estel "Cowboy" Copas.

It's all in this excellent book, including a very minute part I had in getting Doc Simon onto this bit. He was kind enough to bring me a copy and a CD that goes with the book. John, sir, I thank you very much. Oh, did I mention that he also heads up a pretty doggone good band?

There are and were so many great entertainers there I can't really cover all. But it was an enriching weekend. Honestly, you will see so many fine musicians and entertainment at the Homecoming that the chances of seeing its equal anywhere is very slim for most. There's Clinch Valley Bluegrass, Mr. Gene Horner and The Fiddle Shop Band, Cider Mountain Boys, Mountain Jam, and on and on. Think about it for next year.

The Gift of Bluegrass

Since this leaves only a relatively few shopping days okay, about six weeks, and you are not going to be shopping every day of those you bluegrass fans should consider the gift of a membership to the International Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro. Give it to that friend or family who is a true or should be bluegrasser. Give the Museum a call at 1-888-MY BANJO and tell 'em Berk sent you. It would be a nice gift.

What's happening

The Vine Grove jams are now inside City Hall. Vine Grove FRIDAY nights, starting about 6. All are welcome. As for some of the other jams, I am not sure what to tell you, as some may have moved for the winter, some may have stopped; just don't know right now. The New Silver Heights Bingo Hall, 9206 Blue Lick Road, is still on. Info at 502-773-5455. Shepherdsville Music Place: Nov. 7, RALPH STANLEY and Tommy Brown. Nov. 14, Audie Blaylock. Nov. 21, Vince Combs & Shade Tree Grass. Nov. 28, Bluegrass 101.

Stay tuned for more from Sunday Bluegrass, WFPK 91.9 FM, every Sunday night, 8-11 p.m. Y'all be good now, and do have a memorable Thanksgiving day, week, however long you will. Best and blessings to you.