Bluegrass Blog

#10 Rhonda Vincent Interview by Bob Goldberg

I managed to catch up with Rhonda Vincent, the First Lady of Bluegrass for a short talk before she took the stage at the 17th annual, Lake Havasu Bluegrass Festival put on by L&S Promotions. At Lake Havasu you can hike, boat, fish or sit back relax and listen to the music which is what I did. What I like about Lake Havasu and all the festivals is that it gives us a chance to connect with the music do some picking and meet up with our friends.
Born into a family of musicians, she started singing when she was only three years old and was recording songs at five!! She grew up in the town of Greentop, Missouri and is a fifth generation musician. She and her family listened to Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, Jim and Jesse, and the Osborne Brothers which were her greatest influences.
She said she loved the Osborne Brothers harmonies and their musical arrangements and tried to emulate everything that they did. Not only was she a pro at five  she also made her first studio recording at that time too with her mother. She recorded the Kitty Wells song, “How Far is Heaven” and the Hank Williams gospel song, “How Can You Refuse Him Now”. Her whole family, cousins, parents and friends were musicians, and she still carries on the tradition with her music today.
At Lake Havasu, like all of her shows everywhere, she likes to showcase her entire band the Rage, while infecting everyone with a love for Bluegrass      music. During the show her guitarist and singer Josh Williams did a solo and she introduced her fans to her daughter Sally Berry who has been touring with the band for four years now. Together they sang a song called  “Please” that  was recently recorded with Dolly Parton, and first recorded by Elton John in the 70s.
In 2010 she launched her new record label Upper Management and she had a release party in New York City at Times Square then off to the windy 86th floor which is the top of the Empire State Building to perform several other songs. She and her band have performed thousand of times nationally and won a Grammy for best Bluegrass Album in 2018 called, For All the Rage Volume One.
They have performed at the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and have a CD out now called Live at the Ryman. Rhonda said, that All the Rage Volume two is in the works, and they will continue to tour. I hope they do and look forward to seeing her in a theater here in Las Vegas again soon and for her to win a second Grammy!



The Bluegrass in the Spring Festival, was held in Calico with picking in the campground area on the 12th and the events and performances on the 13th and 14th. As Chris Cerna from The Bluegrass Republic said in one of his sets “We couldn’t have asked for better weather”, and that was what the whole weekend was like. So many towns, small and large across America loose their character,and historical nature but the city of Calico keeps its’ old tyme 1880s’ character. With places called Lane’s General Store, Lil’s Saloon and Drug Store, and the Zenda Mining Company, we can see what the old west was like, while enjoying listening to Bluegrass Music. Festivals here can be traced back forty years, but that didn’t include Bluegrass Music until recently. Eric Nordbeck, Southwest Bluegrass Association President, worked with the City of San Bernarndino, by suggesting Bluegrass bands to perform here and has helped greatly in making this a regular event. 

It was my first visit to the Calico Festival, and in addition to the music, there were all kinds of activities there, from clogging, line dancing, pig and dog racing and something new to me frog, jumping contests. After leaving the shuttle and arriving on main street, the first band I saw was BillHillyz, they invite you to join in and learn about how the settlers lived, grab a washboard lesson or sing along with them. In addition to BillHillz there were many other bands. The Rocky Neck Bluegrass Band, The Get Down Boys, Lilies of the West, Grasslands, Virtual Strangers, The Gold Heart Sisters, Chris Cerna and the Bluegrass Republic, Windy Ridge and the Rock Neck Bluegrass Band.

Mostly the bands were based in Southern California, except the Gold Heart Sisters who are based out of Hamilton, Virginia. I had a chance to listen to their toe-tapping music at the Saloon Area. Three sisters make up the band Tori, Shelby, and Jocey who write a lot of their own material and are joined on stage with family members dad, Trent who plays bass, and their fifteen year old brother on banjo, Kai.

Events were timed to be every half hour which would allow us to visit historic sites, then listen to bluegrass along main street. At Calico there was something for everybody there was line dancing, clogging, face painting, and workshops and performances for kids on playing Bluegrass music as well as for musicians interested in forming their own band. There were a lot of places to sit down on main street, visit a mine or two, and transport yourself back into time..


I had the great pleasure to run into Bill Blackburn shortly after arriving in Arizona, nigh on 6 years ago. As we’ve gotten to know each other, I recognized that Bill probably had quite a story to tell about the early days of bluegrass and the changes that he’s witnessed over the years. So I asked him if he’d mind setting a spell with me to talk about his music career and how bluegrass influenced his life.

It was 1951, Bill was just 17 and living in Washington DC, when the bluegrass bug bit him. He and a group of high school friends (including John Duffey, later of the Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene) began to get together to play “hillbilly” music as it was called back then. This was back in the days when Hank Williams, Earnest Tubb, Bill Monroe, Johnny and Jack, Flatt and Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers and several others were recording and getting airplay on the radio. Soon, Bill was able to listen to early days of bluegrass music on stations from West Virginia, Virginia, and even Texas, though this was before it was actually called bluegrass. The Saturday night shows featured live performances from Mac Wiseman, Doc Williams, Toby Stroud and others. “Unfortunately,” lamented Bill, “WSM in Nashville was usually hard to pick up. “

In 1960, Bill stepped back from the music scene for a while to concentrate on raising a family. Ten years later he ended up moving to Las Vegas, and in 1972 put an ad in the “Nifty Nickel” advertiser weekly asking for folks that were interested in bluegrass music to contact him. From the response to that little ad, the Southern Nevada Bluegrass Music Society was born and Bill put together his own band, Sagegrass.

Bill remembers one of the tougher gigs he had as a musician, “Sagegrass, with lead singer, J.D. Brant, was hired to play at the Frontier Hotel in Vegas. It was a steady job, performing six days a week for six hours a day…we were pooped!” But they were happy to be playing the music they loved (and to get paid for it!). Sagegrass was together for 15 years and provided quite a few special memories for Bill. Their first gig in Arizona was a festival in the Phoenix area back in 1978. Doug Piper was the promoter. Sagegrass was also invited to perform at the Prescott Bluegrass Festival in ’87 and ’88.

Along the way, Bill picked up a win at the Huck Finn band contest while playing with The Shady Creek Band. The band then went on to perform at IBMA’s World of Bluegrass in a promotional contest. He also influenced a whole lot of folks including a couple of the more famous names. “I was the first person Bill Emerson ever saw play a banjo live” mentioned Bill. “I told him later that I didn’t know how that would inspire anyone to do anything!” He also helped Mark Delaney, now with Danny Paisley, get started in the early ‘80s.

By the time he and his wife Shirley moved to Arizona (1993), he already knew so many pickers from the festival circuits of the 70s and 80s that it was easy to reconnect. Through the years he’s enjoyed the company of so many fine friends, both pickers and grinners. And that’s what has made a lasting impression on him. “I do really enjoy a good jam where everyone is respectful of both the other musicians/singers AND the tune,” Bill said.

I asked Bill what he felt when he plays his music. “My wife Shirley says I go into another world” he reflected. “I guess another word for it is concentration.” I think many of us recognize that when we really tune in to our music, we end up tuning everything else out…and sometimes that level of concentration can be, well, “frustrating” to those we love!

According to the advice a friend gave to him a while back, there are three reasons to play music: 1) money, 2) ego, and 3) fun. Bill’s emphasis has always been on having FUN! And that’s his advice to any up and coming bluegrass musicians, just “hang in there and have fun!!” As far what he thinks the future holds for bluegrass, Bill paused thoughtfully before saying, “[Bluegrass] seems to have its ups and downs. I believe it has a solid base, no matter what form it takes – traditional, contemporary, or progressive – and that we should not abandon any of these forms. But it’s okay to enjoy your favorite!” I couldn’t agree with you more, Bill!

Bill had this to say as his parting shot, “Keep on pickin’ and grinnin’. Long Live Bluegrass!” Can I get an “Amen!”

# 7 BANJO LESSONS AT MY AGE by Marv Couture


Okay, let’s get it over with. I’m 71 years old, and I’m a banjo student. Yes, that’s right. And I assume a certain set of problems comes with the situation. No one has told me what those problems will be, and I’m not sure myself which of the problems I’m experiencing are associated with advanced age and which are just problems that anyone of any age might encounter when studying Bluegrass banjo.

It’s a long story actually. Many years ago, when I was in my 30’s, I bought a banjo and started taking lessons where I lived in Illinois. I enjoyed the lessons so much that I decided to upgrade my banjo. So I bought a kit and put it together myself. What a difference in the sound of the new banjo!

I continued to enjoy my lessons and my new banjo. Then I decided that I didn’t want to continue working as a psychiatric social worker and opted to go to law school. I continued to work full-time and went to law school evenings. Suddenly there was no time for banjo lessons, and I eventually sold my banjo. Fast forward to retirement. I retired to Israel, where I am a citizen. My Israeli family, whom I had told about my earlier experience with the banjo, gave me a banjo for my birthday in 2013. Initially I wasn’t very pleased. I wasn’t ready to take it up again. I had recently moved to Las Vegas from Israel and was too busy exploring my new home to start banjo lessons all over again.

Eventually, however, I got the old itch back and decided to dust off the banjo and start taking lessons again. I went online and found a tutoring service, which connected me with Andrew Chute, who lives in Henderson and plays professionally the guitar, banjo, mandolin, and ukulele. In November 2015 I had my first lesson with Andrew, who has been the picture of patience for the past year.

I’m not learning as fast as I want to. I’ve learned a heck of a lot and enjoy both the lessons and the practicing. Andrew teaches both technique and music theory. I didn’t initially understand why he was bothering with the theory, but with time I began to understand that a little knowledge of some music theory will allow me to do things on my banjo that are independent of the techniques I learn from Andrew and other sources. I’m a very visual learner, so the theory has been hard for me to comprehend. Music theory does not lend itself to visualization.

I eventually decided that I needed Andrew to recommend some books on music theory. Seeing things printed on paper has always helped me. I don’t have the music theory books yet but will devour them when I get them.

So what kinds of problems in learning the banjo are peculiar to old age? I wish I knew, because then I could isolate those problems and focus on them. Andrew has not identified any age-related problems in my learning. I don’t think my muscular reactions are any slower now than they were a decade or more ago. I don’t have any problems memorizing songs that I’m learning. Yet I can’t seem to get up to speed in the songs I’m learning. And I really struggle with the metronome. Andrew is forever reminding me of the importance of using the metronome whenever I practice.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the metronome problem might be the main age-related problem in my learning experience. It seems obvious that whatever you find hardest is the least attractive option. So for me there’s a constant struggle to get myself to use the darned metronome each time I pick up my banjo. I’ve determined that I’m supposed to “feel” the metronome, not just learn which note I should be picking when the metronome makes its sound.

I use a metronome app on my smartphone. That enables me to use earphones when I’m using the metronome. While Andrew pointed out that this permits me to walk around when I’m practicing, I’ve found that the primary advantage of using the earphones for the metronome is that it spares the nerves (to say nothing of the ears) of anyone within hearing range of my practicing. I’ve been told that the sound of the banjo itself, while annoying to a listener, is not half as offensive as the sound of the metronome. Keeping peace in the home therefore requires using the earphones. That way there’s only one annoying sound (that of the banjo played by a learner) instead of two.

As I said, I’ve been taking lessons for a year now. Periodically during the year I’ve determined that there’s no way that I’m ever going to be able to play well enough to participate in a jam. At those times I want to give it all up. Then I remind myself that I’m fundamentally a very stubborn person who doesn’t like quitting. Stubbornness can be considered a character flaw, but when it comes to my banjo, my stubbornness is a blessing. I told myself 6 months ago that, if I persist in my banjo lessons for a year, in December I will allow myself to upgrade my banjo.

I’ve obviously persisted for a year, and December is just a month away. I think I will probably actually indulge myself and get that new banjo. It’ll serve at least two purposes: First, it will improve the sound of my playing (which should keep me interested for a while longer); and secondly, I will feel an obligation to continue my lessons and my practicing because I have to justify spending money on the new banjo.

Furthermore, although law school was responsible for my cessation of banjo lessons all those many years ago, I do not, at the age of 71, anticipate beginning medical school or a Ph.D. program in the foreseeable future. It’s tempting, I admit, but not practical. So I think I can justify a new banjo, and I can only hope that my spouse, my dogs, and the neighbors can tolerate the noise.

Who knows? Someday I might play well enough to participate in a jam.



Starting in the early 1970s, almost every weekend in the summer I could be found going to an old-time fiddler’s convention or a bluegrass festival. Traveling from festival to festival in my 1964 Volvo sedan, I was rarely seen without a fiddle under one arm and a cassette tape recorder under the other. As the years rolled by, my collection of cassettes grew to be enormous. About a year ago I donated my trove of cassettes to The Southern Folklore Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This is a major repository of folk material, and I knew my tapes would not only be safe and secure there, but they would eventually be digitized and made available to the general public.

Recently, while rummaging though a storage closet at my home, I discovered yet another box with about one hundred worn and battered cassette tapes that I had completely forgotten about. In starting to go through this box of forgotten tapes, I discovered one that said, “Snuffy Jenkins Interview, 1/10/76.” Dang! I had all but forgotten all about that. Thinking back, I remembered that forty years ago I visited with Snuffy Jenkins at a TV station near Hickory, North Carolina, where I was living at that time. Snuffy was getting ready to record a TV segment for the local station with his old musical partner, fiddler Pappy Sherrill. Also on the program was another of Snuffy’s old sidekicks and a member of the Hired Hands, Greasy Medlin. Greasy, whose real name was Julian Leonard Medlin, had performed blackface comedy in medicine and tent shows as well as vaudeville. Also on the program that day were the Jones Brothers & the Log Cabin Boys out of Charlotte, North Carolina.

When I held the cassette tape of Snuffy Jenkins in my hand, I knew this interview was important because many people have pointed to Snuffy Jenkins as the man responsible for influencing both Earl Scruggs and Don Reno to play in a three-finger banjo style. Below is an exact transcription of our conversation that day forty years ago.

Wayne Erbsen: Hey Snuffy, tell me how you got started.

Snuffy Jenkins: Well, I started with the guitar, I reckon, when I was about 12, 13, somewhere in that neighborhood. I’m from Harris, down there by the border. It wasn’t four or five miles from the South Carolina line.

WE: Did your whole family play?

SJ: Yeah, most of them were musically inclined. Of course, I was the youngest in the family. I heard these two fellows from down around Ellenboro and Mooresboro, North Carolina that were playing with three fingers, you know. I was playing guitar at the time. I liked the way it sounded, we had a banjo, I took to liking it. I tried it and liked it. I figured I could work three fingers as good as you could with two. At that time, most all of the people were frailing or playing two finger banjo. They put the third finger in there, you know, you could get a lot more notes and it made it that much easier. so that’s where I got started. I don’t think I started the three finger style banjo picking, but I do claim that I was about the first one to go on the air with it.

WE: Who were the two guys?

SJ: That was Rex Brooks and Smith Hammett. They lived 25 miles from me. They were closer to Earl Scruggs than they were to me.

WE: They didn’t start it, did they?

SJ: I’ve heard so many tales…I don’t know where it got started. I’d be afraid to say. It caught on like a wildfire and went all over the country.

WE: That’s probably because of you.

SJ: I think Earl done more for it than I did because he was on a bigger station in Nashville, while I was on a 5000 watt station in Columbia.

WE: How did you meet Earl?

SJ: We were playing shows all over North and South Carolina with the Hired Hands. Went under different names like JE. Mainer’s Mountaineers, Byron Parker and his Hillbillies, WIS Hillbillies. I started with JE Mainer in 1936 in Charlotte. I was playing banjo, J.E, played the fiddle, George Morris, and Leonard Stokes. We went from WSOC in Charlotte to Spartanburg, We didn’t stay there too long. Byron Parker got with us and we went to Columbia in 1937 and we’ve been there ever since. I stayed on that station for about 26 years. Television come in and show business wasn’t too good so I got to doing something else, and picking on the side.

WE: What have you been doing?

SJ: Right now I’m a car salesman at a Chevrolet dealership, I’ve been down there about 18 years.

WE: Let’s get back to Earl Scruggs. How did you meet him?

SJ: He would come around where we were playing these shows. Me and him would get back stage. He was already playing. He had a brother that played some too. Junie. He got a lot of his stuff from Junie, and of course, me and him would play some stuff together. I don’t claim to have taught him anything…or Don Reno. But Don says I taught him. I can’t claim that. I didn’t do too much teaching.

WE: What was Earl’s style like when you met him?

SJ: Well, the same thing. He was playing with three fingers. He was just a young boy.

WE: Was he a great musician then?

SJ: No, he was just starting out.

WE: How often did you get together with Earl?

SJ: Just whenever we played in his territory.

WE: Did he ask you questions or did you show him anything?

SJ: No, not too much because he was a little on the backwards side, you know. He was just a young boy and wouldn’t want to force himself, you know. He turned out real good. Laughing.

WE: He claims that he learned a lot from you.

SJ: He listened to me on the radio. I noticed that me and him had about the same lick with the fingers. I don’t know whether he copied me. I guess he did, partly. I would love to play with him anyway.

WE: When I would see Scruggs on stage, he never seemed to smile.

SJ: He never did look like he was enjoying it too much, but he was. I like to look like I’m having a good time whether I am or not. That’s part of the game, you know. You can get by with a lot more like that. He’d just stand up there and pick and get more out of it than I can.

WE: How did you meet up with Don Reno?

SJ: He was about the same age as Earl. He was born and raised around Union, South Carolina. He’d come around when we was playing, He was using the two finger. I said “you can use three just as well as you can use two and get twice as much. Don can play more banjo than me or Earl, either one, frankly. He does a lot more stuff. Somehow I like it clean. If you play too fancy a banjo, why you’re going to shoot over most people’s head, except musicians. That’s about all I can tell you right now.

WE: I notice you don’t use a capo.

SJ: I never have.

WE: Don Reno doesn’t use a capo either. Do you reckon he got that from you?

SJ: I don’t know, he could have.

WE: If you don’t capo up and play other chords, what do you do about the 5th string?

SJ: I just don’t hit it. I just hit the string you want to bring out, you know.

WE: Besides Rex Brooks and Smith Hammet, were there other people around who played banjo?

SJ: That was about 1928 when I started. There wasn’t nothing happening back then. Just the depression.


For information about Wayne Erbsen’s instruction books and songbooks for bluegrass and clawhammer banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar and ukulele, visit If you would like to receive a free Native Ground Books & Music monthly email newsletter containing articles, tips, tabs and discount coupons send your name and email address to



Words are important. I think we can all agree with that statement. We don’t often think about the beauty of language as we’re speaking it. Words roll off the tongue as quickly as the ideas that prompt them come to our minds. The lyrics of songs are words set to music, yet they are so much more. Lyrics of country and Bluegrass songs often have a beauty and simplicity that belie their profound meaning and insight into the human soul.

I have been in awe of words – every aspect of words – as far back as my memory goes. One of my earliest specific memories about words was in elementary school when I misspelled a word in a spelling test and cried all the way home in the school bus. It’s embarrassing to recall (even more embarrassing to relate), but there you have it. My obsession with words.

In high school I was obsessed with Latin, and my Latin teacher named a grammatical rule the Couturian law because I insisted on its enforcement. I also wrote poetry – you know, the kind with rhyme and rhythm. The stuff you actually recognize as poetry. I studied Latin, Greek, German, and French in college – simultaneously. I studied Italian when I attended college in Rome and learned Hebrew on a kibbutz in Israel. As an Israeli citizen I still use my Hebrew.

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in forensic settings, and then as an attorney, probing the meanings and uses of words was crucial to a productive practice. I strove to understand the hidden meanings in words used by psychiatric patients. In a legal setting words win or lose cases.

So why do I tell you these things? Well, mainly to demonstrate how much I love words and why they bowl me over when I see them used cleverly, as they are in so many country and Bluegrass songs. Here is a short list of some very witty, and very pithy, lyrics that illustrate my point:

  1. You put me on my feet the day you took her off my hands (songwriter Burnette 1959)
  2. If my phone still ain’t ringin’, I assume it still ain’t you (from a Randy Travis song)
  3. She plays second fiddle to my old banjo (Flatt and Scruggs 1960)
  4. I thought my heart was fireproof but you burned your way (Flatt/Scruggs 1959)
  5. Old flames can’t hold a candle to you (Dolly Parton)
  6. On one hand hand I count the reasons I could stay with you, but on the other hand there’s a golden band that reminds me of someone who would not understand (Randy Travis)

So many of the lyrics are full of metaphor. In number 3 above, the phrase “second fiddle,” though originally used as a reference to the musician who plays secondarily to a number 1 fiddler and became a reference to anyone who performs as an adjunct to someone else even in a non-musical setting, actually seems to refer to a fiddler playing back-up to a banjo player. But the real meaning in the song is that the banjo player’s girlfriend is not as important to him as his banjo is. We’re dealing with at least three layers of meaning. Everyone gets the intended meaning, and everyone gets the “joke.”

Randy Travis’s lyric about the golden ring in number 6 above uses the expression “on the other hand” in both of its possible meanings – all in the same sentence. This clever verbal device also inspires a smile because he is so obviously playing with the words in what appears to be a simple way but is actually a very clever double use of the expression.

These lyrics are so playful and grin-inspiring on the one hand and yet so insightful and often tragic on the other hand. What quality in country and Bluegrass creates such cleverness? Well, skill with words and heightened insight into the use of words helps. But why do I hear this so much more in Country and Bluegrass music than I do in other genres? I search for an answer and come up short probably because I don’t have that creative Bluegrass “soul,” but that begs the question.

The simple fact is that I don’t know why such clever, humorous, insightful lyrics are so prominent in country/Bluegrass music. I will keep trying to figure out which characteristics of the country soul make such creations possible. But, in the end, I will mostly just keep listening to and marveling at the wisdom in the lyrics.

I welcome additions to my list of witty and playful lyrics. If there’s sufficient interest I will publish more in future articles. My email address is (Yehuda is my Israeli first name.)

# 4 We Are All Orphans Again by Marv Couture


Bluegrass great Ralph Stanley died on June 23, 2016, of skin cancer. While Bill Monroe is often called the “father of Bluegrass,” Dr. Ralph Stanley deserves the appellation “stepfather of Bluegrass.” (He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music by Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, in 1976 and was often referred to using the “Dr.” title.)

Ralph Stanley grew up in rural Virginia in a musically talented family. He often heard his father sing church music, and his mother and her eleven siblings all played the 5-string banjo. Ralph’s aunt bought him his first banjo when he was 15 or 16 years old. Ralph’s brother Carter (who with Ralph comprised the Stanley Brothers) played guitar and sang. The brothers formed the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1946 and played together in that group until Carter’s death in 1966 of cirrhosis. Both brothers wrote songs, but Ralph considered Carter the better songwriter. After Carter’s death, Ralph kept the group’s name and performed with it until his death last month.

A list of the Clinch Mountain Boys band’s members from 1967 to 2016 includes 33 men, including Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley. In the year 2000 Ralph Stanley sang “O Death” in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? That appearance won Ralph a 2002 Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance – this at the age of 75! Ralph was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor and was the first person to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in the third millennium. In 2006, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Ralph’s autobiography, Man of Constant Sorrow, was published in 2009. He announced a farewell tour in 2013 but decided against retirement when he was elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014.

Ralph Stanley’s contributions to Bluegrass music – indeed to American culture in general – earned him the respect and gratitude of all Bluegrass aficionados whether pickers or grinners. If there is a heaven and, if musical instruments are permitted through its gates, it’s not difficult to imagine being entertained by Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, and Earl Scruggs. That would be a concert worth dying for!

# 3 You Will Be Missed Dr. Stanley by Joe Kahl


Dr. Ralph Stanley passed last month on June 23rd. It was a Thursday and I didn’t watch any of the national news shows to see what would be said of Dr. Stanley. That Sunday morning on a TV show of the same name, he was eulogized along with two other famous people that had passed away that week. Ralph Stanley was treated with great respect due a man who was an icon of the Bluegrass world. What I found so touching about this news segment was the music that was used in the background. It was, I believe, an old Stanley Brothers recording of “Will You Miss Me”. How perfect was that? Of course, we will miss you when you’re gone Ralph Stanley.

Some of us might not have seen and heard him in person. I didn’t get to see Ralph and Carter Stanley together but I was fortunate to see Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1994 and 1995. I do remember him playing “Big Tilda” and talking about how he learned that tune from his Mother. He seemed a sweet and gentle person when signing albums after the show and very appreciative of all the people who came by to say hello.

Ralph Stanley and Guy Clark passed away this year; Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, and Mike Auldridge in 2012. Bill Monroe and John Duffey left us in 1996. These are some of my musical giants; there are many more that mean just as much to the rest of us. We are so fortunate to have access to their music in oh so many ways. You didn’t have to see them to be moved by their talent and their ability to move us thanks to them leaving us such a wealth of recordings. I feel so lucky to bring their music to the airwaves every week

Yes, we will miss you when you’re gone but we won’t forget you or your music.

# 2 Bright Star by Marv Couture


Bluegrass comes to Broadway! Steve Martin and Edie Brickell have written a Broadway musical entitled “Bright Star” that opened on Broadway April 17. It’s a story set in the South in the mid-twentieth century, and the music is Bluegrass. All but two of its songs were written by Martin and Brickell. Finally Broadway is learning what we knew all along; namely that Bluegrass music is a treat for the ears and is ready to make the bigtime – if you consider Broadway the bigtime. (We are Las Vegas people, so to us bigtime is what happens in this here Valley.)

The appearance of a Bluegrass musical on Broadway could have a dramatic effect on the way Bluegrass music is perceived by the broader public. Back in the ‘60’s Bob Dylan sang “Girl from the North Country” with Johnny Cash on Dylan’s album “Nashville Skyline.” That collaboration seemed to make country-Western music palatable to Dylan fans. A large portion of the music fans in the USA thought of country music as belonging to “hicks” and “hoosiers” exclusively, but Dylan’s acceptance of the country genre made it acceptable to fans who previously wouldn’t be caught dead at a country music venue.

The same kind of result could happen to Bluegrass after it hits Broadway. If New York really is the barometer by which to judge the popularity of everything from food to music, then we might anticipate a huge boost in the popularity of Bluegrass music. To that we say, “Bring it on! We can handle anything they throw at us.” We might have to order a huge printing of our membership cards!

# 1 Patchwork by Joe Kahl


My name is Joe Kahl. I’m a board member of the Southern Nevada Bluegrass Music Society (SNBMS) and a volunteer DJ at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’s radio station, KUNV (91.5 FM,

I want to thank the members of the SNBMS who recently supported our recent Spring pledge drive at KUNV. Your pledges help keep us on the airwaves and more importantly keep my program, Patchwork, on every Saturday morning from 8 to 10 am. Patchwork is the only radio program that features Bluegrass in the Southern Nevada area.

Patchwork has been on KUNV since January 1, 1989. It started out as a 1 hour show featuring for the most part folk and bluegrass. Within a couple of years, it became primarily a bluegrass show when KUNV welcomed Dr. Dave Weide’s Mostly Folk show from KNPR after it had been dropped due to program changes. Actually my program benefited greatly from KNPR when one of the former DJ’s for their bluegrass show, Bluegrass Express, was able to get their bluegrass music library transferred to KUNV. That DJ was Marty Warburton of the Warburton Family Band and I think at the time the President of the SNBMS.

Years later, when Dave Weide retired Mostly Folk, Patchwork returned to the original format it started with. Patchwork is an eclectic program that features bluegrass, folk and Americana with a whole lot of related musical styles in between. From Bill Monroe to the Grateful Dead but always music from the heart to your heart. Music is such a wondrous thing and I so lucky and grateful to be able to present Patchwork every Saturday morning. Thanks to the SNBMS for keeping BLUEGRASS alive in Southern Nevada for the last 40 years!