November 2019 - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Puddin’ On a Show at Farm and Fun Time

Great singers and songwriters were showcased at November’s Farm and Fun Time! Thanks to our sponsor Eastman Credit Union, Radio Bristol was able to bring the program not only to those in the audience or tuned in to WBCM-LP, but to viewers far and wide via Facebook Live. Be sure to like WBCM – Radio Bristol on Facebook to tune in every month!

Starting the show with their familiar harmonies, Bill and the Belles kicked off the evening with a rousing set that included the classic “I Get the Blues When It Rains.” Our “Heirloom Recipe” segment was presented by none other than Kinney Rorrer, acclaimed old-time music scholar and the great-nephew of both Posey Rorrer and Charlie Poole. Kinney recalled a favorite dessert his mother made: banana pudding. Kinney’s mother learned to make the dessert from her grandmother, who prepared it as part of the meals she would sell to mill workers. Kinney believed that banana pudding of that quality could never be found again when his mother passed away, but he was delighted to find his neighbor, a transplanted South Carolinian, could make it just like his mother did. To commemorate this sweet southern staple, Bill and the Belles composed an ode dedicated to pudding. And everyone was ready for a big serving afterwards!

Kinney Rorrer delivering an “a-peeling” recipe for banana pudding. Bill and the Belles croon a tune about pudding without a single slip up. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Billie Wheeler

Up first on the show was McKay & Leigh. Composed of veteran songwriters and performers Noel McKay and Brennen Leigh, the duo performed covers of classic duets and original compositions, dazzling the Farm and Fun Time audience with their wordplay. Two of Leigh’s original compositions “John Deere Model H” and “Analog” were among the most outstanding songs of the evening, as they convey the longing for days gone by that seems to be a common thread among country music musicians and fans alike. The message of “Analog” is timely in our current age of technology, which sometimes overwhelms the more human side of things and serves as a reminder that we should just put the phone down and enjoy life again.

McKay & Leigh sang beautifully hand-crafted songs in perfect harmony. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Billie Wheeler

For this month’s “Farm Report,” we did something a little bit different, visiting Taylor Malone in Johnson City, Tennessee. Though not technically a farmer, Taylor forages for food across the Tri-Cities and finds wild and tasty foods where you’d least expect them.  Check out this video of our visit with Taylor at the Mountain Home Food Forest:

Following the “Farm Report,” Kinney Rorrer joined host band Bill and the Belles for a rendition of Charlie Poole’s “Goodbye, Booze.” Kinney grew up hearing stories about Charlie Poole and Posey Rorrer’s larger-than-life exploits, and he works to tell these stories and share their music in his own band The New North Carolina Ramblers. Our last musical guest of the evening was Smithsonian Folkways recording artists Lula Wiles. A trio made up of Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland, and Mali Obomsawin, Lula Wiles draws heavily from their early experiences playing folk music in New England and the social consciousness that is associated with that tradition. Playing songs with thought-invoking messages, Lula Wiles presented songs off their record and finished up with the Dolly Parton classic “The Pain of Loving You.

Lula Wiles performed a dynamic set of music from their recent Smithsonian Folkways release. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Billie Wheeler

Thanks to everyone who came out and made this a wonderful evening of fun and music! There are still a few tickets left for December’s Farm and Fun Time Christmas Ball on Friday, December 13. Be a part of our live audience and celebrate the holiday season with High Fidelity, The McLain Family Band, and host band Bill and the Belles!

Pick 5: Take It Easy On Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day!

As the holiday season approaches, you’ve surely had your nose to the grindstone and have been taking all your endeavors seriously for the past 11 or so months. Do you feel like perhaps you’ve been taking things a little too seriously? If you feel burnout encroaching and your work ethic slipping, you should consider celebrating Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day!

Nathan sitting on the porch, playing guitar with a cup of coffee beside him. He is wearing his pajamas!
Me loosening up and lightening up on the porch!

Celebrated annually on November 14, Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day reminds us that we shouldn’t let the stress of everyday life get us down – in other words, don’t sweat the small stuff! Stress is a killer, and when you take a second look at many of the things that cause you aggravation in your day-to-day life, perhaps you can find some humor and laugh it off. Now that you know about Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day, I hope you’ll do what you need to take care of yourself for the day and better prepare yourself to roll with life’s inevitable difficulties. To get you in the spirit, here are some classic songs about taking it easy!

“Rushing Around,” Roy Acuff

This song should be the official theme song of Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day! While we may think that living life in a hurry is a modern woe, Roy Acuff warned of living life in a hurry in the 1950s. Acuff warns listeners of the hazards of carelessness brought on by being in a hurry and poses the question: “How old will you be at 63, from rushing around today?” It almost seems ironic that a song proclaiming “they didn’t used to rush around back in Grandpa’s day” was written in what is now “back in Grandpa’s day,” but its message of slowing down for your own sake still holds true.

“It’s My Lazy Day,” Bob Wills

Here’s a classic from Bob Wills, the “King of Western Swing,” about the joys of taking it easy. While many would consider going fishing a perfect way to spend a leisurely day, the narrator of this song is taking his day so lightly that he doesn’t even want to make the trip to his favorite fishing spot or do much of anything. Sung by Tommy Duncan, one of Wills’ Texas Playboys, the lilting delivery amplifies the message of the song, and the laid-back performance by this normally red hot band makes you feel like they’re all loosened and lightened up.

“Work Don’t Bother Me,” Kid Smith

Walter “Kid” Smith is a tragically overlooked figure in early country music. Born in Virginia, Smith began working in a cotton mill, but soon became a professional boxer. Upon moving to Spray, North Carolina, he fell in with the clique of musicians who surrounded the legendary Charlie Poole. Perhaps one thing that diminished Smith’s impact on the music was that he did not consistently record under the same name, often using a pseudonym or a band name such as The Carolina Buddies or The Virginia Dandies. Here Smith proclaims just how easy it is to take it easy when you avoid life’s biggest stressor: work!

“Just Can’t Live That Fast Anymore,” Lefty Frizzell

While sometimes we need to loosen up and lighten up because we work too hard, honky tonk hero Lefty Frizzell tells us all about the opposite problem. Reflective of Frizzell’s own rough and rowdy lifestyle, this song warns of what can happen when you loosen up TOO MUCH for TOO LONG. While it’s important to let loose and live a little, don’t let Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day get out of hand!

“I Ain’t Going to Work Tomorrow,” Flatt and Scruggs

Didn’t know about Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day until you read this blog post? Planning on celebrating a day late now that you know about it? Well, here’s a song for you! This classic ballad was originally recorded by The Carter Family, but here’s a rip-roaring bluegrass rendition from the dynamic duo Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, along with all the Foggy Mountain Boys!

Radio Bristol Book Club: Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club! Readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library are coming together each month to celebrate and explore one book inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage. We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 11:00am when we will dig deep into the feelings and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

This month’s book focuses on an important figure in the history of the 1927 Bristol Sessions: Ralph Peer. Barry Mazor’s Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music came out in 2015, the first biography of this innovative and far-seeing A&R executive and music publisher. Anyone who knows the history of the 1927 Bristol Sessions or has visited the Birthplace of Country Music Museum knows about Peer’s impact and influence on early commercial “hillbilly” music. But Peer’s career spanned so much more than that – from Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues” to Latin American music to the evolution of the music industry towards R&B, country, and rock ‘n’ roll. Mazor’s book digs deep into Peer’s life and career, presenting a portrait of a complicated and astute man whose work within the realms of regional roots music changed the very landscape of popular music across America and beyond.

A view of the five sawtooth panels in the museum, each focusing on a different element of the 1927 Bristol Sessions. From left to right, we see "Stars of the Sessions," "Producing the Music" (Ralph Peer), "The Western Electric Microphone," "I Was There," and the brief history of the Sessions in Bristol.
This area of the museum’s exhibits focus on major elements of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, including Ralph Peer’s role in those recordings and his impact on the recording industry. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Neil Staples

Barry Mazor is a longtime music, media, and business journalist. He has been writing about country and roots music for the Wall Street Journal  since 2003 and is the host of the “Roots Now” music and artist interview show on Acme Radio Live out of Nashville, which streams weekly. He is the author of Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America’s Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century and Connie Smith: Just for What I Am, and the former senior editor and columnist for No Depression magazine. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including American Songwriter, the Nashville Scene, the Village Voice, and the Washington Post. Both Meeting Jimmie Rodgers and Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music won Belmont University’s annual “Best Book on Country Music” award.

This month we will be meeting on the third Thursday of the month – one week earlier than normal due to Thanksgiving – so make plans to join us on Thursday, November 21 at 11:00am, and then keep listening around 11:30am to hear a live chat with the author! You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is for sale at The Museum Store or available at the Bristol Public Library so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians or our frontline staff will be happy to help you find the book. 

The book is on display in front of a postcard rack with a Stonemans postcard and beside of a CD display, including CDs of the Bristol Sessions and The Carter Family.
Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music, on display in The Museum Store, along with a variety of related items. © Birthplace of Country Music

And plan ahead: Our final Radio Bristol Book Club pick of the year is Serena by Ron Rash (December 19 – also one week earlier than normal due to Christmas). We will be releasing our 2020 book club picks soon!