Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah!on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.
Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists, artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving of that audience. In expanding upon Radio Bristol’s core mission we are pleased to bring you our latest series – Radio Bristol Spotlight. Radio Bristol Spotlight is a series highlighting top emerging artists in our region. Through interviews and performance we will learn more about the musicians who help to make Central Appalachia one the richest, and most unique musical landscapes in the world.
A few different names, 15 years of performing, and two lead singers later, The Dimestore Cowboys have re-emerged as a major player in the Tri-cities music scene. Originally known as JB Five and Dime, the band was started as a passion project between bass player and songwriter, Jason Shaffer and his long time singing buddy James Brashears. The two began playing at local watering holes and small venues around 2008, and shared lots of music and good times.
However, with the onset of the pandemic, the band came to a screeching halt causing the lead singer of the group to step down to refocus on work and family. The Dimestore Cowboys reformulated with a new line up adding frontman Travis Bentley, harmony vocalist and fiddle player Julia Wilson, Adilene Delgado on drums, lead guitarist Torrey Warren, and Jason Vaper on keys. Shaffer, the only original member remaining, has continued to be a driving force within the band and currently shares songwriting duties with Bentley. Shaffer was raised in Hiltons, VA just a few miles from the Carter Family Fold, and cites The Carter Family and old mountain music as a major inspiration for his writing. Travis Bentley grew up singing gospel music in church just outside of Bristol in Hickory Tree, TN and possesses a velvety twang that will make your hair stand on end. When not playing out, you can find Shaffer working at the well known local music store Campbell’s Morrell Music.
With their new line up in place the band has exploded onto the scene scoring high profile gigs opening for acts such as Mark Chestnut, Laid Back Country Picker, Tan and Sober Gentlemen, and is slated to be on the lineup for Bristol Rhythm and Roots this coming September. With two electric guitars, a Fender Rhodes organ, and fiddle in toe the band has some major grit with plenty of old school vibes.Shaffer says the talents of the new group and vocal harmonies between Travis and Julia have been taking the band to the next level. In 2022 Dimestore Cowboys released a new album aptly titled Let’s Try This Again recorded mixed and mastered by Mike Stephenson at Classic Recording Studio in downtown Bristol, VA.
A stand out track from the new record, Appalachian Troubadourdisplays major radio playability dealing with themes of classism in Appalachia, spirituality, and the pressure of social norms. Listening to the new record you can’t help but feel like you’re hearing the next big band to emerge from the growing country music scene in the region which has recently birthed major talent such as 49 Winchester and Amythyst Kiah. Listeners can also hear influences from bands such as The Drive By Truckers and American Aquarium. You can listen to their latest release by visiting The Dimestore Cowboy’s bandcamp.
Currently the group is working on a second release which is due out this coming Fall, and are looking to tour more extensively. This summer has proved to be busy for The Cowboys, with regional festivals, theater shows, and outdoor events. Follow their music and tour schedule by visiting their Facebook.
By Julia Underkoffler, Collection Specialist at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum
Since the opening of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in 2014, a quilt donated by the Bristol TN/VA Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America has been one of the first objects visitors have seen when entering the museum and heading up the stairs to the main exhibits.
The quilt, which took two years to complete, has always captivated and inspired museum visitors and guests with its beautiful and complex design. Many aspects central to the 1927 Bristol Sessions and time period were included in the design of the quilt – a marriage of color, concept, and skill.The center of the quilt features the words “Birthplace of Country Music” overlaid across a stunningtree. Theinner sage green border framing the center designincludes the musical notes and lyrics of the The Carter Family song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and the inner pink border carries the names of the participants of the 1927 Bristol Sessions – each name carefully stitched along the border of the quilt in a whimsical design. The blocks that frame the entire quilt commemorate quilt blocks from the 1800s to the present day. The quilt’s design is inspired by the Stoney Creek Collections,a published cross-stitch design company.The final piece evokes a powerful emotion of pride for regional heritage, accented by the roots strongly anchoring our history and the growth of the tree representing our future.
The quilt ended up being much larger than the quilters group originally planned – a testament to their passion and creativity! – with the final measurements being an incredible eight and a half feet wide and almost ten feet long. On July 14, 2014 the guild members wereinvited to the museum forthe dedication of the quilt and a preview of the new Birthplace of Country Music Museum. The quilt has since been a focal point of the museum lobby for nearly a decade. The creation of this quilt was a true labor of love and friendship in support of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the twin cities of Bristol TN/VA.
One main part of my job as Collections Specialist is to care for and preserve the artifacts we have within our collection, and this role is arguably one of the most important jobs within the museum. My responsibility as caretaker of the museum’s collections, along with the documentation, photographing, and housing of all of the objects, is vital. In early March 2023, the quilt was taken down and placed in our collections storagefor safekeeping and proper storage. There were many reasons for this decision, most importantly the preservation of the quilt itself. Institutions that have textiles in their collectionsmust have a regular schedule to take the items off display or be sure that the textiles are located in a very dark areawith special lighting to help prevent deterioration. Like any other textile objects, quilts are extremely fragile and sensitive to sunlight, and therefore that was one of the decision-making factors. Another issue that came into play was how our quilt was displayed – hanging from a specially made rod – and how that weight can affect the integrity of the quilt’s fabric, threads, and construction. In other words, it’s necessary to give textiles like our quilt time “to rest” by removing them from their hanging apparatus.
When the quilt was taken down, it was put out on several tables in a secured area for a few days before one of BCM’s board members, a fabric specialist, helped us to roll it on a tube with acid-free tissue paper and 100% cotton sheets, held together with pieces of fabric in four places. The quilt is now safely stored in the museum’s vault resting in the correct conditions, specifically where the temperature stays around 70 degrees and the humidity around 50 percent and with no natural light exposure.
The quilt will remain resting in storage for several years before it can return to public display. Being a staff favorite and knowing the love and care that was put into its creation, it was hard for us to take it down – and our repeat visitors have certainly missed it! – but we know that this is the course of action that will ensure its preservation for generations to come. In the meantime, our curatorial team pulled together a variety of wonderful images of the museum and its exhibits and programs over the last nine years that are now on display in the space left behind by the quilt – from a student gospel group’s performance and our Pick Along campers to the Jimmie Rodgers guitar on display and several 1927 Bristol Sessions relatives.
Left to right: Promotional images of Roni Stoneman as “Ida Lee” from Hee Haw from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum archives, Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon as Minnie Pearl sporting her signature hat and price tag courtesy of the Grand Ole Opry archives and Cynthia Mae Carver as Cousin Emmy courtesy of Georgia State University Digital Collections
Toni Doman-Vandyke is Grants Coordinator and Curatorial Specialist at the Birthplace of Country Music
August 16th is National Tell A Joke Day! Comedy and country music have a long and enduring history. From the extravagant days of vaudeville variety act performances in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to early barn dance radio programs of the 1930s, comedians and musicians were regularly featured.
Comedians brought their wit – be it silly, old-fashioned, and sometimes crude – to the stage to entertain audiences, oftentimes with humor focused on a rural country lifestyle. Some of the first comedians to be a part of the WSM’s Grand Ole Opry program in the 1930s included Sarie and Sally, a female comedic duo, and arguably the Opry’s most well-known comedian, Minnie Pearl, who later went on to be a cast member ofHee Haw, which ran for 25 seasons from 1969 until 1993. Humor can break down boundaries, engage and entertain people, and has the ability to connect listeners and audiences deeply through a shared experience of laughter. Comedy is deeply intertwined with the genres of and relating to country music, with many memorable funny and satirical songs by musicians through the years. Today contemporary artists still carry on the tradition of writing ironic, satirical and humorous songs.
I’m a huge fan of side-splitting country songs, with some of my earliest musical memories include “discovering” Ray Stevens and “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival“,and listening to every whimsical goofy tune by Roger Miller (personal favorite: “My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died”). Upon doing research for this blog post, I found that most “funny country songs” are written and performed by male artists. However, female performers – despite historically facing challenges, such as the assumption that women aren’t funny and gender discrimination surrounding what might be appropriate for a female performer to sing or speak about on stage – have made their comic mark in the country genre too. Therefore, to celebrate National Tell a Joke Day, here’s a roundup of music and stories by some of my favorite funny female country music comedians and entertainers. From Cousin Emmy to Dolly Parton, women have been getting the last laugh for years!
Lulu Belle and Scotty – “Store Bought Teeth” How are false teeth like stars? They come out at night!
This novelty song about “store bought teeth” by Lulu Belle (born Myrtle Eleanor Cooper) and Scotty Wiseman features comical lyrics of problems that might just occur should you have fake teeth and you dig into the taffy candy (not advised). Lulu Belle and Scotty were known as “The Sweethearts of Country Music” first meeting one another on the WLS National Barn Dance in the mid 1930s. Together they both had successful careers in country music performing across the Midwest and even appeared in seven films.
“Well a feller called and said his name was Slim, and he wanted me to work for him And I said boy I always aim to please So I signed upon the dotted line and everything was just going fine Then he led me to a 90 foot trapeze
Well he handed me some kites like them folks wear And he pulled me way up in the air Then hollered “hang on by your teeth and wait!” And then it happened the things I feared When the screaming stopped and the dust had cleared The only thing hanging was my plate
Store bought teeth and taffy candy Store bought teeth and taffy candy”
Cousin Emmy on Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest What kind of music do balloons hate? Pop.
Cynthia Mae Carver, known professionally as Cousin Emmy, began playing music as a young girl, mastering the fiddle, banjo, guitar, harmonica, ukulele, and musical saw, and even playing music on a rubber glove. She performed on local radio stations, and in 1935 she won the National Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest, which brought her better gigs and eventually larger radio markets in Knoxville, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri. Very few recorded performances exist of Cousin Emmy, though this excerpt from the 1944 film “Swing in the Saddle” by Lew Landers features one of her stage performances during her career heyday. The video below features another rare recording from Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest, a program focused on folk music. At mark 7:30 of the video, you can catch Cousin Emmy playing “You Are My Sunshine” on the rubber glove!
Roni Stoneman – “Going Up Cripple Creek” How can you tell the difference between all the banjo songs? By their names.
Veronica “Roni” Stoneman is an accomplished banjo player and comedian, and she was a long-time cast member of Hee Hawfrom 1972 to 1990, known for playing the skillet-wielding “Ida Lee Nagger” character, as seen in this YouTube clip. She is the 14th child and youngest daughter of Ernest and Hattie Stoneman, old-time artists who recorded at the 1927 Bristol Sessions. With a career spanning a lifetime in music and stage performances, Roni is a true entertainer. This video of “Going Up Cripple Creek” features a performance by the Stoneman Family from 1967, with Roni playing the banjo with a stoic attitude and expression-less face, totally out of character (but still a hilarious performance) from her normal upbeat and energetic stage personality.
Mother Maybelle and The Carter Sisters – “Well I Guess I Told You Off” Did you hear about the cow that tried to jump the fence and missed? Utter disaster.
Some of my absolute favorite funny recordings feature Mother Maybelle Carter and The Carter Sisters with tunes like “Root Hog Or Die”, “Too Old To Cut the Mustard” and “Well I Guess I Told You Off” when sisters Helen, June, and Anita each take turns singing lines of the chorus. Their amusing performances always make me laugh!
The three daughters of Maybelle Carter began performing with her publicly as The Carter Sisters after the original Carter Family (A. P., Sara, and Maybelle) disbanded in 1943. The Carter Sisters appeared on numerous radio and television shows, performed live, and became regulars on the Grand Ole Opry. June, in particular, honed her comedic skills with the group, bringing a folksy charm and humor to many of their stage performances.
“If brains were thousand dollar bills I’d tell you what we’d bet You wouldn’t have enough To buy a cup of coffee yet
Well, that ain’t the way I heared it But here’s a thought for you Your’s might as well be coffee grounds For all the thinking they’ll do
Well I guess I told you off That ought to hold you for a spell Furthermore if you don’t like it You can pack tonight, get out of sight And go jump in the well!”
Dolly Parton – Songwriter and Storyteller “I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb…and I also know that I’m not blonde.” – Dolly Parton
Finally, this clip features legendary living musician and singer-songwriter Dolly Parton, highlighting her character and charisma through humor and storytelling – a regular hallmark of her shows and appearances. With a successful career spanning over 50 years, she released her first album Hello I’m Dolly, in February of 1967, which included her first hit, “Dumb Blonde,” a song that called out female stereotypes. Soon after she was invited to be the regular “girl singer” on The Porter Wagoner Show. At the six-minute mark in the video below, Dolly dives into a witty and humorous tale as a guest on The Tonight Show, cracking the entire audience up by the end of her tale.
If you liked the female artists and their featured funny songs, check out these additional hilarious comedic country songs by female artists:
Lonnie “Big Lon” Salyer is a vinyl record historian focused on local independent studios and labels in Southern Appalachia. His show “Diggin’ With Big Lon” airs weekly onWBCM Radio Bristol.
Hey ya’ll this is Big Lon checking in to make sure you are aware that August 12th is National Vinyl Record Day, a celebration of vinyl records, their history, and their significance in music and culture. If you’re interested in collecting vinyl records, here are some guidelines on what to collect, where to find them, and how to store and clean them.
First off there’s not a wrong answer on what to collect, it all depends on you and what makes you happy. Music provides both a connective social bond and an individual experience, and no two people have the same tastes or collective life journeys. Collecting vinyl records bridges both realms together in a tangible format you can hold in your hand. I’m still learning and certainly don’t know all the answers but here’s my two cents based on my collecting experience.
What should I collect Big Lon?I’d answer that with what do you like about music? What are your motivations when it comes to hobbies, investments, collecting, socializing? I can break this down into five basic categories to consider. First, what’s your personal connection with music? A great way to start is collecting records that have sentimental value to you on a personal level. Do you remember a song from Saturday morning cartoons or a song that you used to listen to with your grandfather on the drive to and from fishing trips? It may be as simple as the music you and your friends liked back in college or middle school. Make a list of all those songs you connect with as a bucket list you’d like to have on vinyl. Secondly, what genres of music and artists do you like? You can focus on records from your favorite artists or specific genres like heavy metal or even eras such as 1950’s jazz. This will be a great starting point that can lead to discovering similar artists or labels that specialize in the genre of music you like. Maybe you want to get into vinyl for the collectible aspect because you heard of valuable vinyl records and want to invest inrecords in hopes of your collection growing in value. Limited editions and limited pressings can fulfill this option. Limited releases, colored vinyl, and special editions can be valuable and unique additions to your collection. A great example is this limited pressing orange vinyl 45rpm release by Blake Berglund, recorded at The Earnest Tube in Bristol and released on Armadillo Tail Records.
Befriending the owners and sales people at your local vinyl record shop can lead to insight on when new releases will hit the shelves or what unique items your local shop will be getting for Record Store Day, which occurs annually in April. A fourth option is focusing on classic iconic albums that have had a significant impact on music history. A simple google search of the greatest or essential vinyl records in a genre you are interested in or maybe the top 20 of multiple genres so you can build a diverse interesting collection to match your mood or the social crowd you are having over for dinner or a cup of coffee. A final category I recommend is obscure and rare records. Once you get a little experience in vinyl collecting this one tends to happen organically. Seek out records that are hard to find or have historical significance. It can be that local band that you remember from high school that put out one independent record or whatever inspires you. For me, the hard-to-find Kingsport label from the 78rpm era of the early 1950s is one I actively collect.
Big Lon, where do I find vinyl records? We’ve already touched on visiting your local record shops to get an understanding of what they offer. Local record stores often have a diverse selection of vinyl records, both new and used. These stores can be a great place to discover hidden gems and interact with fellow enthusiasts. Online marketplaces like eBay, Discogs, and Amazon offer a wide range of vinyl records for sale. You can find rare and collectible records from various sellers. I’m a member of several Facebook groups of like interested collectors who specialize in specific record genres or format sizes such as LPs (33rpm), 78rpm or 45rpm. Flea markets and thrift stores are essential. Get to know those in your community. These spots can be treasure troves for vinyl collectors. You might stumble upon valuable records at affordable prices. In addition, don’t overlook estate sales and garage sales; occasionally, people sell off their vinyl collections, often at reasonable prices. I’ve personally bought four records that are valued over $1,000 each for a buck or less at rummage sales and from flea market dealers. Another great avenue is music festivals and conventions. Sometimes music events and conventions include vinyl vendors or the artists will have a merchandise table selling vinyl records along with t-shirts and swag. As you get your bearings in the hobby and a focused list of what you are looking for, I recommend record fairs. These events gather multiple sellers in one place, offering a variety of records for sale. It’s a great opportunity to network and learn more about collecting. I host one for Fun Fest in Kingsport, TN to meet new vinyl enthusiasts and network to find records on my want list.
How do I store vinyl records Big Lon? The key is vertical storage. Heavy flat stacks of LP’s and especially 78rpm records can cause damage. Store records vertically to distribute weight which helps prevent warping. Use record crates, shelves, or dedicated record storage units. Keep records in protective inner sleeves to prevent scratches and dust buildup. Outer sleeves can safeguard the album covers. For loose 45rpm or 78rpm records, your local record shop most likely carries packaged sleeves you can utilize to protect the vinyl. Climate control is a major priority. Direct sunlight can warp and damage the vinyl and fade the covers. A cool, dry environment is ideal. Extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations can warp records or cause labels and covers to mildew. I’ve run across records with mold growing in the grooves from dirt and debris in wrong storage climates, like records found in musty basements.
OK Big Lon, what if I find the perfect record but it’s not been well cared for, what do I do? Here are some tips for cleaning records: first, handle records correctly by their edges and avoid touching the playing surface with your fingers. This keeps the oils from your skin off the vinyl to avoid the collection of dust and dirt. Sometimes what’s perceived as scratches or skips can be resolved with a gentle cleaning of the grooves. Use a carbon fiber brush to remove dust and debris from the surface before playing. A microfiber cloth can help clean the album cover. Invest in a good cleaning solution or cleaning system. I personally use Pristine Platters and a microfiber cloth for light cleanings and a system called Spin Clean for more challenging cleans. Both products as well as several similar products can be found online or at a local record shop. A static roller can work wonders to remove pops and crackles associated with static energy build up. Some collectors come up with their own system for cleaning records. Research any household cleaners before you use them to make sure they don’t contain chemicals that can damage your vinyl collection. Dry your records including the labels before putting them back in the sleeves and before putting them on your turntable.
Collecting vinyl records can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby. Remember that each collector’s journey is unique, so feel free to tailor your collection to your personal preferences and interests.