The Bluegrass Standard - March 2022

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Our Staff

Keith Barnacastle • Publisher

The Bluegrass Standard is a life-long dream of Keith Barnacastle, who grew up in Meridian, Mississippi. For three years, Keith brought the Suits, Boots and Bluegrass Festival to Meridian. Now, with the Bluegrass Standard, Keith’s enthusiasm for the music, and his vision of its future, reaches a nationwide audience every month!

Richelle Putnam • Managing Journalist Editor

Richelle Putnam is a Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) Teaching Artist/Roster Artist (Literary), a Mississippi Humanities Speaker, and a 2014 MAC Literary Arts Fellowship recipient. Her non-fiction books include Lauderdale County, Mississippi; a Brief History, Legendary Locals of Meridian, Mississippi and Mississippi and the Great Depression.

Rebekah Speer • Creative Director

Rebekah Speer has nearly twenty years in the music industry in Nashville, TN. She creates a unique “look” for every issue of The Bluegrass Standard, and enjoys learning about each artist. In addition to her creative work with The Bluegrass Standard, Rebekah also provides graphic design and technical support to a variety of clients.

Shelby C. Berry • Journalist

Shelby Campbell is a writer and designer whose heart beats for creativity. A native of rural Livingston, AL, she found her passion in journalism and design at The University of West Alabama, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. Shelby also has her own photography business.


Susan Marquez • Journalist

Susan Marquez is a freelance writer based in Madison, Mississippi and a Mississippi Arts Commission Roster Artist. After a 20+ year career in advertising and marketing, she began a professional writing career in 2001. Since that time she has written over 2000 articles which have been published in magazines, newspapers, business journals, trade publications.

Stephen Pitalo • Journalist

Stephen Pitalo has been an entertainment journalist for more than 30 years, having interviewed everyone from Joey Ramone to Bill Plympton to John Landis. He is the world’s leading authority on the The Golden Age of Music Video (1976-1993), mining inside stories from interviews 70+ music video directors and countless artists of the pre-internet music era.

Kara Martinez Bachman • Journalist

Kara Martinez Bachman is an author, editor and journalist. Her music and culture reporting has appeared in dozens of publications and she’s interviewed many performers over the years, from local musicians to well-known celebrities. She’s a native of New Orleans and lives just outside the city with her husband, two kids, and two silly mutts.

Emerald Butler • Journalist

Emerald Butler is a writer, songwriter, fiddler, and entertainer from Sale Creek, TN. She has worked and performed various occasions with artists such as Rhonda Vincent, Bobby Osborn, Becky Buller, Alison Brown, top 40 radio host Bob Kingsley, and country songwriter Roger Alan Wade. With a bachelor’s degree in Music Business and a minor in Marketing, Emerald uses her creative talent to share the love of music with others.

Candace Nelson • Journalist

Candace Nelson is a marketing professional living in Charleston, West Virginia. She is the author of the book “The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll.” In her free time, Nelson travels and blogs about Appalachian food culture at Find her on Twitter at @Candace07 or email


Susan Marquez SHELBY C. BERRY

AIDEN KEENEY Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars Musician Blazing a Path Forward


Every day another Gen Z artist hits the radio with their music, asking listeners to download their new album. What sets bluegrass musicians and the bluegrass community apart is their desire to embrace young artists wanting to make a future in music. Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars (TBS), the nonprofit organization that prides itself on preserving yesterday’s bluegrass music for a new generation of musicians, was born out of the need for community amongst young musicians in bluegrass and old-time music. Over the years, it has become their mission to champion new artists and support them in every way possible. There are hundreds of current members of this group — and some pretty impeccable and outstanding musicians that have grown from it, too — that have built and are building a legacy for themselves through the community within Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars. Each artist welcomed into the TBS family helped embrace the future of bluegrass music in unexpected ways. How will these artists creatively blur the lines between genres while also remembering the roots and traditions of the bluegrass greats that came before them? How will a new generation of a musical genre created on simplicity and tradition present their music relevant to the world? Young artists are the future of music, specifically bluegrass. They are vital to the community as they develop their sounds and embark on careers that impact in meaningful ways. Most long-lasting partnerships of Tomorrow’s

Bluegrass Stars start with a simple interaction that builds momentum over time. The same goes for 14-year-old Kentucky native Aiden Keeney and his start with this community-based organization. In fifth grade, he joined the strings program before taking string lessons from Steve Day. “About three years ago, my great-uncle Joey Boston began playing with me every chance we had together. We would play gospel, old country, and bluegrass music. He recognized my ability and was the one that recommended that I start taking lessons with Steve,” said Aiden. By the time he joined Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars, Aiden had played for years, dedicating that time to growing and defining his sound in traditional bluegrass music and learning how the music industry operates. “I met Larry Smith and his family at a private meet-and-greet event for Rhonda Vincent in Somerset,” said Aiden. “He introduced me to TBS. I joined as a way to develop friendships and opportunities with other people around my age with similar interests.” Immediately upon joining, Aiden connected to artist powerhouse Ashlyn Smith, and they performed together.

While Aiden’s parents would say that he was born with a passion for music, he credits his most significant influences to his teacher Steve Day, Kenny Baker, and his grandparents, whose Godgiven talent was passed on to their grandson years later. 9

perform,” said Aiden. “Both of my great grandfathers played music, including the fiddle,” said Aiden. “Sadly, I never met either of them.” While he may not have gotten to meet his grandfathers, whose musical talent he inherited, Aiden no doubt represents them in a way that would have only made them proud if they were still living. Aiden has now found himself fully emerging into the bluegrass community, really focusing on the tradition and roots of bluegrass in his music. “I have a love for older music. I enjoy personalizing each song — putting my own spin on it. Orange Blossom Special, Lost Indian, and Cheyenne are among some of my favorites to


Currently not recording any music, Aiden is using this time to progress into who he is and wants to be as an artist. The challenge of learning and maturing in his music and seeing where that journey leads has become Aiden’s focus, but not without reward. Last year, at age 13, Aiden placed third overall in Southern Kentucky’s Got Talent. “The show was a mix of many talents, including comedy, vocals, and dance. I met some amazing people with a lot of talent at the competition,” he said. His other opportunities include playing with Steve Day, Rhonda Vincent, Hunter Williams,

Mark Wills, Alex Miller, and other musical family and friends. Blazing his path forward and making a name amongst the bluegrass community, Aiden works diligently as a multi-instrumentalist on guitar, banjo, and fiddle. “I’m excited to improve, have fun and see where my musical journey takes me,” said Aiden, adding that he appreciates the kindness and support he has received from others in bluegrass music. “I hope, with continued growth, that someday I can extend the same encouragement to future youth.”


Colebrook Road

Colebrook Road is a band with something for everyone, drawing new bluegrass fans while redefining the genre for the more established bluegrass fans. Compared to a middle ground between the traditional Del McCoury Band and Lonesome River Band to the more progressive Punch Brothers and Billy Strings, their sound earned Colebrook Road a finalist spot in the 2020 IBMA Momentum Band award. “We are based on traditional bluegrass,” says Wade Yankey, who plays mandolin for the band. The band likes to push limits a bit, to step into and expand into more progressive bluegrass sounds. He says the band is “pretty old,” dating back to 2009 when he started the band with Jesse Eisenbise and two other fellows. “Jesse and I are the only original members of the band,” says Wade. There have been a few changes in the lineup, but the current band has been together since 2015. Band members include Wade on the mandolin and Jesse, who supplies lead vocals and guitar and is the band’s primary songwriter. 12


Mark Rast plays the banjo, dobro, and sings bass vocals; Joe McAnulty is the band’s fiddler and baritone vocalist; Jeff Campbell rounds out the band on bass and tenor vocals. Between 2007 and 2009, when Wade was thinking of putting the band together, he was influenced by bands like The Infamous Stringdusters and Steep Canyon Rangers, especially their song, “Lovin’ Pretty Women.” “There are so many legends and heroes that have influenced us, as well as our peers. And now some of the younger folks have become our inspiration.” The band got its name from a series of roads that wind through a three-county area in Pennsylvania. “There are several Colebrook Roads,” says Wade. “Jesse lives on Colebrook Road, as does Mark, but they live on two different roads in two different counties. We thought that was reason enough to name the band after the roads, plus 13

The band recorded a couple of LPs, one going to the number two spot on the Billboard chart. The band’s sound has gone through an evolution “We really hit our stride in 2019,” says Wade. “We over the years. “When Mark joined the band, we had our best touring year ever.” Sadly, the Covid began entering a lot of pandemic, which swept contests. We entered the the country, followed, Watermelon Park festival canceling gig after gig in Virginia, the Podunk in 2020. “We only did a festival in Connecticut, handful of gigs in 2020, and the DC Bluegrass it just has a nice ring to it.”

Union in Washington, DC. We won all of them, and that helped get us invited to larger festivals.” In 2018 they met booking agent Jim Rowe at IBMA. “Jim got us booked at the Gray Fox Bluegrass Festival in New York and other high-profile festivals.” 14

and those were outdoor affairs with limited seating. We were all thankful for our real jobs that year.” Wade works as an environmental engineer, Mark is a family doctor, Jeff brews craft beer, Jesse is a teacherturned-carpenter, and Joe is the only one in

the group who makes his living with music. “Jeff teaches violin, and he plays in orchestras in addition to playing with Colebrook Road.” The band mainly plays on weekends, but during the long tour in 2021, they played Thursday through Sunday nights for six weeks. “We were all pretty exhausted when it was

over.” Things picked up a bit in 2021. “We did 35 to 40 dates, with twenty of those within a six-week stretch.” The heavy tour date promoted their newest album, Hindsight is 2020, on the Mountain Fever label. The LP was

recorded in two sessions in February and March 2020 at Mountain Fever’s recording studio in Virginia. “We decided to hold off releasing the album until Covid calmed down a bit,” explains Wade. The album was finally released in October 2021, featuring ten originals. Eight had never been recorded.

“Colebrook Road has a great sound,” says Mountain Fever CEO Mark Hodges. “Their original music is so good, and they do such a unique spin on any covers they do. Not to mention they are so easy to work with. They are true professionals and amazing musicians.”

shutdown, Wade says the band continued to get together and play. “We are fortunate that we all live within thirty to forty miles of each other. We generally get together weekly to play and work on new songs. We are now trying to put together new material for our next project.”

During the Covid 15



Mike Mitchell

& His Fiddle Mike Mitchell grew up in Ontario, Canada, where his parents listened to Gordon Lightfoot, Ann Murray, and Ian Tyson. That music seeped into young Mike’s soul and came back one day to welcome him into a world where he once felt like an outsider. The young musician moved to the Blueridge area of the United States. “I was around musicians who were born into bluegrass

music,” Mike recalls. “I felt like somewhat of an imposter.” Sadly, he felt that way until he was about thirty years old. “That’s when I was farting around with local bluegrass musicians in Roanoke. A friend said I should check out an album by J.D. Crowe and The New South. It’s the one known as 0044.” The untitled album was released on the Rounder Records label in 1975 and has been widely

regarded as the best bluegrass album ever made. It became known by the number the record company assigned it, 0044. The album featured J.D. Crowe, Bobby Sloan, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, and Ricky Skaggs. Said to be the most influential album in the second generation of bluegrass, the studio recording still has a significant impact on bluegrass artists today, including Alison Krauss, who has said she grew up listening to the 17


album. “I listened to the album and was blown away,” says Mike. “The song ‘Summer Wages’ really spoke to me. Ian Tyson, a Canadian, wrote the song, and my mom listened to Ian Tyson when I was growing up. When I learned that Tony Rice was covering it, that brought it all together for me. I realized I possessed the authenticity I thought I had been lacking. I soon realized that musicians in Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky, and Tennessee were all covering that music I grew up with, and I felt I was in the right place at the right time.” Mike says he had the album CD in his car for months and listened to it everywhere he went. Another substantial influence on Mike’s bluegrass career was fiddle-maker Arthur Conner. “I’m an Arthur Conner guy,” states Mike, who says he wasn’t playing bluegrass when he first met Arthur. “He is a big reason I started trying to play it right, doing the music justice and carrying on the

tradition. He was a real mentor to me.” Arthur’s three sons and one daughter had a band called The Conner Brothers, and they were popular in the Virginia area in the 1970s and 80s. Gene Elders (who played with George Strait and Lyle Lovett) played fiddle in that band. By the time Mike met Arthur, his fiddles were under some of the best country fiddlers in the world.

would be our last time to get together. He told me to get a fiddle off the wall. It was a prototype for a five-string, a fiddle made on a viola body. He said that it was the first fiddle he made with Ricky Skaggs, whose first wife lived down the road from Arthur.” Mike left Arthur’s house that day with the fiddle, along with Arthur’s instructions to take safe care of it.

Mike has been an endorsee of Conner Mike teaches at The Fiddles for 23 years, Floyd Music School, and Arthur Conner’s where students have grown into playing Arthur representative for over twenty years. He Conner fiddles. “Some used Conner fiddles have brought them to exclusively on all of his prestigious institutions recordings. Arthur made like the Berklee School hundreds of fiddles in of Music, Belmont University, and The Frost his Copper Hill home in Floyd County, Virginia. School of Music. When he passed away Mike apprenticed with on April 13, 2020, people Arthur in his shop three could not gather for days a week for a year Arthur’s funeral due to in 2013. A couple of Thanksgivings ago, Mike the Covid pandemic. and his son visited Arthur. “It was sad for me,” says Mike. “I wasn’t able to “I regularly visited the old man, and I played for mourn like I wanted to.” Over the next few weeks, him in his home. I often Mike talked with many took my kids with me, of his bluegrass friends and they played for him about Arthur, including also. On that particular visit, Arthur was 95 years Jerry Wood, who has known Arthur since the old, and he knew that 19

1960s. Mike told Jerry about the fiddle Arthur gave Mike. Jerry said he was sure that Ricky Skaggs played the very fiddle on the 0044 album. “Jerry said Skaggs played that fiddle on ‘Rock, Salt, and Nails,’ and my favorite, ‘Summer Wages.’” Mike felt his life had come full circle from the songs he listened to as a child in Canada, discovering the seminal 0044 album, and possibly possessing the fiddle used in recording his favorite song. Jerry told Mike about being with Arthur at the Wayside Bluegrass Festival in Stewart, Virginia, when Jerry was a teenager. “He said that Ricky Skaggs gave the fiddle back to Arthur at that festival because it was a prototype, and the scale wasn’t just right. Crafted to a viola scale, a fiddler would find the instrument a little large. The story from Jerry is that Arthur gave him the fiddle, and a few years later, Jerry gave it back to Arthur. Mike loved the fiddle 20

because he loved Arthur. He knew what a talented fiddle maker Arthur was, and the fact that it was given to Mike so soon before Arthur’s death made it more sentimental. If the fiddle was the one Ricky Skaggs played on the 0044 album, then Mike owned a critical piece of history. He contacted the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Owensboro, Kentucky, and said he’d like to donate the fiddle. “The folks at the Hall of Fame said the fiddle would have to be authenticated,” said Mike. While working on this article, I reached out to Ricky Skaggs’ publicist about getting an interview. I told the fiddle story and said I’d like to talk to Ricky Skaggs about it. Sadly, I received an email with the following response from Skaggs: “I didn’t use Arthur Conner’s fiddle on those two songs. It was a viola that I rented for the sessions. It was at a music store not far from the studio where we did the recording. I did record

with Emmylou on that viola. Sorry to let him (Mike) down. Arthur might have gotten his story mixed up.” So, while the fiddle isn’t what Mike thought, it is still special to him. It is a piece of bluegrass history made by a man who put his heart and soul into making instruments used to play authentic American music. And it is in good hands with Mike Mitchell, who has made a career of playing and teaching bluegrass. He took Arthur Conner’s training to heart, playing the music right, doing it justice, and carrying on the tradition. Over the years, Mike bought, refurbished, and sold many of the fiddles Arthur made. “Nowadays, folks bring me their Arthur Conner fiddles to fix, set up, restore and sometimes consign them for me to sell. Arthur’s instruments helped make a lot of bluegrass music sound the way it does today,” says Mike, “and I’m always proud to represent Conner Fiddles.”



The art of working a jig for bass has become one of America’s favorite fishing techniques for catching fish. Catching bass on jigs is a technique that originated by skipping jigs or plastic grubs under docks and around trees. Then by casting and dragging it across the lake’s bottom, till today, swimming it through vegetation. Anglers are common to fish jigs at all water column depths, especially along the bottom. Another reason for the lure’s success is largemouth are available throughout the country in large or small bodies of water. For all of them, you can effectively use a jig. Jig fishing is an excellent method of freshwater angling. Fishing with jigs can be an efficient way of covering water to catch fish; however, jigs can be tricky lures to master. When anglers succeed, removing the lure from their tackle box is challenging. A bass Jig is also very powerful during every season and on any water body type. The only difference is the features of the jig for the presentation, which can represent the color, size, weight, hook size, and most importantly, the head style.


It is possible these jig types below will attract bass for you in the near future. Located in Waco, KY (a small community in between Richmond and Berea, KY) Dillon Abney got started making custom jigs as a hobby. He wanted to make his own jigs and try colors that other tackle makers were not providing. “I made a bunch, and some friends showed an interest and bought some, then encouraged me to start a business and try to sell more to other people.” Abney states, “It’s really rewarding to see other folks catch fish on tackle that I made from scratch. Fishing has always been my passion and has always been my other escape from reality. I started fishing when I was a kid with my Papaw. I do a lot of fishing with music friends of mine named Jan Lakes and Ethan Vivian, my father-in-law Ronnie Reynolds, and my best friend Kyle Gadd.” Bass jigs are essentially a hook with a metallic weight and eye attached. After that, they feature rubber skirts, also with weed guards attached to hooks. Several varieties of styles do not require a highly efficient presentation. What makes some bass jigs different in design in many respects depends primarily on their shape and weight. These two characteristics determine whether a jig operates in

shallow or deep water. Four designs represent the best lures and most successful jigs for bass. Look closely and see which jig heads are the best for your type of angling. What is the best color bass jig? You must first know which food bass prefer to eat locally to know this. So, this is the easiest choice for getting a quick decision to color? Below are three primary colors for you always to consider. Hopefully, as you grow more experienced in fishing with a jig, you begin noticing colors that fit certain circumstances, weather styles, or weather patterns. Selecting colors Colors depend on the season, geographic area that you are targeting. The jig usually imitates crawfish; therefore, color matching works well in context. Green pumpkin, watermelon, and other related natural colors are excellent choices.

If fishing dirty or stained waters, it helps to use a black and blue combination. Certain jigs often imitate bluegill and shad with color matching. For example, Bluegill imitation uses green pumpkin or jig in blue to match hatches for a bass meal. For simulated shads, a white dress and white trailer work very well. Wind Factor The wind is an essential factor affecting fishing. The bigger, the heavier the wind blows; it requires a larger size lure. If the wind blows your line, the jig is too light; you won’t remain in contact with the bottom. The heavier jigs help you overtake the wind and reach the bottom. However, don’t be afraid to use a heavier jig head, but a smaller jig in size. Keep it moving by working it up and down. It will help a bass decide sooner when it looks and acts more like a natural crawfish.




Depth factor A bass jig can weigh between 1/8 ounce to 2 ounces. Fish a suitable weighing jig in the depth of the water you are on that day. When water gets deeper, change to a slightly heavier jig to cast farther and get down deeper. The fact that water is deep also does not mean you need to fish on the bottom. The majority of bass live in a suspended state most of the time. Jig Fishing Retrieve It is perfect for short casts, pitches, and turns with


reflected surface cover. The bass will sometimes hold on to the lure, and it must also be a priority in watching it fall. Long hops that keep the water close to the bottom for retrieval can be helpful. A tiny action on the rod and pump allows baits to move in a streamline. Use short hops; the football head can have the best success with this technique when used under the water surface. Dillon has also started making custom crankbaits and powder coating his jig heads. If you would like to make an order for custom colors you can find him on facebook at @realdilljigs.




When we think of the music of space, our minds instantly go to electronic music. It’s usually composed of soothing but altogether inhuman tones from New Age music or Space Music of the 1970s. We don’t usually connect the imagery of the cosmos to something as earth-rooted, organic, and emotive as bluegrass. Minneapolis-based bluegrass outfit Buffalo Galaxy has redefined the space theme and used its spirit of expansiveness to describe the group’s work, which is highly human and 28

firmly rooted in things of this immediate world. For Buffalo Galaxy, the celestial references in their name and imagery aren’t about the universe’s endless, unknowable nature but about the infinite, unknowable possibilities of music. Zach Tauer, the banjo player for Buffalo Galaxy, explained that the unique moniker arose when an image from “historic Americana music” – the buffalo – was combined with an acknowledgment

of how much the band loves reaching far out and experimenting within the genre. “The word ‘Galaxy’ describes the expansiveness, or potential, for the music,” Tauer said. The unfettered possibilities of music first hit him hard when he picked up his first banjo about ten years ago. “There was one Christmas when I asked for a banjo or mandolin,” he reminisced. His parents gave him a “cheap” instrument bought

O GALAXY Exploring the Limitless Far Reaches of Bluegrass from Amazon. He loved it, Their debut record “New but a final step needed to get Escape” premiered in 2020, him truly hooked. and they’ve built up to a schedule of approximately “Then I bought a used 60 dates a year, which Recording King banjo…and isn’t bad considering how whoa!” It was much, much Covid-19 has decimated more fun. “I remember touring for most performers. falling in love with that They generally perform specific instrument,” he said. in the American west and midwest but are looking The band’s current roster forward to perhaps adding includes several significant some European dates in the festival dates this summer. future.

Tauer has the pleasure of plucking and strumming with a group of fellow instrumentalists, of which he thinks quite highly. Johnny Kovarik, on guitar, sings lead on most songs and is the primary writer for the group’s original music. “He’s a lefty and plays banjo, too,” Tauer added.


Jacob Rohde provides the mandolin. “He used to be a drummer,” Tauer explained, “so it influences the rhythms.”

They hope to record 6 to 8 new songs for an album similar to “New Escape” with one main difference.

“Some parts will be more orchestrated; a lot of Bass player Pete Whiteman the instrumental spaces used to be in a jazz group, will be more figured out which Tauer said “spices up” beforehand.” So the sonic their songs. space will embrace not a celestial emptiness but an Buffalo Galaxy hopes to expertly organized universe record new material before of sound that will stretch the summer gets going strong limits and maybe push new and their days fill with travel boundaries for these young to festivals and other gigs. musicians. They’ve got some studio dates on the calendar for Tauer hints at what the early April at RiverRock tone of some new music Studios in Minneapolis. might be. When asked how 30

the band’s Minneapolis home influences the music, he said there’s certainly a connection between this chilly season we’ve just had and upcoming new output. “This winter’s been really cold,” he said. “And dark. And bleak. Some of that has come out in our songs … the introspective and dark period of winter.” Buffalo Galaxy does what it can to warm all spaces it enters with the human touch of music, whether it’s the cold of a Minnesota winter or the wide freeze of space.


Like many teenage boys, Mark Hodges loved music. He played in a band with his friends, and while they grew up, they never outgrew their love of music. Since elementary school, Mark has sang and played piano and guitar and enjoyed tinkering around with recording devices. “I had two reel-to-reel recorders,” he recalls. “I would record myself singing on one recorder, then play it back and sing on the other.” He enjoyed experimenting with sound. “I didn’t really know what I was doing, but it was fun.” Years later, the boys from Mountain Fever got back together, playing music, and enjoying each other’s company. Mark put together a recording studio in the upstairs of his home in Willis, Virginia. It is the house his grandfather built in 1937. “It just started as a little project to record me and the band,” he says. “I bought a four-track cassette deck and hated that. Then I bought an eight-track mini-disk recorder. I honestly learned by trial and error. From there, it kept growing and growing.” Today Mountain Fever Records has a state-of-the-art recording studio that Mark had built on the hill behind his home. “I didn’t plan on having a recording studio and record label,” he laughs. “It happened by accident.” The “accident” began with a local band playing in area churches. “The name of the band was Statement,” says Mark. “They played for love offerings, so they didn’t have money to record an album. I brought them in to record, and we released their record on the Mountain Fever label. That was the official start to Mountain Fever Records. We started at a time when the record label business was turning upside down. I didn’t know anything about what a record label did, but I watched what others were doing, and our friends, the DJs, were very helpful. They told us what we needed to do to get more airplay, and the most important thing was to give them good music.” In the world of digital and streaming music, Mark realized records still needed to be played on the radio. “That’s what sells seats for promoters.” Soon other bands began contacting Mark, including Michelle Nixon and a band from Mississippi called Volume Five. “We have done eight records with Volume Five,” Mark says. “They’ve done well on the charts, 32


and they’ve received a Dove nomination and several IBMA awards. Michelle’s record was our first number one record, followed by Volume Five at number two. The next month they switched positions on the charts. For us, it was both a surprise and an honor.” Mark learned the importance of artist relations. “We work with the artists to pick a single, and we get press releases written up so we can get reviews and stories. From there, we follow what pops us. We try to get coverage on everything we do. We also get songs ready for radio and digital distribution.” Mark says albums are falling by the wayside. “Everyone these days wants singles.” But they still press CDs, including a newly released album by Colebrook Road out of Pennsylvania. “They were brought to our attention, and we started listening and liked what we heard. We invited them to come to the studio. They were wonderful to work with.” Mountain Fever Records released Colebrook Road’s album, Hindsight is 2020, in October 2021. The album was recorded over two sessions in early 2020, just before the pandemic. “I’d say about 75 percent of the records we put out are recorded in our studio,” says Mark. He purchased the house next door for bands to stay in when they record. “We also have full hook-ups for bands who want to bring their bus.” Sometimes it may be easier for the Mountain Fever folks to go to a studio closer to the band. “And some of our seasoned artists record their own tracks and submit them to us. We have a sound we are proud of, and the DJs tell us they like it. We have a very airy and open sound. We believe that acoustic instruments need room to breathe. It’s not like the more standard Nashville mix.” Mark’s wife, Rhonda, offers her opinion on things when asked, which is often. “She is there for us any time we need her,” Mark says. “She loves music, so this is fun for her.” They hired a publicist to write press releases and Michelle Cochran to work with DJs and manage artist relations. “Michelle had her own booking company for years, so she is ideal in that position.” Amanda Cook came on board part-time. “She keeps us all on track,” says Mark. “She is also an excellent engineer and producer.” Aaron Ramsey rounds out the Mountain Fever team. “He is the best musician and the best studio engineer,” says Mark. “He was nominated for a DOVE award for a record he recorded in his living room when he was seventeen years old.”



BUDDY JEWELL When Buddy Jewell won the first season of the USA Network’s reality competition “Nashville Star,” he had no idea the impact he’d have on people. He never imagined his first Columbia Records recording would debut in the #1 slot on the Billboard Top Country Album chart. Even more unexpected, it scored as a crossover hit, hitting #13 on the Top 100 Pop Album chart. You’ll understand why if you recall the considerable airplay his “Sweet Southern Comfort” got at the time. It was everywhere. Hearing Jewell reflect upon his success is fascinating. It seems not so much measured in those numbers or dollars but in how his music touches the people he encounters. Another song from that album had personal significance to Jewell and, to this day, continues to be meaningful around the globe. “Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey’s Song)” also landed with “Sweet Southern Comfort” in the top five of the singles charts. Jewell wrote it for his daughter, and it’s taken on a life of its own. Something he neither intended nor imagined, Jewell said, “So many people associated that song with the loss of a loved one, and for a lot of them, it was children. Before my dad died, 36


he said, ‘Son, find a way to make your mark on the world.’ And I didn’t know that’s how I’d do it. I can’t tell you how many thousands of people who have said, ‘I played that at my dad’s funeral.’” Jewell said when he travels, people will come up to him after gigs and talk about how the song hit a vulnerable spot deep inside, how they related to it, how it helped them deal with things that seemed insurmountable. “It’s a really humbling thing,” Jewell said. “You’re standing there and talking to a mother whose two-year-old drowned…it breaks your heart. What a blessing that God chose to use me to be a part of the healing process for so many.” Jewell seems to have music running through his veins. His parents were from the little town of Dyess Arkansas, which just happened to be the home of Johnny Cash, so even before he sang 37

been very shy,” so “my mom insisted that I sing in the children’s choir” at church. “Believe it or not, I still get nervous when I go on,” he said, laughing. “And if it’s people I know, it’s even worse.” He paid his dues in Little Rock, where at around age 21, he was performing in bars and restaurants. He eventually “graduated” to a road band called White Oak. In time, Jewell moved to Nashville – where he’s lived for the past 30 years – and he’s a top singer for demo recordings. In 1993, mega-songwriters Don Schlitz and Fred Knobloch hired him for his first demo recordings. After nine years or so, he had created so many Jewell could no longer keep track. “I literally stopped counting at 4,000 demos,” he said.

on stage, his family intimately connected to the beating heart of country music. “The Jewells and the Cashes interacted a lot during that time,” he recalled. Jewell never knew Johnny Cash, but the legend’s music mightily influenced Jewell. “From the time I had one of those RCA suitcase-looking record players, I was a Johnny Cash fan,” he said. “I picked up my first guitar when I was 14,” Jewell said. His uncles helped him learn the basics, and then he made investments in his future by saving money from his job as a grocery bagger. He used the savings to “buy songbooks with chords.” He somehow fit music around the sports he played, such as football. He was so devoted to all his simultaneous passions he’d sometimes go to choir rehearsals still dressed in his sports uniforms. His mother pushed him even further …and thank goodness for that. He had “always 38

Jewell’s public breakout came in 2003 with “Nashville Star.” Reality singing competitions were new back then, and the public had not tired yet of this new format for identifying promising talent. “It was the first year after “American Idol” had their first winner,” Jewell said. “God saw fit to let me win the television show.” It had surprised him. He said he was the oldest contestant and didn’t think he’d have a chance. “Miranda Lambert was on. She was like 19 years old,” he said, referencing his nowfamous competition. He’d thought at the time: “If I can just sell a few t-shirts and CDs, I’ll be happy.” He had no idea. Since then, he’s had chart success most can only dream of, coupled with a fulfilling personal and professional life (he just became a grandfather …TWICE). He’s recorded several successful albums, including the most recent he’s still promoting, “Bluebonnet Highway.” He’s looking forward to a music cruise he’s

performing on that departs from Galveston in late April and early May. He’s also spending a week in Denmark soon, part of a full-circle moment for this boy whose parents were friends with a young Johnny Cash. “I’m in rehearsals for a show with Johnny Cash’s youngest grandson,” he said. Jewell loves performing live requests, staying in touch, and sharing energy with fans. He uses Facebook for this. “Every Tuesday at 6 p.m. central, I do a Facebook Live called Tuesday’s Tune. I enjoy it,” he said. What can fans expect in the future? “If I have a goal, it’s to get enough stuff written to go into the studio next year,” he said. Despite whetting fans’ appetites with this tidbit, he also says he won’t make hard-and-fast predictions for future work. He’s not one to rush his creative process. It all comes together when it comes together, and that’s that. “I wanna write something meaningful,” he said. The goal isn’t to rush music to market; it’s to develop more real songs that move people continents away and give meaning to his life. He wants to write things that remind him of why he loves country music. He wants to participate in a grand musical tradition he said is best illustrated by the music of Hank Snow or songs like Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” or Marty Robbins’ “El Paso.” “It’s like reading a novel that is three-anda-half minutes long,” he explained. “It’s the story songs. The lyrics.” And we’re guessing Buddy Jewell fans can’t wait to hear what story he’ll tell next.






Before television, the internet, or streaming platforms, people heard the newest music and most up-to-date news via the family radio. Usually found in the living room, families would gather around the enormous radio, turn the dial, and tune in to hear their favorite musical artists. People in the Nashville area began tuning in to the National Life and Accident Insurance Company’s WSM, a small AM radio station that first went on air on October 5, 1925. Less than two months later, WSM’s show, the Grand Ole Opry, debuted, and fans were so excited about it that they began to visit the studio for the live shows. It was the show that would one day make country music famous. The show moved into the Ryman Auditorium, the former Union Gospel Tabernacle, in 1943. WSM had a frequency of 650 kilohertz, maximum power at that time. In 1932, the station erected a diamond-shaped vertical antenna just south of Nashville, and the station’s new 50,000-watt transmitter allowed the station to broadcast far beyond the Nashville area. On clear nights, the clear channel station had a nationwide reach, driving country music into homes nearly everywhere in the country. As country music continued to grow and flourish throughout the 1950s and 60s, WSM did the same. In the late 1960s, plans developed to build a theme park and a new Opry House. Opryland, USA, opened in 1974. Nashville became a recording industry mecca thanks to WSM. Because of the station’s incredible reach, musical acts came to Nashville from across the eastern United States in hopes of performing on WSM. As a child, J Patrick Terrell enjoyed traveling with his parents to Opryland, USA, from their Waverly, Tennessee home. He fell in love with the music and developed a fascination with radio. “I went to work at a country station in Dixon, Tennessee, WDKN, in 1996. I hosted the swap and shop show, which became the number one show on the station. It was my first time on the microphone, and it went horribly. I cut callers off and got confused on the board, but in time I figured it out.” J Patrick dreamed of being a morning show guy, but the programming side of radio also appealed to him in time. “I studied radio programming philosophy and even developed my own theories.”


He moved from one station to another, playing pop, classic rock, and country. “I always felt most at home in a country music station.” In 2017, WSM made J. Patrick the station’s digital content manager, putting him in the very place he so enjoyed visiting as a child. “I am at the Opry house every day, and I love it.” As times, and technology, have changed, J Patrick has worked to keep the station relevant for listeners. “WSM is coming up on one hundred years on the air in a few years. We are the longest-running radio station in the United States. We have had over five thousand Saturday night broadcasts. We did a podcast with a historian 44

who said the Grand Ole Opry is the most important radio show in the United States. We want to continue to be important – we are not a museum piece.” The lineup of shows on WSM is well-rounded. “We start with Bluegrass Breakfast each morning and move into Coffee, Country & Cody,” says J Patrick. Several monthly shows include Dailey & Vincent and Chuck Mead’s Face the Music. “We try to get artists involved directly with our programming,” he says. When so many artists were at home during the pandemic, J Patrick developed a show where he asked artists if they crafted their playlist, what would be on it? “WSM

Playlists became a toprated show. Artist came on the air for one hour, and we played the songs they chose for their playlist. I even did a show, as did some of our other staffers. We had Lanie Wilson, Carly Pearce, and many others. It was a beautiful amalgamation of country stars.” While the show is no longer on the air, J Patrick says it will most likely make a comeback. Because the station closely ties to the Grand Ole Opry, it gives airplay to new artists who become Opry members. “I want us always to be the station of the Grand Ole Opry,” J Patrick says. “We are a worldwide brand inside of country music. It is

a legacy we must keep, preserve and perpetuate.” To that end, the station plays new and current music while also allowing space for yesteryear’s music. “We try to design our workdays around contemporary country, be we are careful to add some of the classics. I try to offer a wide variety with an emphasis on the Opry.” WSM went online in the 1990s, making it more accessible to listeners worldwide. There are now three digital streams under the WSM umbrella. Roots 650 features 24/7 roots, Americana, and bluegrass music. Opry Nashville features new country, today’s Opry starts, and archived music. WSM remains the primary station. “Folks can now download the WSM app. We can be heard live on radio, the phone, and television, with our Circle TV, available on Dish and a myriad of other platforms, including Roku and Peacock. We are embracing technology and programming for the consumer of today.”




“I’m an open book, and I tell no lies,” Darren Beachley began the conversation. The multi-instrumentalist and singer testifies that he was born into music. His grandmother Beachley played autoharp and sang at a local radio station with Mac Wiseman. There was always music in the family home.

the dobro. “I was a dobro player up to when I was 25 or 30 years old. I played guitar some, but I was basically a dobro player. I left it and started singing, and one thing led to another. I went back to the bass and guitar again.” Darren’s dream of playing with Doyle Lawson influenced this change.

“It’s not like I discovered it. I think it was more of a bloodline thing. I joke around a lot saying that I was bouncing around in the crib listening to Jimmy Martin.”

“Doyle won’t remember it, but I remember it very well. I was seven years old, and he was with the Country Gentlemen, and they came to Maryland. The cool thing about being a kid is that your fear factor is very little, so I started going to the guys that were on stage and started asking them questions. I remember meeting Doyle at the time. I was very fortunate that those guys were open to answering kids’ questions.” At 14 years old, Darren would see Doyle Lawson playing with his new band at a festival in Virginia. After watching Doyle on stage, Darren told his parents, “I know what I want to do with my life. I want to play music. I want to play with that band.” Darren wasn’t singing or anything like that at the time. It was just a dream. One

Darren shared that as an extrovert, he found music to be an avenue to be around more people. He began playing the bass and started playing in bars at eleven years old. “I saw things that no eleven-year-old kid should probably see,” Darren laughed. After some time playing bass with his dad’s band, Darren remembers seeing Mike Auldridge playing at a bluegrass festival, and he knew that he wanted to play



thing led to another, and it worked out. In 1993 John Bowman was leaving Doyle’s band to work with Alison Krauss. Darren knew John was leaving, and he saw an opportunity. With guitar in tow, Darren drove to see Doyle. “I said, Doyle, I know John’s leaving. I’d really like to have a chance to audition for the band, and Doyle replied, Son, the position is already filled.” Darren shared that it felt like someone had run over him with a truck. He went back to doing his own thing playing dobro around town until 2003. Darren ran into Jamie Daily at IBMA, and they started talking and singing, and they even pulled Doyle in to jam with them; nothing serious. In the spring of 2005, Jamie Daily went to Switzerland with the US young ambassadors’ program, and Doyle asked Darren to fill in for two weeks. However, on November 17, 2005, Darren got his dream job. Doyle offered Darren the position to play in Quicksilver, which he accepted. After four years of playing in Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Darren decided that it was time to move

to the next chapter. “My kids were growing up without me, so I wanted to be closer to home, and I wanted to do some different things musically.” Darren put together a band with Mike Aldridge, Tom Gray, Mark Delaney, and Norman Wright, a very D.C.-centric band. Their first record went to number eleven on the Billboard charts. Still, there was more Darren wanted to try. “After a while, you want to put your mark on whatever you’re doing, pick your songs, record your way with all the lessons that you’ve learned over the years.” With his latest single, “New Ballard Branch,” it sounds like Darren has done just that. Curt Vestal introduced the song to Darren. “It just fit,” he remembers. “I thought it would be a good bridge from where I came from to where I’m trying to go.” Darren is forging forward with new releases on Turnberry Records. He shared that a new single and album should be available this spring.


Cookies & Cocktails: The best Girl Scout Cookie and booze pairings for the bluegrass fan

Candance Nelson

It’s a special time of year for a food lover. You may celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and potatoes. Maybe you’re celebrating Mardi Gras with King Cake. Or, you might enjoy a delicious curry while celebrating Holi. But for this lifelong Girl Scout, March means Cookie Season. That’s right: Thin Mints, Samoas (or Caramel DeLites), Tagalongs (or Peanut Butter Patties), and this year’s newcomer, Adventurefuls, are prime palate pleasers this month as they make headlines with delivery notices throughout the country. And I know I’m not alone in my love for the seasonal treat. The Bluegrass region of the country has good taste in these famous sweets. According to research from Influenster in 2017, Tagalongs, Thin Mints, and Samoas were the top sellers throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Girl Scout Cookies are big business. They’re like the Alison Krauss of cookies. The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest entrepreneurial program for girls in the world. If you want to experience these cookies the right way, put that Krauss record on in the background, pull out those boxes of cookies and pair them up with these 50

alcoholic beverages that are time-tested for a match made in bluegrass heaven. Girl Scouts Cookie: Samoa Drink Pairing: Mudslide The Samoa may be the most indulgent cookie with its chocolate, caramel, and coconut. So, naturally, it goes well with an adult version of hot chocolate. If you’re feeling froggy, crumble up some Samoas to top your drink with for some extra texture. Girl Scout Cookie: Adventurefuls Drink Pairing: Martini I’ve not had as much time to experiment with this year’s brand new cookie, but I can tell you very few things don’t pair well with brownies and caramel in my book. That’s why we’re going with the martini. The martini serves as a blank canvas and will allow any other flavors to shine. For bonus points, try an espresso martini to pull out the bitterness that pairs with the indulgence of this cookie. Girl Scout Cookie: Tagalongs Drink Pairing: White Russian As one of my personal favorites, the Tagalong pairs with almost everything; it’s crunchy and chocolatey and peanut buttery and doesn’t get much better. But if


you want the classic milk and cookie combo, the White Russian comes pretty close. A coffee liquor, vanilla vodka, and sweet cream or milk take this experience to the next level. Girl Scout Cookie: Thin Mint Drink Pairing: Mojito If you’re looking for refreshing flavors, look no further. The mojito is a citrusy, minty fresh drink that benefits from the chocolatey cookie to make a well-rounded treat. Girl Scout Cookie: Trefoil Drink Pairing: Old Fashioned The Trefoil is a simple, shortbread cookie that pairs well with coffee, hot chocolate, tea, or a classic old-fashioned. The old-fashioned has notes of spices and citrus that complement the simplicity of the buttery cookie. Girl Scout Cookie: Girl Scout S’mores Drink Pairing: Moscow Mule There’s something about the spicy ginger cocktail that makes me want to sit around a campfire. Or maybe a fireplace. Either way, it gives off the same vibe as 52

s’mores. Warm up your s’more cookie to serve with the cold copper mug drink for more contrast.

helps balance out the sweetness.

Girl Scout Cookie: Lemon-ups Drink Pairing: Margarita If you’re a fan of citrus, this is the pairing for you. The sweet lemon flavor in the crunchy cookie goes well with the lime juice from the margarita. Bonus: the salted rim

Girl Scout Cookie: Do-si-dos Drink Pairing: Strawberry Daiquiri There are few combinations better than the classic peanut butter and jelly, which this pairing emulates. The crunchy peanut butter cookie with the sweet, fruity daiquiri makes for a delicious grown-up version of the childhood favorite. Girl Scout Cookie: Toffee-tastic Drink Pairing: Hot Buttered Rum The gluten-free cookie is buttery and crunchy, so the hot buttered rum complements the flavors and helps moisten up the Toffee-tastic. In this case, the drink may be more flavorful than the cookie, which pairs well, so neither is fighting for attention. In full disclosure, I am employed by the Girl Scouts of Black Diamond Council, and opinions expressed here do not reflect those of the Council. They are solely my own. I’ve always loved Girl Scout Cookies, so I’m excited to share my devotion - especially paired with booze.



Radio DJ & Bluegrass Musician Group

Jay Armsworthy Bluegrass on the Bay SHELBY C. BERRY

As a bluegrass radio DJ for almost thirty years, Jay Armsworthy fashioned a name for himself with Bluegrass on the Bay, a hard-driving, soulful, traditional two-hour bluegrass radio show currently streaming weekly online with Bluegrass Country from Washington

D.C. and six additional radio stations throughout the country. A native of California, Maryland, bluegrass music affected Jay’s life since he was old enough to turn the radio dial. Still, the radio bug bit him in 1993 when he wanted to start a radio

show. “I approached our local radio station WPTX at an event. I asked about starting a bluegrass show titled ‘The Bluegrass Hour,’ and they started the show a week later on the AM station. From 1993 on, I worked at WPTX every 55

Sunday. Their sister FM station later changed from rock music to country, and they moved me over to WMDM for a new 2-hour show. We had to change the name, and it became ‘Bluegrass on the Bay,’” said Jay. While radio DJs have been around since 1941 when the term surfaced in Variety magazine, Jay’s first love wasn’t radio — it was the music. Consumed by this love, Jay’s family hosted musical gatherings with family and friends who played music while he was growing up, and at ten years old, he asked his dad to show him how to play a chord on the guitar. “Every week, he showed me a new chord, and I would practice,” said Jay. “By 12 years old, I started going out to jam sessions, and I really picked it up from there.”

show every week, and he found music that he liked and ordered the records,” said Jay. “He had a lot of great bluegrass records that inspired me to get into bluegrass music. I just always looked forward to listening with him. I loved the rocking chair. It was a soothing thing to listen and rock back and forth. I still do that!”

Bradley at a bluegrass festival in Maryland and found himself as Ernie’s guitar player for the next six years, really exposing Jay to other parts of the country and venues that he had never seen before. This experience encouraged Jay to start his band Jay Armsworthy & Eastern Tradition in 1994, and he still plays the East Coast with them today. The band’s musical background consists of traditional bluegrass we all know and love and some energized instrumentation old-time gospel numbers, and original ballads. Jay joins Scott Walker on banjo, Dale Eyler on fiddle, and Bonnie Eyler on bass. While the band has seen a variation of members and dabbled into more contemporary bluegrass sounds of an electric bass, Jay Armsworthy & Eastern Tradition at its core is about tradition and preserving the musical sound Jay loved as a child.

The shared bluegrass love with his father and time spent at local bluegrass festivals further inspired A few years later, he started Jay to pursue music as a his first band called The career. He loved seeing Backyard Bluegrass Boys the tour buses of famous and played local spots musicians at the festivals around their hometown. and dreamed of owning his Jay has also been a member own one day. of other regional bands in “My dad would always play Maryland, such as David the WAMU bluegrass radio Eventually, Jay met Ernie Davis & the Warrior River 56

Boys and the Paul Adkins Band. He has also hosted an annual fundraiser for the Hospice of St. Mary’s County in Maryland every year since 2009. After losing two grandfathers within a week the year prior, Jay wanted to find a way to give back to Hospice care with what he knows best — bluegrass music. He helped organize and raise over $250,000 for the Hospice of St. Mary’s County, hosting artists such as Danny Paisley, Michael Cleveland, The Grascals, The Gibson Brothers, Larry Sparks, Sister Sadie, The Seldom Scene, Mountain Faith, and many others. Getting the chance to chat with Jay about his musical background and radio career was quite an honor. He has been a pioneer in this industry for decades, and we are honored to know him as a bluegrass musician and a friend. The Bluegrass Standard: With your background, what made you decide to pursue the business and deejaying side of music in addition to performing? Jay Armsworthy: Being 57

inspired by bluegrass on the radio and other DJs led me to my desire. One of my idol disc jockeys as a kid was Ray Davis on WAMU in Washington D.C. Ray Davis had one of the coolest voices in radio. Listening to him and other bluegrass artists inspired me to do that myself. We all have good and bad days, but it’s the gift of gab, being able to talk about the music. When I was a kid, it was the same thing as learning to play music. I also said I wanted to have a radio show and be a music promoter. BGS: How did your deejaying career lead to you where you are now? JA: Once the radio station was sold and I no longer had a radio station to broadcast, I felt I wanted to continue doing my show somewhere. I had to do it. I searched other stations and realized that I had the equipment to produce a show from my home studio and send it to the stations. Then I considered a syndicated program on seven stations. All in all, I love to play the music I love. BGS: As a bluegrass artist yourself, what inspires you to help get new unknown bluegrass artists on the radio? JA: Independent artists often find it hard to get airplay on radio stations. Mostly, a bluegrass DJ will play an unknown artist before a major station will. I know what it’s like to send a CD to a radio station and wonder if they will play it or not. As long as it is traditional bluegrass, I will give them the airplay. I try to consider every project I receive. On the plus side of playing unknown bluegrass artists, I have total control of what I play. If I like it and know my listeners will, I’ll play it. And most of the time, they trust in my judgment. BGS: How does your work as a bluegrass artist affect your life as a radio DJ? And vice versa? JA: As a Bluegrass artist, I have the advantage of playing my music. But, I try not to favor myself. Some weeks, I may not even play anything from my CDs, and someone will send a message asking for one of my songs. Two are requested the most; one is “Heaven’s Door,” taken from my gospel CD, and the other is “Billy the Bluegrass Beagle” from my latest project. To answer your second part of the question, I have played shows with my band and had people say they heard me on the radio or listened to me on the such-and-such station. Being an artist and a DJ has had a lot of coincidences. It is a good feeling when someone says, “Hey, I listen to your show” or “I’ve heard you on the radio.” I’m passionate about doing both jobs. BGS: What would you say is the most challenging part of what you do as a radio DJ? JA: Technical issues! (Laughs.) Luckily after years of doing it, rarely does that happen. But it’s always that on-the-edge moment that everything goes off with no problems. After that, the rest is a piece of cake. 58

BGS: What about the most rewarding? JA: I’d say the rewarding part as a DJ is knowing I made someone smile or was an inspiration to them. While on the air, I have gotten messages from listeners who said, “I haven’t heard that song in a long time.” or “You’re playing some good ones tonight.” That always makes me feel good about myself as a show producer. I feel like I’m on my game and putting it out there the way they want to hear it. Or if I can play a plum pitiful tune that can make ‘em cry. I know that sounds sad, but I know that I have touched somebody somehow. And that’s rewarding. BGS: Who would you say were some of your favorite artists to work with over the years? JA: As a show producer, I have not worked with an artist hard to get along with or please. Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers, Larry Stephenson Band, and Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out are among the best I had the pleasure to work with. I’m sure that comes from working with them on several occasions and getting to know them personally. BGS: After such a long and successful career, what drives you to continue working in bluegrass and bluegrass radio? JA: The people; making people happy with my music or something I may do or say on stage or over the air. At the end of a show, I try to be at the door and speak to everyone. It’s a good feeling when they tell you how much of a good time they had. That drives me to continue doing this; not the money, but the people. Not to mention the passion and love I have for bluegrass music. I eat and sleep on bluegrass music. BGS: Where do you see your career in the next five years? JA: In the next five years, I plan to perform with my band more, add my radio show to more stations, and put on another bluegrass festival in my area. I am about to take on a new adventure. I hope I can make an announcement soon. That is where I plan to be in the next five years. 59

Milo Solujic


A Radio Career All Because His Dad Didn’t Want Him to Be a Beatle

Four decades in one career? It’s hard to fathom that at this point, but Milo Solujic has almost done that with his bluegrass radio show in Tucson, Arizona. A radio DJ by profession and musician by heart, Milo spends each day with Arizona’s bluegrass and old-time country music lovers on The Bluegrass Show on KXCI, showcasing the best bluegrass you can find in the state.

radio station that prides itself on informative, engaging, and creative community-based programming. With more than 35,000 listeners tuning into the station each week over the air and online, KXCI plays music from all genres and eras.

A highly experienced and impeccably talented radio DJ, Milo’s radio career launched in 1984 on the same radio station, KXCI, where he’s still at the helm. He’s interviewed Iconic artists like Alison Krauss, Lonesome River Founded in 1983 on the foundation of Band, and Ralph Stanley — a career connecting communities to each other highlight Milo will never forget. and the world, KXCI is a community 60

“When I was first learning how to play fiddle, I went out and bought every old-time, fiddle, bluegrass record there was. Growing up, I collected and loved a little bit of everything when it comes to music,” said Milo. “One day, I set my alarm to KXCI’s call numbers, and I heard Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain in Serbian. I thought I was dreaming, and I knew I would love this radio station. I went down there and got asked to do tech for some of the shows. I also got asked by the morning DJs to bring my records because of my collection. And I’ve been there for 37 years,” said Milo. As a community-driven radio station, KXCI was the perfect fit for Milo and a career that spans almost four decades. Supported by drives and memberships, this station puts a lot

of focus on having something for everyone. “Now we even have an education program for kids to learn to DJ. We give a whole afternoon to kids, and they do the whole segment with advertising and everything. It teaches speaking skills and other things, and I bet some of these kids end up in broadcasting of some sort,” said Milo. “Doing this brought me out of my shell. I can talk music all day long in just about any genre. The music changes and comes and goes. It’s real music, the last of real country music. I miss the harmony singing of the bands like Doyle Lawson.” Bluegrass music drives Milo in a lasting way. “I like the fast stuff! You always want to listen to what makes you feel good. Music is good for your 61

mental health and wellbeing. If you can play an instrument for 20 minutes a day for four days a week, you’ll be much better mentally,” said Milo. In another life, Milo is a musician himself — not that his father didn’t try to prevent that from happening, though. Coming from a family of Serbian ethnic dancers who danced at the New York City World’s Fair in 1964, Milo’s dad, an immigrant from Serbia, thought the idea of playing music was outrageous. “He said that you pay the gypsies to play music! Then, the Beatles came around. I got a lesson on the guitar, 62

and my dad took it away from me. He said he didn’t want me to be the Beatles! My dad didn’t want me to be a rock and roller, but he wanted me to get an education and have a good job. They didn’t come to the US to fool around. My mom was a firstgeneration American, actually,” said Milo. He grew up on Romanian music similar to what we know as bluegrass with country themes and bluegrass harmonies. Still, he wasn’t introduced to real bluegrass music until later in life when a friend invited him to a family jam session in his home — fully equipped with upright bass and Bill Monroe songs.

Eventually, Milo was given a violin from a friend after listening to one of The Beatles albums together and encouraged him to learn to play. “I had played the piano before that, but I fractured my wrist,” said Milo. “I carried the violin around for five years in college in Arizona when I saw a flyer about learning bluegrass and old-time music, and that’s how I learned to play!” While radio is his central focus, Milo still plays music locally in Arizona. Playing a wide variety of music, including bluegrass, Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Mick Jagger, Milo’s band had a regular gig for years at a local venue before Covid. Today, there are only about 10-15 places to place in Tucson. “Before Covid, it was a very eclectic place to play all sorts of music. I worked for a few record labels in the 1990s here. My whole world was music — playing in my band, working for the record labels, and radio,” Milo said. Working for the radio and playing his music aren’t Milo’s only musical world, though. He took over ownership of The Folk Shop in Tucson in 2016, a legendary shop known for its banjos and old musical treasures. A great local shop with instruments from all over the world and anything you can imagine that is fun, funky, or vintage, Milo bought The Folk Shop from Paul Blumentritt when he retired to keep the place alive as a part of the local community. “The people that go there play music, and the people that work there play it all. Bluegrass, old-time, Irish, and everything else too! Bob Dylan’s band and Robert Plant of Led Zepplin came in this past year. You never know who is going to stop in, even movie stars. It’s a great place to stop by,” said Milo. After such a long and successful career, one simple thing drives Milo to continue in bluegrass radio — the music. “It doesn’t matter if it’s blues, bluegrass, or rock and roll. I can talk about it for hours!” said Milo. As his plans for retirement approach in the next few years, Milo encourages his listeners to do one thing. “Play or listen to music you enjoy. Keep seeing live music. I encourage people to learn to play music too. Music is the best thing you can get for your mental health.”





February 2022 Number






Livin Large In A Little Town

Donna Ulisse

Billy Blue Records



I’ll Be Lovin You

Greg Blake

Turnberry Records



All Grassed Up

David Stewart

Turnberry Records



Farmin Man

The Kody Norris Show

Rebel Records



Irons In The Fire

Unspoken Tradition

Mountain Home Music




Laura Orshaw

Dark Shadow Recording



Living Left to Do

Billy Blue Records



God’s Guiding Light

Joe Mullins and The Radio Ramblers Corey Zink

Sound Biscuit



Whether or Not

Deeper Shade of Blue

Pinecastle Records



Date With An Angel

Danny Paisley and Southern Grass

Pinecastle Records



Deep River

Rick Faris

Dark Shadow Recording



Transistor Radio

Daryl Mosley

Pinecastle Records



I Ain’t Been Nowhere

Rhonda Vincent & The Rage

Upper Management Music



New Ballard Branch

Darren Beachley

Turnberry Records



Common Ground

Shannon Slaughter

Elite Circuit Records


Submit Your Professional Videos, or Lyric Videos for Consideration to: NRV – New Release 66





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