Everything was merry and bright with Farm and Fun Time back at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s Performance Theater on December 20 with another Christmas Spectacular! Thanks to our sponsor Eastman Credit Union, Radio Bristol was able to bring Farm and Fun Time to not only 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!
Host band Bill and the Belles kicked the show off and took the audience on a festive trip to the islands with a rousing rendition of their “Santa’s Hula Holiday.” After the packed audience imagined themselves celebrating Christmas on a hot and sunny beach, our first featured musical guest – Sally and George – came on stage. Though the band is based in Nashville, Tennessee, Sally and George can trace their origins to right here to Bristol. The duo first met on State Street during Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion many years ago, and they’ve been blending their voices and songwriting prowess ever since. In addition to Christmas favorites, such as “What Child is This?,” the duo performed an original by George called “Pipe Dream,” a piece that described the duo’s initial meeting and an imagined future together. This was sweet start to an evening that would soon get much sweeter.
The “Heirloom Recipe” segment was presented by our good pal Denise Smith, a true Appalachian in every sense of the word who is dedicated to preserving our region’s heritage. Denise told us about her family’s recipes for fruitcake. While fruitcake is a controversial dish to say the least, Denise’s family has not one, but TWO fruitcake recipes! Both recipes call for the dessert to be soaked in alcohol, one in a more traditional brandy and the other in bourbon, which Smith attributes to her mother’s family’s proximity to Kentucky. To commemorate this beloved and boozy holiday favorite, Bill and the Belles sang an appropriate jingle: “Fruitcake, Fruitcake.”
Our next musical guests were Carolina Blue, a hardcore bluegrass band that taps deep into the roots of the music. In the holiday spirit, the band performed a few Christmas classics such as “Silver Bells,” and bluegrass standards including “Rocky Road Blues” and “Rawhide.” While many traditional bluegrass bands are content to cover the work of the masters, Timmy Jones and Bobby Powell have penned many of their own original songs in the traditional style. Farm and Fun Time is a program that was crucial in the development of bluegrass as a genre, so it only seems right that a band so steeped in these traditions would play on such a historic stage.
For this month’s “ASD Farm Report,” we visited Roan Valley Tree Farm in Johnson City, Tennessee. Roan Valley Tree Farm has been in Steve Ayers’ family for decades, and in 1993, the farm even provided a tree for the White House. And, of course, there’s no better time to visit a tree farm than at Christmas!
Wrapping up the evening’s performance was The Church Sisters. Originally from Dickenson County, Virginia, The Church Sisters have been blending their voices since they could talk. Drawing from their early experiences in bluegrass and looking forward, they appeared this evening with a full country band, featuring keys and electric guitar, to perform Christmas classics and some of the songs that have been earning them acclaim everywhere they go.
Thanks to everyone who came out to make this a wonderful evening of fun and music, and a Happy Holiday to all! There are still a few tickets left for January’s Farm and Fun Time, a chance to be a part of our live audience and celebrate Appalachian balladry with Amythyst Kiah, Elizabeth Laprelle, John Lilly, ETSU Old Time Ramblers, and host band Bill and the Belles!