This month Radio Bristol took Farm and Fun Time on the road for a special live broadcast from the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, New York. It was the first time Radio Bristol ventured north of the Mason-Dixon, and what a trip it was! You may ask: “Why take Farm and Fun Time, a regional radio program, on the road?” Well, it’s a good question that deserves some thought.
We at the Birthplace of Country Music believe Radio Bristol’s mission is something that has the potential to resonate not just regionally or nationally, but internationally. The programming that we meticulously craft through our various platforms is designed to celebrate, promote, and educate our listeners about the diverse and truly unique music culture of our region. We believe this is something listeners from outside our region deserve to hear and experience for themselves. Providing an inclusive space and platform for listeners wherever they may be is at the very center of our mission – and that’s where taking Farm and Fun Time on the road comes in to play.
Farm and Fun Time is one of our station’s flagship programs, one that is built around our region’s music and food culture. Not only is Farm and Fun Time relevant today, but the program played a significant role in defining the sound and format of live country music broadcasting in the 1940s and 1950s. It is Radio Bristol’s goal to carry on that tradition today. The opportunity to be a part of Grey Fox, one of the largest and most widely acclaimed bluegrass festivals in the United States, allowed Radio Bristol to share our region’s music and radio history more widely while at the same time illustrating its relevance today. Folks at Grey Fox took notice and the show was an overwhelming success.
If you didn’t make the trek to join us, here’s a recap so you can see just what you missed!
Bill and the Belles kicked the show off with some sweet harmonies and popular melodies of days gone by. It was an interesting juxtaposition to hear the Delmore Brothers number “In the Blue Hills of Virginia” sung high from the Catskills! Following Bill and the Belles, Eric and Leigh Gibson – aka the Gibson Brothers – took the stage for the “Heirloom Recipe” segment of the show. Many might not know that before the Gibson Brothers won countless awards and accolades for their music, the brothers spent much their childhood days on the family farm in Plattsburgh, New York. They recalled their days of hard work on the farm and the sweet reward that often awaited them at the end of a hard day’s work: a piece of mom’s blackberry pie. In honor of the Gibson Brothers hilarious recollections of their hard work picking berries, Bill and the Belles sang “Nobody Wants to Pick, but Everybody Wants Some Pie,” reminding the audience that hard work often results in a sweet reward when everyone does their part.
Our first musical guests of the evening were Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion alumni The Michael Daves and Tony Trischka Band. Accompanied by virtuoso musicians Brittany Haas, Dominick Leskie, and Mike Bub, Daves and Trischka performed a rocking set of music, including the old-time standard “Drunken Hiccups” and “Fox Chase,” a Trischka original inspired by the harmonica playing of Deford Bailey. For the finale of their set, the band was joined by Ruthy Ungar and Mike Merenda from The Mammals to perform “Train on the Island,” a classic fiddle tune that was first recorded by J. P. Nester and Norman Edmonds at the 1927 Bristol Sessions.
For this month’s “ASD Farm Report” segment, we introduced our audience at the Creekside Stage to the work that Appalachian Sustainable Development does to support farmers in our region. Sylvia Crum, the Director of Communications and Development at ASD, called in and explained ASD’s work supporting the continuation of family farming in the Appalachian region.
Wrapping up the evening’s performance were musical guests The Mammals. Though normally a full Americana band with drums and electric guitar, the band performed a captivating stripped down acoustic set for the Farm and Fun Time crowd. From a cappella tunes like “My Baby Drinks Water” to raucous string band classics such as “Fall on My Knees,” it is easy to see why the diverse sounds of The Mammals are popular with a growing audience across the east coast and beyond. To close out their portion of the show, the band called on a host of fiddlers to join them onstage for a beautiful rendition of “Ashokan Farewell,” a tune written by Ruthy’s father, Jay Ungar.
To close the show, Bill and the Belle’s sang “Take Me Back to Tennessee,” a fitting end to an amazing show on the road as our thoughts started heading towards home. We will be back in Bristol at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s Performance Theater on Thursday, August 10 at 7pm for another Farm and Fun Time show, featuring two great North Carolina bands – Asheville-based bluegrass band Town Mountain and Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboy. And be on the lookout for more Farm and Fun Time broadcasts on the road in the near future as Radio Bristol takes the show to our growing audience and spreads the message of good music and preserving our region’s culture and heritage to music fans across the nation and beyond!
Kris Truelsen is the Producer at Radio Bristol and a member of Farm and Fun Time house band Bill and the Belles.