Dr. Danny Fulks, Bluegrass Professor

        Not long ago I came across a book I enjoyed.  It was written by a Dr. Danny Fulks.  He is a university professor who loves bluegrass, so I guess you are not surprised we were kindred spirits.  I have not met him, though I hope to one day, but I loved his book.  Not only is he a highly educated man but he understands the beauty and simple truth of traditional music as well as anyone I have read in a while.

        It didn’t hurt him any with me that he is a big fan of Wayne and Kristin Scott Benson’s either.  He has written a number of articles for Bluegrass Unlimited and did a very nice one on Kristin.  

        Dr. Fulks strikes me as the type of teacher who takes off his coat, rolls up his sleeves and gets to know his students.   He’s not afraid to go eat a hamburger with them and learn all about their fears and dreams.  He is the kind of Professor I used to study like crazy for not only because they inspired me but also because I wouldn’t want to disapppoint them for anything.  You just can’t let a man down who tries that hard to help you.

        Here is a scene from his book.  Dr. Fulks, I apologize, it is paraphrased.  I had to write it from memory; I gave the book to someone else to read.  The story reminded me so much of my high school days I fell in floor with laughter. 

       Seems a young couple went out parking.  The boy kissed the girl and made a suggestion.  “You want to get in the back seat?”

        The girl said, “No, I think I’ll stay up here with you.”

        Lordy, I don’t think I even knew the world had any problems until I was near twenty.  These kids had that same kind of innocence you can’t help but love and be nostalgic for.

       So Dr. Fulks, thanks for letting me paraphrase your story.  Leave my folks a comment so they’ll know where to find your book and read your work, and keep on picking brother.  We’ll cross paths on the bluegrass road someday soon.

Dr. B

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10 Comments on “Dr. Danny Fulks, Bluegrass Professor”

  1. WeeklyShocks Says:

    Seems a young couple went out parking. The boy kissed the girl and made a suggestion. “You want to get in the back seat?”

    The girl said, “No, I think I’ll stay up here with you.”

    Charmingly witty and naive! Thanks for this.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Hey there WeeklyShocks,

    As we say in bluegrass, Dr. Fulk’s book is extra good. I hope mine will be half as much someday. If I can carry that cat’s books to school, I would consider that I had arrived.

    Old Doc appreciates your visit. Because of young people people like you and my blog pal msslightly, the blog keeps me young at heart.

    Dr. B

  3. danny fulks Says:

    Doc, you’re too kind. I was in my mid thirties before I found I was an Appalachian. Born in Southern Ohio, the school curriculum, as it is everywhere focuses on the other. Home town heroes, local history, resources, ways of earning a living, where we fit in with the larger world were not taught, still aren’t. So we were Buckeyes, residents of the great state of Ohio, state of big steel, rubber, 200 acre bottoms of corn, home of presidents. But what I saw was my dad bring a half-frozen baby calf into the front room, give it warmth from a coal fueled open fireplace, snow melting from its hide; mama outside with an ax chopping off a spring fryer’s head, dipping it into a tub of scalding water, plucking the feathers, a few minutes later we’re eating a pully bone; salted hams in the smoke house, a setting hen and her biddies, cold wind coming into the bedrooms through cracks around windows in winter, a horse crippled–then shot, Camel cigarettes, home made chewing tobacco, sweat, flies, maggots, snake doctors, two acres of flooded corn, melancholy hymns sang in a small church that promised a better life in the sweet bye and bye. As a professor in West Virginia I met the kids who came down from the coal fields, real Appalachians, found they were so much like me. Able to look authority figures in the eye, quick with a witty remark, willing to make friends with a teacher, invite you up to meet their grandmas. What about the birth control pill? “My granny said take an aspirn, hold it tight between your knees, you will have no problems.” Don’t want to use Dr. B’s site to sell books but my email is danny.fulks@comcast.net Tragedy On Greasy Ridge, Tick Ridge Faces The South, both have a selection of stories from the region–uplifting stories of murder, murder-suicide, moonshine, religion, food, bluegrass music, sports heroes, the mighty Ohio River, death in a cave, today’s youth, why it’s unethical to walk on a grave, stuff like that. Well, it’s OK if the person is buried in a mausoleum, kids can use it for a climbing wall. And for good music, It’s the Bensons of South Carolina, making some of the sounds of my youth sound fresh and clean, Jerry Douglas’ dobro, Del McCoury’s tenor, Earl Scruggs, Larry Cordle, Alison’s fiddle.

    Danny Fulks

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Dr. Fulks,

    Heck, I hope you sell a bunch of books off my site.

    You may have discovered you were Appalachian in your 30s but you are true bluegrass just as sure as a guy like me who grew up around it or Ted and Irene Lehmann from New Hampshire who came to it after retirement.

    In my book, ‘The Mandolin Case,’ Harvey County is a place of perpetual grace and dignity, and a bluegrass state of mind.

    Dr. B

  5. Billy Says:

    Danny’s written several books about good down to earth folks. He needs to write more fast as his truth is not written about much any more. When I read his stories I remember my grand daddy sitting on the front porch whittlin’ and talkin’. Then Grandma would tell him not to “streatch the truth too far,” then he would say he was there and saw it, take a sip from his jug and get back to wittlin’ and talkin’.

  6. drtombibey Says:

    Billy,

    I too hope he will record all those old notions so they will not be lost to posterity.

    Dr. B

  7. Joy Renée Says:

    Just popping by….
    Cute story. :)

    And I love, love, love bluegrass…just tonight I was watching “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” and I would get giddy everytime the music would start! Silly, I know. But it gets me everytime. ;)

  8. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Joy,

    Thanks for dropping in. Those of us who have been around for many years are especially tickled when young folks are interested in the music. As you know, it is not the stereotypical ‘hillbilly’ (I am a bit of a hillbilly, though) music often portrayed, but a very sophisticated art form.

    Along the way I have played with a lot of young newcomers. When Josh Pinkham came to town with Mike Marshall everyone was stunned at the level of musicanship from such a young person.

    Dr. B


  9. Dr. B,
    Now I want to read that book. Seems you’re like me – once you like a book and a writer, you REALLY like it, and you want everyone to read it so you can talk about it. I know how you feel about that – it always makes me sad that my friends don’t have the same taste in novels as I do.
    Danny Fulks, easy name to remember – one more book for my Barnes and Nobles shopping cart come April!

  10. drtombibey Says:

    ms slightly,

    He has some great stories about being a University Professor for these kids in West Virginia. The thing I love is that he celebrates their mountain heritage but never makes fun of them because they still have some innocence.

    I was a very naive country boy when I went off to college. Dr. Fulks is the kind of Professor I would have worked extra hard for.

    Dr. B


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