Posted tagged ‘WNCW 88.7’

WNCW 88.7 Weekend

August 16, 2010

        It was a fine weekend. I had Friday afternoon off, and Snookers and I played nine holes of golf. Marfar caught us at the turn to remind me we needed to get to the Don Gibson theater for the Darin and Brooke Aldridge and the Snyder Family show. We “crunk” up the Neuse River converted school bus and turned on the GPS. I forgot to re-set the gadget from last week, and it routed us via York but we enjoyed the scenery.

        I’ve often said if I made the Grand Ole Opry it wouldn’t be in a Prevost bus, but the maintenance crew would let me in the back door. That’s about the way it was. I gave Marfar her ticket and she went on in. I went around back and opened the door. The sound man spotted me. “Hey Doc, how was your game?”

        “Huh? How’d ya know?”

        “The golf club, Doc. It’s a bit of a give-a-way.”

        “Oh yeah, I guess so.” I took a swing. “Boy, this is a good’un. Got a little extra snap at the bottom. Old man club.”

        “So, how’d ya do?”

        “39. Not bad, but Snookers clipped me for a cheeseburger.”

        “He’s tough. We’ve got some chicken and ribs. Go past the dressing room and take a right.”

        “Great, thanks.” I could hear the Snyders in the background. Man, those kids can play.

        I walked on in. “Now let’s see, was that left or right? Where’s that GPS when ya need it?” I took a left. My goodness, it was the stage at the Gibson.

        I called over my shoulder to the sound-man. “Hey, tell the boss not to worry. I know amateurs aren’t allowed on the Gibson stage, but I know not to take a divot.”

        He laughed. “Gotta re-do the floor every winter anyway, Doc. He demands the best.” I took three steps and there was Dennis.

        “Lord have mercy; Dennis Jones. My favorite bluegrass DJ in the history of the world. How in the world are ya?”

       “Great, Doc. Let me introduce you to the audience.” He cranked up the mic and gave “The Mandolin Case” a fine plug. In return, I gave him some medical advice as to shoulder discomfort, then went to get some ribs and take in the rest of the show.

       I stopped at the artist sign-in board. Hm. Lots of famous names here. Alison Brown, Marty Stuart, Darin and Brooke Aldridge, the Snyders, Marianne Faithful. “Oh, what the heck.” I got out a perma-marker and drew a caricature of Bibey peering over the fence, and signed it. “Bibey was here.”

       The unknown now mingle with the famous. I couldn’t help but wonder at the reaction. Who the heck is that?

       Infiltrated by some old country doc. Hard to hold ’em down I guess.

       The “Bluegrass Sweethearts,” the Aldridges, turned in another fine professional show as they always do. Hard to hold them down too. They find new fans every week now.

       I let Marfar drive home as we wanted to get in before three AM. The next day we took in the Dennis Jones WNCW 88.7 show, “Going Across the Mountain.” Check it out sometime; you can access it by Internet stream anywhere in the world. Here’s the link: www.wncw.org

       In Harvey County you can hear Dennis and WNCW one of two ways. We do have the Internet now, although it’s still on the party line. It works great as long as you don’t mind sharing with your neighbor, (I don’t) and we usually listen to the station that way.

       Sometimes we still gather at City Hall to crowd around and listen to the show. City Hall’s right there in the back of the Dairy Queen. For a long time it and the old State Theater were the only places in town with air conditioning. Mayor Clay rigged up an antenna on an out-of-service telephone pole, attached a couple of rabbit ears, then wrapped ’em up in tin foil. (It’s how we used to pick up Fred Kirby over in Charlotte)

       If you leave the contraption pointed west you can get WNCW 88.7 without fail. When the cloud skip is just right, it’s extra clear. In Harvey County we like it at least as good as the Grand Ole Opry. (Don’t tell Eddie Stubbs I said that. I think a lot of him too, and when I go to Nashville I want to be just as welcome there as here in Harvey County or on the Gibson stage.)

       We spent Sunday morning with Dennis and “The Gospel Truth,” then in the afternoon cruised over to Indie’s cabin. We had a late lunch of chicken on the grill, ‘mater sandwiches with Duke’s mayonnaise on light bread, and corn on the cob, then floated around in inner tubes most of the afternoon with a glass of Arnold Palmer. (half lemonade and half sweet tea) 

       The old “Sail With the Pilot” clock at the cabin still turns backwards the same way Indie rigged it up before he died. I’ll never forget Indie’s lessons. It’s important to be the best Doc you can be, but it’s also important to live large and not hurry. Me and Marfar are gonna keep doing that even when the modern world protests.

       My agent sent me a book review from England. The gentleman enjoyed “The Mandolin Case,” and found it a quaint laid-back way of life he didn’t know still existed anywhere these days. He liked the spare writing and the pace of the story. I was humbled by his kind review.

      I gotta admit it wasn’t all that hard to write even if it did take me a decade. I just thought everyone lived this way. All I had to do was show what I’m lucky enough to see every day.

       So, back to the Doc gig. Remember my advice to Dennis, my bluegrass brother and King of the Harvey County airways, “If it hurts, don’t do it brother.”

       All the best,

Dr. B

In The WNCW Studio With Balsam Range

March 11, 2010

        Mountain Home records has it going on.  This little label is setting it in fire North Carolina. The have two of my favorites bluegrass bands on their roster, Darin and Brooke Aldridge and Balsam Range.

        It is clear to me the label is progressive and looking for the young bans who refuse to put out cookie cutter art.  I spend an afternoon in the WNCW studio with Balsam Range. Like other fine modern bluegrass bands, they respect the tradition, but are innovative and keep pushing forward. When you listen to their music, you’ll hear plenty of bluegrass, but also country, blues and jazz.

        When I was a kid our world was segregated, but I used to love to watch the African-American spirituals on Sunday morning television. The picture quality was poor; an old grainy black and white black and white, but it didn’t diminish the soul of the music one bit. These guys even have some of that kind of sound too.  They didn’t wear those cool old robes though.

        My wife and I joined them for a sound check. Dennis Jones, the bluegrass voice of the airways in the Carolinas (and the world via Internet stream) gave them their final instructions.  Once on the air it didn’t take long for the boys to break out of the mold. 

        “Let’s see. It’s been a while since you guys have been here. When was your last visit to the studio?”

        Marc Pruett: “1947.” 

        Everyone laughed and it was on.  If you go see Balsam Range plan on a good time.  They are gonna have fun whether you like it or not. 

        Dennis Jones is a masterful engineer. He sat at this huge console that has about 4,000 knobs and buttons, only 1,000 of which I knew what to do with.  He could see the little boy in me dying to play and called me over.

        “Put on these headphones, Doc.”

        “Thanks. Man what a rich sound.”

        “The kids call it ‘pfat’ nowadays, Doc.”

        “Hey, what does this knob do?”

        He smiled.  “It controls the volume in your mix.”

        I eyed the board.  Fascinating to an old doc. “How ’bout this one?”

        “I wouldn’t mess with the other ones, Doc. They can shock you if you don’t know which ones to twist.”  He broke into a wide grin.

        “Yes sir.”

        Man could he dial you in. Most bands I have played in work off the economy mix. We all hear the same thing in our ear monitor, and have to compromise a bit to make everyone happy.  The WNCW Studio B set-up allowed each player to ask for more or less of each component until the mix suited them.  I know for a fact this is a band that gets along, ’cause every one of ’em asked for more banjo!

        They mentioned on air Balsam Range will be at the Darin and Brooke Aldridge festival on April 10.  There will be some very traditional bluegrass bands like J.D. Crowe, but also a fine blues band, the Harris Brothers. Darin and Brooke are the host band. They are bluegrass, but also lean towards modern acoustic country and gospel.  This festival is a good introduction for folks not familiar with our music as it offers variety, the highest quality, and a very reasonable price. It is a festival that needs to be on every southern bucket list.

        Balsam Range is not afraid to be different.  If you have a Romanian folk dance number you like send it to ’em.  They might just give it a whirl. Check ’em out at www.balsamrange.com.  Visit WNCW 88.7 too at www.wncw.org. Dennis Jones has one of the best Saturday bluegrass and Sunday morning gospel shows in the world. You can pick ’em up on Internet steam if you visit their site. One of these fine days good old Tommy Bibey might come across the air and play you a tune.

        I don’t think I’ll twist too may knobs on that board, though.  It is pretty electrified for bluegrass, and I don’t want to get shocked. 

Dr. B