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No Joe Val Festival This Year, but the BBU Has a Substitute

Last Presidents’ Day Weekend (2020) in mid-February, the annual Joe Val Festival went off without a hitch. See HERE for lots of photos I took, along with some (relatively spare) commentary. Now here we are back in February, and no JVF. But I just got this announcement of some real treats from the Boston Bluegrass Union:

Bluegrass Breakdown February 11th, 2021
Dear BBU Members & Friends,

President’s Day Weekend is here again and for the first time in over two decades, we won’t be spending it together in a hotel brimming with bluegrass music, celebrating the life and legacy of Joe Val. Knowing how much this weekend means to many of us, we hope it will be that much more special when we can finally get together again.

Although it’s not the same as being together in person, we have an announcement to help us celebrate our annual winter oasis: our friend Dean Loomis has unearthed a treasure trove of videos from Joe Val Festivals’ recent and more distant past. For those who don’t know Dean, he is a video archivist extraordinaire who has filmed many sets at Joe Val in high definition video using high-quality audio directly from the soundboard.

To help us celebrate our favorite weekend of the year, Dean went above and beyond by uploading over 9 hours of previously unpublished videos from the Joe Val Festival. This includes full sets by The Del McCoury Band, Hot Rize, The Steeldrivers (with Chris Stapleton), and many more. These previously unreleased sets, as well as over 130 other “singles”, can all be seen on YouTube as part of this playlist:  

If you’re on Facebook, we will also be uploading links to these videos there as well. If you get a chance to watch any of them and would like to let us know what you think, please drop by the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival Facebook Group and post a comment.

Thanks so much to Dean Loomis at Less Than Face Productions for sharing these videos with us, and be sure to check out his YouTube Channel (link here) for wonderful videos from Grey Fox, FreshGrass, and more! Dean has plans to upload even more videos from past Joe Val festivals, so please remember to subscribe to his YouTube channel.

We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and we wish you all a happy Joe Val Weekend!   The BBU Newsletter Team

I’ve checked out a few of Dean Loomis’s videos, and they’re great! /CL

Put More Water in the Soup

Bad news for late risers (and Western Time Zoners): Hillbilly at Harvard is cutting back to three hours, from 9 AM to 12 noon, starting this Saturday (January 30th). And as well, Harvard is still restricting outsiders (non-students, non-employees) from WHRB’s studios, so this Spring HAH will continue to be pre-recorded. I’ll try to add some goodies (like live in-studio performances from the past) to the mix of what I call Generic Hours, but I doubt whether I’ll be able to do a live show before the end of the term in May.

On the plus side, when I do get back to live air, I’ll be getting out earlier. Also, you may enjoy the new program to follow HAH at noon, called Hillbilly Jamboree. What exactly they’ll play I can’t say, but the name suggests they’ll follow in HAH footsteps and play plenty of country and bluegrass. Think of it as a harbinger of more weekend ‘roots’ music on WHRB.

Maybe, as Jimmy Martin says, “There’s better times a-comin’.”

PS: Anyone have a working Digital Audio Tape (DAT) machine you’d like to get rid of? I have a lot of HAH airchecks from the ’90s and early ‘00s on DAT, and my Sony DTC-700 won’t move the tape. Long shot, I know; this format was short-lived, and the machines were expensive and complex, so there aren’t many out there. But no harm in asking. /CL

Gordy Brown

I just learned, from an obituary in The Boston Broadside, that Gordy Brown died on December 11th. On December 3rd I had gotten one of Gordy’s frequent mailings to his e-list, this one a forward of a link to videos of old Opry stars. The return address was “may be hospitalized awhile limiting access to mail.” Gordy had COPD and had been in the hospital not long before; last time I saw him, in the summer when he dropped by WHRB to leave off a few records, he was toting an oxygen tank.

On the 24th I dropped him a note saying I was using his old photo of the 1994 HAH Christmas Party and reminding him to tune in on Saturday for the rebroadcast of the 2012 Christmas Extravaganza. The email generated this response: “Gordy.s Auto Signature Block Am in Bedford VA Hospital Hospice unit, Bldg. 2, rm 303. No cell phone. Room Phone is 782-687-4110. NO physical visits. due to covid” As far as I knew he was still alive and maybe even reading his mail. Eerily, it now reminds me of the scene in the movie, On the Beach, after a world-ending atomic war, when a submarine crewman, searching for the source of a radio signal in dead San Francisco, finds only a Coke bottle bumping in the breeze against a telegraph key.

Gordy might have appreciated that irony. He was a friend, and a friend of the show for many decades. If he also earned the title of ‘Complainer in Chief’ on this blog, back in 2014, it was in jesting tribute to our long-standing differences of taste in country music, and it did not diminish the long years of his efforts on behalf of local country performers in New England. Gordy knew practically everyone who played ‘country and western’ in the region, and put that knowledge to the service of his own New England Country Music Historical Society and to Halls of Fame in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

Gordy collected records and memorabilia, and hoped to establish a site for the Society and his collections—at one point he had Georgia Mae’s famous white guitar, which he donated to the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The Society was a one-man operation, and eventually proved too ambitious. Gordy did succeed in creating an exhibit called Legends of Waltham Country Music at The Waltham Museum (25 Lexington St.). Here’s an email from Gordy about it:

Gordon Brown was born in New Bedford. He had worked as a part-time DJ on WNBH in New Bedford in the 1950s, and in engineering and production at Boston station WNAC (AM, FM, TV). He served in the Army and was active as a veteran in the American Legion and the VFW. He was also active in conservative politics, and helped distribute the fledgling Boston Broadside monthly, hence the prominent obituary there (next to the legendary Walter E. Williams). Gordy leaves a son, Barry, who I believe lives in Florida, and two grandchildren.

I can’t find a good photo of Gordy, but it would be fitting to treat readers to the volume of the old film series Gordy linked to in his final email, ‘Memories: Grand Ole Opry Stars of the Fifties’. This was the country music from the period that Gordy liked best, featuring acts like Carl Smith, Goldie Hill, Little Jimmy Dickens, Lonzo & Oscar, Minnie Pearl, and many others. This video contains several shows, and runs about an hour an a half. It’s lots of fun:

RIP Gordy. /CL

The Day-After-Christmas Extravaganza!

This Saturday is the day after Christmas, but we can’t let a year go by without keeping the tradition of our Christmas Extravaganzas alive. So we’ve got one for you: a rebroadcast of the Extravaganza from December 22, 2012! Plenty of favorites, like this one of mine from back in the ’60s:

If all goes well, it’ll start at 9:00 AM Eastern Saturday morning, and run until c. 12:40 PM, to make room for the Prelude to the Met. I had to take out the dated weather reports and Country Calendar announcements, which actually worked out well, as otherwise the show would have run too long. If you hear time cues during the show, just ignore them.

It’s also re-created from an aircheck at home, so the sound quality won’t be as good as usual or in stereo. But with the mix of LPs, CDs, and Vast Variety Vault singles, you might not even notice.

You’ll also hear some songs, like ‘The 12 Days of Redneck Christmas’ that I don’t think we’ve played since. Fun!

Why did I pick 2012? Dunno; listened to bits of a few others, and decided this one was more lively. The old pirate, Cap’n Flint, makes an appearance towards the end, as well.

Stay tuned! /CL

PS Speaking of archives, here’s a photo from the days when we had a party and a little carol singing for the Christmas Extravaganza:

The faces are pretty washed out, but I can recognize most of them. Going left to right, there’s Paul Anderson and his wife, Miss Barbara, who was our cheerful librarian for a time; then two dark-haired fellows I don’t recognize; Helen Clougherty (Sinc’s wife); Bucky Bear, I think; Jimmy Allen in the red sweater; a young lady with glasses I don’t know; Ol’ Sinc in front; Jimmy’s wife Sheila behind him, and then Richie Brown (?); Cousin Flo Murdock in red, and behind her Stan Zdonick; then I guess me in my green shirt (for Christmas) in front; Grace Funari behind me, and Ed Muller behind her; to the right of Ed is someone I don’t know; there’s John Lincoln Wright in a black hat, and his wife Vicki beside him; in front of the two of them is someone in a shiny jacket I don’t recall; in the back, behind Vicki is George Hauenstein (formerly of WZBC’s ‘Sunday Morning Country’, now in the midwest); next to last is the always-cheerful Frank Dudgeon (where is he now?), and farthest right, Gordy Brown, who gave me the photo. It was 1992.

Oh, and MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone! Yes, we are having one!

The Met Is Back, and Orgies® Pre-empt HAH for Two Weeks in December

The Metropolitan Opera Saturday Matinee Broadcast season begins December 5th. Of course, no live operas are being produced this season in New York City; all the operas broadcast will be drawn from the archives. They are scheduled for 1:00 PM every Saturday through June 5th. Although they could be run at any time, since they are recordings, not live, as of now the plan is to start them at the usual time, and for WHRB’s Pre-Met program to precede them, at about 12:45 PM.

Rather than list all the operas, let me direct you to the Met’s own broadcast schedule, which is HERE.

WHRB’s semi-annual Orgy® schedule begins December 4th, with many programs produced by members working from home. As usual, the offerings will be many and varied. The WHRB Program Guide containing the Orgy® schedule will be mailed to subscribers soon, and is available of course on the WHRB Website.

Normally Hillbilly at Harvard, along with the Metropolitan Opera, continues throughout Orgy® Period, but this term HAH will be pre-empted on two Saturdays, December 12th and 19th. I regret this further interruption after the last one, but remember to circle the 26th on your calendar and mark it, ‘HAH back!’ And remind your friends and neighbors, if they are listeners, in case they don’t read this blog. /CL