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Running Late—But This Is Not 38—

Nor Old 97, either (read on).

It’s been a bit of rough week, what with a touch of the CCP Virus on top of dental surgery (preparation for a couple of implants, which has left me with a sore mouth and jaw for a week). And today it’s pouring rain, making a racket in the downspout outside the window of my home studio. But I’ll make up time, not by pouring on the coal but by going back and getting a substitute engine.

Some of you will recall last August 20th, when the Hillbilly broadcast was suddenly interrupted at 9:35 AM by dead air—a malfunction at One Financial Center had taken our transmitter off the air. Turns out the Internet stream continued apace, so stream listeners were able to hear the whole show, but the local FM listeners were left “alone and forsaken” (to quote Hank Williams).

So I’ll re-run that two-hour home-brewed show, which will be mostly new to many of you, and maybe even to Internet listeners who had better things to do on a sunny August Saturday.

And of course you got the reference to ‘The Wreck of Old 97′, and the ironic reference to ’38’, which wrecked just six months before the more celebrated 97, on the same road, near Lynchburg.

Here’s the song, sung by the great Hank Snow:

Time for the Christmas Extravaganza—from 1989!



For many years, this was the only bluegrass Christmas record we had. By 1989 there were a few others, but it remains a fixture to this day.
Buck Owens’s Christmas songs were always highlights of our Extravaganzas. Sinc’s favorite was ‘Christmas Shopping’. Mine was ‘Give Me Everything You Got’.

By 1989 the Christmas Extravaganza was an established tradition for Hillbilly at Harvard, featuring “four hours of the very best, and the very worst, of country Christmas music,” plus a gathering with friends in the country and bluegrass music communities—artists, DJs, promoters, and others. That year WHRB was taking a two-week vacation—maybe for technical reasons—so December 16th was the last Saturday before Christmas, hence an early Extravaganza.

You may know, or remember, some of the guests you’ll hear: John Lincoln Wright, Jimmy Allen, Ed (The Detective) Muller, Evan Riley, Gordy Brown, Mark Burns, George Hauenstein, Bucky Bear, Larry Flint, and Flo Murdock—and maybe more I didn’t note. Sinc and I of course hosted, and had a lot of fun juggling records, guests, and finally the Hillbilly Chorale with a few live carols and songs from Studio A.

The Christmas Extravaganza was of course four hours by then, but since we’ve got only two hours now, I’ve broken the show into two parts: Part 1 this Saturday (December 17th) and Part 2 next Saturday (December 24th—Christmas Eve). I hope you’ll find time to listen both Saturday mornings. You’ll hear a lot of what became HAH standards over the years, and some songs that may be new to you. New to us was Da Yoopers‘ ‘Rusty Chevrolet’, which the late Mark Burns brought down, and which we’ve played every year since.

I always relied on Ed the Detective to bring down one of my favorites, Bill Boyd’s version of ‘Up on the Housetops’. I liked it so much on December 16th, 1989, that I played it twice! I’ll include it below. /CL

Oops! Preempted Tomorrow (Dec 3rd), Back Next Saturday

Just Tuesday this week I learned that HAH was going to be preempted for the next three Saturdays, for WHRB’s semi-annual Orgy® Period. However, Orgy® Director Ezra was kindly able to rearrange the schedule so we’ll just lose this one Saturday, and HAH will be back on the 10th.

Not much to add. I hope all of our American listeners had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We were treated with all three of our kids in the house (with two of their spouses), along with all ten grandkids (ages 6 months to 15 years), and (of course) “All nine kinds of pies that Harold liked best” (see HERE); actually, this year there were ten!

So enjoy a ‘Blues Roadtrip’ in lieu of HAH, and keep listening for two more weeks of entertaining and unusual Orgies®, including the bluegrass phenom Billy Strings (Sunday, Dec 4, 5:30 AM – 9:00 AM), and ‘The Kissing Orgy’ (Monday, Dec 12th, 1:30 AM – 12 noon). Complete schedule HERE.

Stick around, stay a little longer!

It’s 1985, and The Critton Hollow String Band Are in Town!

If there is a better name for an old-timey music town than Paw Paw, West Virginia, I don’t know what it is. And that’s where The Critton Hollow String Band are from.

Their core founders are Joe and Sam Herrmann, husband and wife, joined for many years by Joe Fallon, and in this version of the band, Peter Gordon. We had been playing their second album, Sweet Home (1983), and were delighted to discover they were in the neighborhood and willing to play live on Hillbilly at Harvard.

Actually, while I have tapes of The Down Home Show, which I hosted before HAH, from 1985 and earlier, Old Sinc was recording HAH at home, and his tapes were apparently trashed by his landlord after Sinc’s death. So it was a delightful surprise to discover a tape cassette of The Critton Hollow String Band playing live in Studio A on April 27th, 1985. Old Sinc hosts; I was on the board. The Critton Hollow folks played two sets, one before the Hillbilly News at Noon (yes, a real newscast, read [mostly] straight by me and Sinc), and one for the last half hour, closing out the show. Sinc liked to get a live band to play an instrumental that he could do the Country Calendar over, and TCHSB obliged. You’ll also hear a vintage version of Sinc ‘making the beep’, as I have described in a recent post, ‘The Beep, and How to Make It’.

The Critton Hollow String Band are still performing and touring as a trio. You can find their schedule on their website.

Tune in at 9 o’clock this Saturday morning (EDT, of course), 22Oct22, for a rare treat: an Archival hour with The Critton Hollow String Band, followed by another Home-Brewed Hour of Hillbilly at Harvard. /CL

What Is a “Deep Dive”? Tony Trischka Meets Earl Scruggs at Belleville, Saturday 22Oct22.

Tony Trischa was always nothing if not thorough. He has appeared on Hillbilly at Harvard several times over the decades, always an affable, mild-mannered fellow whose understated mastery was always omnipresent. Is it something about banjo players? Bill Keith was like that. And so of course was Earl Scruggs. Guitarists tend to the flamboyant. Not banjoists.

“During COVID, Trischka did a deep dive into Scruggs’ music, first transcribing every Scruggs solo from a tape he had received from Scruggs’ son,” writes Carol Feingold in the press release below. If that sounds ineffably scholarly, just wait. Banjo players like Tony hide a wellspring of exciting music, and I expect you’ll hear it. Wonderful to learn that Tony Trischka is still out leading the banjo world, still playing bluegrass. Here’s the release:

Banjo legend Tony Trischka to perform at Belleville Stage

Belleville Roots Music presents “the father of modern bluegrass” Tony Trischka and his Deep Dive Earl Scruggs Show at the Belleville Stage, 300 High St., Newburyport, on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m.

“Known as the father of modern bluegrass,” according to the NY Times, Trischka is one of the most influential banjo players in the Roots music world. He has achieved legendary status in his 50 plus years as a consummate artist. He created his Deep Dive Earl Scruggs Show as a tribute to the man who inspired him to take up the banjo, Earl Scruggs.

“Earl is my North Star, a lifetime pathway,” Trischka said. “The depth of his genius becomes ever more apparent when I transcribe his solos, which I’ve been doing my entire musical life and with renewed vigor. Discovering new twists and turns in his playing is pure joy and in fact the inspiration for this tribute show.”

During COVID, Trischka did a deep dive into Scruggs’ music, first transcribing every Scruggs solo from a tape he had received from Scruggs’ son. He then learned them and put together a great band to play the material. On the Belleville Stage Trischka’s Deep Dive Earl Scruggs Show will feature Michael Daves, Maddie Witler, Brittany Haas, and Jared Engel.

A Grammy nominee, Trischka has received multiple awards and was recently inducted into the American Banjo Museum’s Hall of Fame. He has recorded and performed with Earl Scruggs, Pete Seeger, William S. Burroughs, The Allman Brothers, Alison Kraus, Miley Cyrus, Van Dyke Parks, and many more. He has inspired generations of acoustic musicians with his technical and conceptual advances.

He produced Steve Martin’s Rare Bird Alert, featuring Paul McCartney and The Chicks, and was the musical director and associate producer of PBS’s The Banjo Project. In 2019, he made his Grand Ole Opry debut and celebrated the 10 year anniversary of his Tony Trischka School of Banjo on the ArtistWorks platform, the online banjo home for students around the world. . .

Belleville Roots Music concerts are held at the Belleville Stage, 300 High St., Newburyport, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at door; $10 for ages 18 and under. Current COVID-19 protocols will be followed. For more information, email or visit