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What Do 1961, 1971, 2011, 2021 Have in Common? Hillbilly History!


1961: The Lilly Brothers, Everett and B, with Don Stover, play a concert in Lowell House at Harvard College. Everett, who usually plays mandolin, picks up the fiddle and wows the audience with a fiery performance of ‘The Orange Blossom Special’. Cousin Mike Eisenstadt records the concert on his Nagra portable recorder. Old Sinc gets a copy.

1971: February 6th, to be exact. Old Sinc and Cousin Dave Schmalz host an afternoon Hillbilly Orgy®, which faithful listener Kim Harris of Ipswitch records on a home tape recorder. Sinc, responding to requests for LIlly Brothers music, plays Everett’s ‘OBS’ (as bluegrass fans know it). Kim Harris sends me a digitized copy of the Orgy® in 2003.

2011: March 12th, to be exact. The Celebrity Series of Boston has scheduled a joint concert with The Del McCoury Band and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, in Symphony Hall on the 19th. David Elliott is actively promoting the series, and has created promotional spots. He has also arranged for me to interview Del over the telephone, with Del at home in Henderson, Tennessee. This was the first, and as far as I can recall, the only time I have done a ‘phoner’ (as they’re called in the trade) in the studio. I was nervous at the start, but it turned out to be fun.

Ronnie McCoury, Jason Carter, Del McCoury at the Joe Val Festival, February 2016. More photos from that festival HERE.

2021: What have the 1971 and 2011 shows in common? Nothing, really, except they were Hillbilly at Harvard shows, and I have put them together for an Archival show this week. I suppose it is really a product of timing. With only three hours to fill, I was looking for a short show. March 12th, 2011 was curtailed by an early-starting Met Opry, and it had this interview that I remembered fondly, but it was curtailed so much that I needed more. Aha! I thought: how about some tracks from the 1971 disks that Kim Harris had sent me in 2003?

The sound quality of Kim’s home tape recorder, running at 1 7/8 IPS, was not as good as we would like for broadcasting a whole show, but it’s OK for a few songs (better than some of the scratchy old 78 RPM records reissued on LP), and it’s great to hear Sinc and Dave 40 years ago. So we start off with about 14 minutes of the 1971 Orgy®, and then launch into the full 2011 HAH show. The interview with Del McCoury is in the third hour.

What do these years have in common? They are all part and parcel of Hillbilly at Harvard history, which after all goes back to 1948!

I hope you enjoy the interview with Del. I play a couple of the songs we talk about. I’ve got some other good interviews that I could air on this archival series, with folks like Bill Keith, Jim Rooney, Claire Lynch, and others. Let me know if you’d like to hear them.

We’re off Thursday to Litchfield, Maine for the Blistered Fingers Bluegrass Festival this weekend. If no cell service, I may not know if this Archival HAH runs, but let’s assume it will. Back Sunday evening. /CL

It’s 1986, and Delia Bell & Bill Grant Are Live in Studio A


I long remembered there was a time when Delia Bell and Bill Grant had played live on Hillbilly at Harvard. I was entranced by Bill’s performance of Merle Haggard’s “I’ll Break Out Again Tonight,” so much so that I had copied it from an aircheck onto a cassette and played it a few times on the show. But the cassette disappeared, and the tapes I had of some 1980s shows were buried in boxes in an upstairs closet.

However, the long Exile from WHRB’s studios and the need to add some variety to the prerecorded Generic Hours I’ve been recycling for the past nine months has led me to those boxes. Not every show got recorded, and not all are free enough from long-distance FM noise to be airable, but some are, happily including the one I discovered with Bill and Delia.

They were here on March 15, 1986, opening for Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys in a BBU show at Paine Hall (Harvard’s Music Department). Their association with Rounder Records doubtless helped get them to Cambridge all the way from Oklahoma. Their album pictured here, A Few Dollars More (1985), was their second for Rounder.

So tune in this Saturday (June 12th) and enjoy the usual folderol and high jinks of the Hillbilly show thirty-some years ago, with me, Old Sinc, Lincoln, and others. There’s an unusual Identify The Artist contest that you’ll appreciate, and some trivia from Sinc’s photographic memory, which of course I immediately forgot back then.

There are lots of Country Calendar announcements. Just remember, as I warn listeners, that they were for events three decades ago, so don’t scramble for your going-out duds and head for the car. Some venues are still around (e.g. Nightstage in Cambridge), and some are starting to open up as the ’emergency’ restrictions have lifted. But too many of the artists then have left us, including Bill and Delia. Fortunately, we have recordings, even old radio shows! /CL

Reelin’ Back to 1989, with Lincoln and Larry Live in Studio A!


The metal reel on Revox tape recorder looks perturbed, but I prefer to think it’s singing. The slow-moving (3 3/4 ips) reels are regaling me with music from 1989 (two hours of The Down Home Show, which I hosted between 8 AM and 10 AM, and three hours of Hillbilly at Harvard, then from 10 AM to 1 PM) recorded on February 4th. My, how it takes me back!

Even better, another track on the same 7,200 feet of four-track, half-mil tape, contains a Hillbilly show from January 14th, with John Lincoln Wright, along with Larry Flint and The Sourmash Boys (and Girl, or as Lincoln called them for a short time, The Sourmash Revue), playing live in sumptuous Studio A at our former studies in the basement of Memorial Hall.

This was the first time that Lincoln and his electric honky-tonk band came to play live in the studio (and the last? I have to do some research on the labels of old reel-to-reel and DAT tapes). So, having copied the tape to my iMac, I decided to make an Archival show of it.

Not long before, Lincoln had recorded an album with the Sourmash Revue in Nashville, called simply You Can’t Get There from Here. He sings one of the songs from that album, ‘Laid Off’, which he dedicated to me (in honor, I assume of Northeastern University closing their record label—it turned out that I took it over, so Northeastern Records continued, with its Popular Arts series, featuring Lincoln’s That Old Mill).

Larry Flint had made his first album, Hands of a Dreamer, a few years before. Here he brings us new songs, including his moving ballad ‘Junior’, which appears on his latest album, Ghost of the Railroad.

Like previous Archival Hillbilly shows, this one was recorded on my home recorder directly from whichever receiver I was using at the time. There are a couple of spots where something created a buzz on the tape—a household appliance maybe?—but these are over quickly, and in the two cases where it continued through a song, I cut in clean copies. I also cut out a little Country Calendar talk, but not much, as I think it’s fun to hear who was doing what and where. Just remember: it was over 30 years ago!

So tune in this Saturday, June 5th, and travel back with us to musical memory and camaraderie in the WHRB studios on January 14, 1989. /CL

PS Two of John Lincoln Wright’s CDs are available on eBay: Takin’ Old Route One, and That Old Mill. Larry Flint’s most recent recording is available on Amazon: Ghost of the Railroad.

Back to 2005—with Peter Rowan and Larry Stephenson


The Peter Rowan/Tony Rice Quartet album, then new on Rounder Records.

This Saturday (May 15th) travel back with us to April 16, 2005, and a memorable Hillbilly at Harvard. Peter Rowan was back in town, opening for Ralph Stanley at Sanders Theatre at Harvard, with Peter’s Quartet (featuring the late Tony Rice on guitar, along with Bryn Davies and Sharon Gilchrist).

Larry Stephenson’s latest (in 2005) album, on Pinecastle Records

Because we’re now limited to three hours, I have cut out most of the first hour, and I’ve also edited out most of the Country Calendar promos. That still leaves plenty of great honky-tonk and bluegrass tunes, and the usual slip-ups and other folly, enhanced by colleague Larry Flint, who comes in to help with announcing and running the board when I’m in Sumptuous Studio B with the band.

Peter Rowan turns up late in the show, and sings a couple of his originals and offers a new definition of ‘bluegrass’. Then we spend the rest of the time with Larry Stephenson and his band. Larry was in town for a Boston Bluegrass Union concert in Lexington with David Parmley and Continental Divide. You’ll hear a few promos for that one, so don’t be fooled—it was 16 years ago! /CL

Live Music Is Back! See Country Calendar Page


UPDATE: Festival season is back, too! The two Blistered Fingers Family Bluegrass Festivals in Maine are up and running, June 17-20, and August 26-29. Dr Janie and I just bought tickets to the June one. Hat/Tip Alex MacCloud of Rock Hearts Bluegrass, who alerted me. They’ll be there in June.

I’m starting to get announcements about live shows. Since HAH is not live, I can’t plug them on the air, but I will put them on the Country Calendar page on this blog, as I receive them. So far. . .

The Beantown Buckaroos will be at The Burren, 3-5 PM, Sunday, May 16th.

Grain Thief will be at The Burren Sunday, May 23rd.

The Rhythm and Roots Festival will be back on Labor Day weekend, in Charlestown, RI.

Just heard from The Splinters—they’ll be at the Barewolf Brewery in Amesbury, 6–8 PM this Saturday.

For details, go to the Country Calendar page. /CL