Hooked on Bluegrass

Ed Baker

The time I believe was late 1939, and my second time to hear and listen to a radio. The first was probably 6 months earlier when my Dad had taken the family, (we walked 1/2 mile, no car in those days) to a neighbors to listen to heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis defend his title. We were visiting my Uncle and it was a time almost mystical, it was obviously a Saturday, (I must have been 6) and my cousins, late in afternoon started talking about getting their chores done so they could listen to the Grand Old Opry. That was my introduction to the rest of this story.

After supper all us kids gathered in a small circle in front of the radio, along with the adults. I had no idea what was going to happen, but was told I had to be quiet so we could hear the radio. That's when my Uncle reached over and turned the radio on and even with all the static, I heard " let'er go boys" George D. Hayes "the solemn old judge" introducing the Grand Old Opry for my first time.

This was many years before Bluegrass was known as such, but that night I listened to many musicians, singers, and entertainers (known as hillbillies) that I still admire today. I might add, I'm still proud to be a hillbilly.

I knew about Guitars, Fiddles, and Mandolins, but that night when Uncle Dave Macon was introduced I decided I might never need to hear again that thing called a Banjo. As he played, he didn't pick much, in the south we called it flogging. And to me it sounded like a piece of loose sheetmetal on the side of a building in a wind storm. Today I feel somewhat differently about a Banjo.

I, like many got a lot of my singing instruction from singing in church, and I shared the first Guitar with my older brother in 1943. I tried for several years to learn to play right-handed to no aville.It was after he left home in 1947. I changed the strings to left-handed and learned a few chords. All these years were spent listening to Gospel and Hillbilly music by artists such as Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, Lula Bell & Scoty, Carl Story, The Chuck Wagon Gang, Mr. Roy Acuff, Johnnie & jack, The Wilbourn Brothers and on and on.The Guitar, Mandolin, and Fiddle were more known for that time. Styles of playing from Merle Travis, Arthur Smith, Curley Fox and many more.

In 1954 after I formed my first band (even before Elvis) I was doing songs like On My Mine, Uncle Pen, I Wonder Where You Are Tonight, and others in the clubs as dance music. It was about that time Mr. Lester Flat and Mr Earl Scruggs came out with Earls Breakdown, Randy Lynn Rag etc. that the Banjo became a household word.

So you see, I've been a Hillbilly/ Country/ Bluegrasser long before, and hopefully many years to come. Music is such a Blessing to be a part of.

(posted 10/14/2007)

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