Author: Corey, Elena

Using TV
A Guest Column from Elena Corey

Some time ago I got enthused about letting Andy Griffith know that bluegrass, country and traditional-music folks appreciate him. We owe him a hefty debt for building plots into his television series around our music. The least I could do would be to write a feature article focusing on his contribution to airing our music. I talked with Mitch Jayne, bass player for the Dillards, several times about this venture and he, encouragingly, provided me with current contact information.

So the process of gathering material for an appreciation article began. Mr. Griffith was living in North Carolina—or at least in the Outer Banks area of North Carolina, and, yes, he very much appreciated being appreciated by the traditional acoustic music community. He had loved music all his life—played a bit of guitar and sang himself. He relished the good times he had when taping the many episodes featuring The Darlings (The Dillards) for his show and he had also enjoyed working with Randy Travis in his later shows.

He recalled the ‘good old days’ when people routinely gathered to sing and make music—either in their parlors around a piano or on the front porch, with traditional instruments such as the guitar and banjo. Mr. Griffith allowed as how he thought music, especially ‘homemade music’ was a special gift from our Creator, designed to let us feel the creativity He had instilled in every single one of us.

Mr. Griffith’s health soon suffered reverses, though, so I didn’t pursue our correspondence, thinking that he needed his rest. I held firm in my heart, however, the notion that he was solidly in back of showing the world what wonderful things happen when people make their own music.

Months passed and my sporadic TV watching produced mostly frustration in my spirit. Where are the present-day television performers who promote ‘homemade music’? Andy Griffith’s contribution to our music lives on in re-runs of his stories, but we need on-going live coverage of our music to let the rest of the world in on our current little bit of heaven glimpsed in music.

I remembered the days in Mountain View, Arkansas, when the local/area TV news cameramen and a reporter would show up at the County Courthouse Square to ‘cover’ the old men there playing banjo and fiddle for the news. That was only when there wasn’t some ‘real’ news, of course—just as it was for the reporters and camera crew who showed up, unannounced, one day to capture the magic of the music at the Museum of Appalachia (near Knoxville, TN).. The regular pickers preened a bit and watched themselves on the area news that night. But it seemed a bit phony—after all they were there picking at least once a week, every week and had been for some two years before the Museum officially declared to the world that it was open for business.

I started vilifying TV—thinking of the countless hours of coverage of such negative things as drug-related ongoing gang wars and their attendant carnage. Even the reporting of the Dow Jones average being down seemed a dis-service when we could focus on life-enhancing music.
Reason eventually prevailed—but only grudgingly. I finally did allow myself to recognize that TV is only a tool and not to be blamed for how it is used any more than we would blame a hammer if we saw some inept person’s bent nails sticking out of a piece of furniture that he or she had tried to build.

So the next obvious question became, ‘What, then, are we who know the joys and benefits of music doing to use TV to get that message to those who don’t know it?’ How can we use TV better? What, if anything, are we doing now?

The CBA has recently ordained Dierdre C. Donovan, editor of the N.C.B.S. newsletter and most delightful person, to be our media mogul. This translates, for the most part, to encouraging her to get PSAs out in a timely fashion to the various media that will give the relevant ‘who, what, where, when and how much’ to concert-attending newspaper readers and radio listeners.
Regarding newspapers, the policy of many at this time is to print some reviews, after the fact of a crowd-drawing concert, but to profess to not have staff available to write feature articles about upcoming events—and to much prefer revenue generated from the advertising of such over giving free space for promotion of upcoming music events.

Public radio, a seemingly fair- weather friend to traditional music, allows us a smidgeon of air time to announce upcoming events—like our festivals, but its better promoted in-depth interviews are mostly reserved for more highly revered genres like jazz and classical music. In the CBA, with our three and a half thousand folk membership, we surely have a few folks who would be interesting interviewees on public radio. Some musical folks whom I know are funnier than hoot-owls encountering intense daylight.

But back to the possibilities of using TV. During a period of time at my Mother’s, I was unable to avoid watching TV in the Phoenix, AZ area, as it blared continuously. An active arts and music department on one area channel, however, provided a weekly live spot (usually less than five minutes) on a noonish area news program. These oases for the spirit featured area bands (usually rock, punk, hip-hop, grunge, etc.) promoting a CD release party, their impending big convention concurrent with a skateboarding olympics, their battle of the bands event, etc.

What can we do to use the tool of TV more in California? There is a Sacramento TV station that, in its mid-day show, has a weekly segment (of approximately five minutes) featuring a well-known lawyer in the area discussing, albeit briefly, interesting points in law.
Wow! We could offer a person discussing interesting points of musical skill involved in current bluegrass, old-timey, gospel and other traditional music. In such a live segment, the music guest could show how a given person was an expert and then show a 30 second clip or two of video taped performance demonstrating the mentioned skills—and then mention that that performer / band could be seen live this coming weekend!

Would a person committed to creating and delivering a weekly 5 minute TV music focus segment on an area TV news show have time to maintain a paying job—a family life—a self-improvement or spiritual growth focus? We would probably need three or more such committed folks to adequately cover all the live bluegrass music events in our state. We would space them regionally so as to be available to as wide an area of local stations as possible.

Racing on ahead mentally, discounting danger signs about balanced living and perspective, I wondered why don’t we have entire local TV live music programs available for public and network showing. In the heyday of radio, many, many performers offered a 15-minute slot of music, even if it was scheduled at 5 AM to catch farmers on their way to the fields. Sponsors vied for such appealing material. Beyond short live music shows, spliced bits of recorded concerts and festival appearances would surely be more interesting to television viewers than is much of the present pap that is offered now.

Beyond pure music shows, we have enough creative writers to create works of drama that incorporate our music. We could create entire regional shows built around bluegrass, with costumes, a real plot, interesting characters, and underlying messages of hope and cheer. We could rush to Sutter Creek and play the historically relevant music gold prospectors played back in 1849 with a melodrama plot involving Clementine and some booable villain who would enflame viewers’ emotions when he tied her on the railroad track; all the while singing, “I’ve been working on the Railroad” segueing smoothly into “Working on a building.” When that ruse doesn’t work, due to the timely rescue by our hero, Handsome Homer, he could dig Polly’s grave all the while singing, “This here shovel.” The possibil
Posted:  4/22/2007

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