Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Correction (Del is in the Opry now) and the tale of a great Bluegrass music man

Aaron Harris pointed out a gross error of fact on my part:

Del already is an Opry member as of October 2003.

I did some checking of the facts and lo and behold, Aaron is correct. Del McCoury was indeed inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in October of 2003.

What got me to writing about Del and the need for him to become a member of the Opry was actually a discussion Aaron and I had several years ago (before 2003) about the injustice of the fact that the greatest Bluegrass musician of our time (and perhaps of all time) was not a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Not being informed otherwise, I wanted to use this blogging outlet as a way to correct that injustice.

Leave it to Aaron to inform me that the Opry saw the light two years ago.

I will not shy away from taking the credit for Aaron's evolution as one of the most respected Bluegrass DJs (and music reporters) in the business, even though he is no longer on the radio air regularly. It all started one evening when Aaron came for one of his regular calls to my former apartment across from the Wright State University campus in Fairborn, Ohio. In those days, we had dinner together 1-2 times a week, and that evening, we were scheduled for one of our famous trips to the nearby Longhorn Steak House. When Aaron knocked on my door that night and let himself in, as was his usual practice, I was listening one of the many "best of" compilations of Bluegrass Gospel music to be found in generic stores, I think I popped it in the CD player earlier just to have some good music playing. Aaron asked me "what is that, who is it," and it happened to be a song by the Del McCoury Band. We got to talking, and Aaron told me I was the first person he knew of to have a decent collection of Bluegrass. I lent Aaron a few CDs after we talked for over an hour about Bluegrass. Later that week, Aaron saw Del and the Boys on the Grand Ole Opry, and he was hooked.

He would very shortly thereafter get a regular gig hosting the "Bluegrass Breakdown" radio show on WYSO in nearby Yellow Springs, one he would hold until he left for Chicago to get his masters' degree. He became one of the most recognized voices on the radio for the local Appalachian community, and some people even claimed that Aaron's show was more popular than Moon Mullins' program on WBZI in Xenia (Moon himself may not have disputed that, but in fairness, while Aaron was popular, Moon was and is a Bluegrass icon). You always knew that someone at a concert would know Aaron by his voice and come up and say howdy. If you went to a concert with Aaron during the radio years, you were going to have company.

The big names in Bluegrass flocked to Aaron. Dan Tyminski, who lent his voice to George Clooney in O Brother, Where Art Thou, was not ashamed to declare on Aaron's show that Jesus Christ was the Lord of his life. Ronnie McCoury was happy to grant an interview to Aaron in order to plug some of his work with his brother Rob. Musicians wanted Aaron at their shows, and wanted him to listen to their CDs because Aaron wrote reviews, and if the music was good, they knew that the review would be, too. Aaron got to sing along with The Lonesome River Band and company at a now infamous rendition of Will the Circle Be Unbroken at Dayton's Mountain Days festival, and jammed with Del at a post-awards gathering at the IBMA's.

After all that, it is fair to say that Aaron is an insider, as well as a fan. Today, he writes reviews for multiple genres, including Bluegrass, at National Review Online, and it is now he who regularly recommends recent CD releases to me.

And to think it all started on an ordinary night in my messy old apartment.


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