Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The last trip Home

The Last Trip Home

Doug Hutchens -
In June of 1971, I was laying awake in a bunk on a hot June night at Bean Blossom. The bus belonged to Ralph Lewis. It was loaned to Bill while a new air conditioner was being installed on the "Blue Grass Special." This night was a good time for thinking; everyone was gone, it was quiet and still. I had spent the day working with Joe Stuart, Jack Hicks, and "The Chief." We had been working on a new fence along the road at the park. Kenny Baker would have been a part of this troupe, but he had cut his leg with a chain saw two weeks before and could play the shows, but the doctor didn't want him to overdo it. I was thinking of the "Brown County Jamboree Barn," which we were parked beside, all the entertainers who had performed there over the years and the many Blue Grass Boys who had performed on the stage. Then, for the first time, a thought crossed my mind: "What will we do some day, when nature takes its course?" Little did I know, that 25 years later I would follow "The Chief" on his final trip home.

A friend, Tony Testerman, called me at 5:42 on Monday afternoon and asked if I had heard. That was all that he had to say, for I knew what he meant. He had just heard it on the Kingsport TV station. I immediately called Tony Conway at Buddy Lee Attractions, Tony had taken care of Bill's booking and his business arrangements for many years. I found that he had passed about 1:20 and the arrangements were in the process of being made. That evening the CBS Evening News paid a timely and appropriate tribute and made many who hadn't heard the news aware of his passing.

On Tuesday evening, I left home about 8 p.m. and started to Nashville. WSM was playing Bill's music as a tribute. In fact, from the time the news was received until after the services in Nashville, all the music on WSM was by Bill and the Blue Grass Boys, a total of 22 hours with Eddie Stubbs pulling 15 of those hours. Tonight Eddie was doing a wonderful job, using just the right words to compliment the music. Frequent emotional pauses in his voice reminded me of the difficulty of his job this evening. This night, Eddie sounded much like the late Grant Turner, as I recalled the thousands of hours that I had driven late at night and those early mornings, listening to "Mr. Grant." He always sounded like he was right there in the car with you. Tonight Eddie was riding with me. As his shift ended, I was pulling into a motel in Knoxville. I waited in the car as the show closed with Bill's last performance from March 15 on the Friday Night Opry. In Bill's playful voice, he asked the crowd if he "could come back and play for them again sometime soon." Then the theme, "Watermelon Hanging On the Vine."

On Wednesday morning, as I continued to Nashville, listening to WSM's Richard Thomas who does the 'Flight 650' traffic report, he gave regular and reverent references of the progress of the funeral procession from Madison to the Ryman Auditorium. Traffic seemed especially heavy this morning. When I turned the corner to the Ryman, a flood of memories came at me. . . . The first time I went up those stone steps, through the iron gates, and backstage with Bill. Then a mental picture of Stringbean, Grandpa, and Roy swapping stories with Bill backstage. Being sent out to the bus to get Bill's stage shoes shined by the old gentleman who took care of them. Nights leaving the Ryman after working the Opry and meeting back at the bus on Dickerson Road at midnight to travel through the night for tomorrow's date. . . .

I parked and walked down to the Ryman and into a side door. There I was met by James and Tony Conway, and, in front of the stage where he so often stood tall and proud, today he rested. His glasses and hat were close by and a row of quarters that he so loved to give little kids were within easy reach. I then realized that I should go and join the others at the new entrance. As I turned to leave, Tony Conway stopped me and James said "Daddy would want you down here with us today."

From a few minutes after 8 a.m. until 11, the line was constant; many familiar faces from around the country and for each who made the journey, you knew that there were countless others who were there in spirit. Many of the Opry family came by: Grandpa and Ramona Jones, Porter Wagoner, Bill Carlisle, Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, Little Jimmy Dickens, Jan Howard, Earl and Louise Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, and the list went on and on.

Just prior to the beginning of the services, Pete Kuykendall turned to Bryon Berline and myself and pointed to a draped instrument stand that was surrounded by the multitude of flowers. We had an idea of what would be placed there. It was both a disappointment and a relief when the pallbearers placed the mandolin that was presented to Bill commemorating his 50th anniversary with the Opry on the stand. Tony Conway then placed a red rose on the shroud that held the instrument. It was a major letdown that it was not the "old mandolin" that had been Bill's constant companion for over 50 years and a relief, in that it would have been very difficult for some of us, seeing the instrument so close and knowing that they were never to work together again. Many of us experienced this through a veil of fresh tears.

The services were wonderful. Bill would have been pleased.

As the bagpipes played and Bill left the Ryman for the last time, we followed. TV, radio, and newspaper reporters shot video, took photos and asked questions. As the procession departed, friends and fans spoke softly and visited.

Today, I felt a need to be the last person to leave, after talking to many, many friends and a lengthy conversation with Mary Yeomans and Eddie Stubbs, an hour and a half after the end of the service, it was time for me to go as well. The Ryman stood silent and alone once again.

On Thursday morning at 9:17, the final trip to Ohio County began. A small procession left the Madison Funeral Home. Across Gallatin Road on Old Hickory Boulevard, past the turn to Earl's, just a mile or so prior to Dickerson Road (where Bill had once lived, owned some property from time to time, and maintained an office), we turned north on Interstate 65. Two Tennessee Highway Patrolmen handled traffic control within the city and acted as an Honor Guard to Rosine.

As the procession passed Long Hollow Pike, "the farm" came to mind. It was the place, as he would describe it, "way out in the country at the end of a dead end road," where he could turn his dogs loose and listen to them run. Bill called it home. There were fence posts that Edd Mayfield had planted in the 50's, repairs to the barn and work on the cabin done by former Blue Grass Boys, where Bill took care of his animals and tended his crops, where he sat in the old porch swing and enjoyed the sunrises and sunsets. This was his home, second only to the highways.

At 9:50 on September 12, 1996, Bill Monroe returned to Kentucky. James, later in the day at the church, commented, "Daddy traveled the world and received many honors, but I think he was more proud of being called a Kentuckian than anything."

As the procession turned west on the William Natcher Parkway, even though it was a four-lane highway, many cars pulled to the side of the road showing respect. After turning off at the Hartford exit, my vision was again blurred with tears as the procession was now joined by two Kentucky State Patrolmen as an additional honor guard. This was a two-lane road and now each car we met stopped. At a school, several stood around the flagpole with the flag at half staff, others stood in thier front yards awaiting the passing.

When the sign Rosine came into view, the road was lined with people. The procession turned right into the community park and behind the church -- the "little community churchyard" that he had sung about all through the years. I couldn't help thinking of how much today I felt like I did 25 years ago, when I first rode the bus into my first festival as a Blue Grass Boy, only this was the saddest trip I had ever taken.

After we parked, I again was reminded of some of the early festivals like Ashland and Jackson, Kentucky, where the schedule was created after Bill got on the grounds. As the pallbearers made their way up the steps into the church, one lone dog in the distance barked in the saddened silence of this morning. Soon the rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance and, after a few minutes of a heavy mist, the heavens too gained thier composure, leaving an overcast sky to protect the large crowd that would hear the services on the speakers that had been set outside.

For the next 3 hours, friends and fans filed into the church, in front of the Master and out a back door. At one time the line reached to Highway 62, about a quarter mile away. Of those who attended, twelve hundred signed the guest register, there were two very full lines, many in the second line didn't take the time to sign.

Behind the church chairs.

James told David Deese, Wayne Lewis and myself, "I need you fellows to help us with some music, maybe 'Precious Memories' and 'Amazing Grace' and some numbers like that." The Ryman services had been pre-planned but this funeral was to be done just as Bill had played his shows for years and years, with no set list.

After some local speakers, Ms Alma Randolph sang, then Ralph Stanley and Ricky Skaggs sang, then the Blue Grass Boys sang for Bill. Wayne Lewis took the reigns and David Deese, Dan Jones and myself kept a steady flow of former Blue Grass Boy lead singers and friends to speak. I had spoken to Bobby Osborne earlier and he mentioned that he and Sonny and Jim & Jesse had shared a dressing room with Bill at the Opry for the past 15 years. The first time I asked if he would like to say anything, he said he did not think he could get through it. A second request, and gentle urging that he would be glad that he did, was graciously honored. His words summed it up for many of us who were there when he said he was "so glad that the had lived in the time of Bill Monroe."

Skeeter Davis spoke of when she was 17 and went to Nashville, and Buck White and Sister Margie Sullivan offered kind words. Soon Reverend Baggett began his part of the service. It was a funeral that any man who had ever lived in the country would have been proud of.

It was getting late in the day and, as the service was over, Wayne Lewis and Sandy Rothman placed a flat pick in Bill's right hand, and then the last part of the journey was underway. There were so many flowers, they were all around, including two double rows of wreaths forming a 100- foot walkway from the road to the gravesite. "My Old Kentucky Home" was sung. Ralph Stanley repaid the favor of 30 years ago, when Bill sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" at his brother Carter's funeral. Ricky started "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and everyone joined in as best they could.

As I raised my head and opened my eyes from the final prayer, I felt different. The sky looked bluer, the grass and the trees looked greener, and the wind had picked up. Fitting, I guess, as he was now at home, at rest in the place where so often had talked and sung about.

As the Blue Grass Boys gathered, and others spoke softly, a last shovel of sod was placed on a new grave at 4:17. The Man, who was born Wednesday September 13, 1911, and traveled from Rosine, Kentucky, around the world, leaving the gift of Blue Grass Music, today had come full circle and returned to the earth on Thursday, September 12, 1996.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Passing of My Father, James Aubrey Hutchens

James Aubrey Hutchens and his great grand son Mason Michael Bennett............

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Passing of my Father, Aubrey Hutchens

James Aubrey Hutchens and his great grandson Mason Michael Bennett

Yesterday morning about 9:15 March 12, 2009 my father passed away. He had been battling cancer for some time, it was his time.

My sister Vicki has been his constant caretaker for the past 4 weeks, never leaving him. We all take such comfort in that in his last days, he wasn't in pain. He will be with us as we awake in the morning and as we retire each evening for as long as we live.

Dad was one of those guys that all the little kids and animals took too. A couple of years ago we had a stray cat that someone put out and it showed up at the barn. He was solid black and we started calling him Midnight. You could tell that the cat had been mistreated and was very very shy. After it had been around about a month one morning I went around to the back of the house and Daddy said watch this. When he opened the basement door to let our dog Bobo out (Dad always put the dog in the basement in cold weather) and the dog and the cat walked out and both were all around dad's legs, each wanting more attention that the other. A few days later when I happened to be out at the barn when Dad fed the horse, he said "Watch this". As he leaned over into the stall to put some sweet feed in there for Bill, the horse, Midnight was in the loft just above his head and when he leaned over into the stall, the cat would tap him on the cap, he would lean in again and the cat would tap him again. Dad had gotten some cat food and was feeding him at the barn each morning and evening as he put Bill up.

He loved all of us but his pride and joy was the Grand Kids, Brikk, Gage and Cristen and then Brikk's little boy Mason. He dearly loved them.

I sure wish they could have had more time together.

When I started to learn to play the banjo, Dad got me my first one for Christmas in 1963. Lillian my Mom, and her family all could play the guitar and two of Dad's younger brothers, Bruce and John played, but Dad never did.

He did enjoy music though. He and Mom loved to dance. In the early 1960's, when they started having "Round and Square Dances" at the local Virginia North Carolina Ruritan Building they needed someone to call the dances. Up until that time he had never done it but he started and called the dances for all the years that the dance continued. I have very fond memories of trying to learn to play the banjo and watching Mom and Dad and my sisters Kathy and Vicki dancing.

In the late 60's he and I went to the first show where I saw Bill Monroe. It was from that show that we heard of a festival that was going to be held at Terrell North Carolina the first week of November so we went and slept in the car for two nights. Boy Oh Boy it was cold, but we enjoyed it.

Later when I went to work with Bill Monroe for the summer of 1971 Bill had told me that they would call when they got to Bristol and to meet them at the truck stop in Roanoke. So Mom and Dad and my sisters all went. I was really excited to be able to go to travel with Bill Monroe. When we got there they were just coming out of the truck stop after eating and I put my stuff on the bus. Bill, Dad and Mom all stood by the car and talked for a little while. Then it was time to go and Dad and Bill walked away and talked for a few minutes. That is one of the most wonderful memories I have in life seeing my Dad and Bill just walking and talking and knowing that Dad was probably telling Bill something like now that boy's never been away from home that much and if he gets out there and gets into something you set him straight. I never ask Bill or Dad what was said, but I've always tried to be the kind of person that both of them would be proud of.

In the mid 80's my sisters and I decided that we needed to take Mom and Dad to Nashville. Back then you had to get tickets months in advance if you wanted the good seats. At that point the Artist had to let the Opry know by Wednesday if they would be in town for the either Friday or Saturday shows. My spirits were crushed when I found that Bill wasn't going to be in town that weekend. For some reason I just had a feeling so I called Kenny Bakers number after we got in town on friday and low and behold he answered. I said I thought you guys were out of town and he said that they had a date cancelled and would be working the Opry that night. Again I felt pretty bad because we only had tickets for Saturday nights show. He said "Well, just call out the the farm and Bill will take care of you". I burned the phone up all afternoon to no avail, when I tried to call Kenny back he had left too. I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that we weren't going to be able to see Bill this time. We went on out to the Cracker Barrell on Music Valley Drive and were eating supper and in a few minutes Bill walked in. He immediately saw Mom and Dad and came over. He asked if we were coming to the Opry and I told him that we had tickets for Saturday night. He said "Well I'll take care of that". So after eating he put Mom and Dad in his Limo and the rest of us followed. Mom and Dad really had a great time back stage at the Opry. It couldn't have turned out better.
Bill checking the schedule of who he was introducing on his portion of the Opry

Bill after introducing the act after he had opened the show....from Mom and Dad's seat ON STAGE.....

Mom, Bill, Dad back stage at the Opry

After Dad retired he started helping LaRay Smith who runs a machine shop in the area. It gave Dad something to do that he enjoyed. One weekend I mentioned something about a guy who was having problems getting capos made. He inquired about what the problem was and I told him that they wanted them made of Stainless Steel and so far hadn't found anyone to make them. He said let him talk to LaRay and see what he thought. I was on the road somewhere for Gibson and called home and Dad said that LaRay wanted to see what we wanted made. I told him which banjo had one like I was talking about so he took it and that led to LaRay and Tom McKinney getting together. This was about the time that Tom's patented capo was ready to be made. Soon they started making those for Tom and later for Bill Stokes at Showcase. LaRay still makes components for several of those products.

A year or so after this Little Roy Lewis started saying that someone had to start making some good fingerpicks. That led to LaRay making the tooling to stamp the Roy's Own picks. For the first few years I punched them and did the the shaping and finishing as well. Later Lynwood Lunceford, Jamie Holt did the punching but Dad took over the shaping and finishing.

Later when Jamie Holt went to college, Dad took over the complete operation. Doing the punching all the shaping and the finishing and Mom would package them. About this time we started doing some special picks for Bob Perry and Dad even did a special run of picks for Ralph Stanley. Dad always took such pride in anything he did. Little Roy would call them every month or so and he and Dad always enjoyed each other’s company. When ever Ralph was in the area they would sit and talk about things.

Mom and Dad both have enjoyed the music through the years and I thank them for the encouragement to go and follow my dream.

I'll close for now, but I just had to get a few feelings committed into words and anyone who had chosen to read, I thank you.

Arrangements are:
Visitation 6-8PM Saturday March 14, 2009 at Community Funeral Home in Patrick Springs, Virginia with the Funeral Services to be held at 2PM Sunday March 15, 2009 at the same location. Burial will be at the Pleasant Grove Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery. go to movie

Doug Hutchens

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Successful Life

"A successful life is made up of the people you meet and the experiences you share."

Doug Hutchens

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


"True Leaders give birth to new paths; but many times followers deepen, widen and sometimes turn them into ruts". (in a meeting during the summer of 1975)

Doug Hutchens

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Meeting Arthur Johnson and being a member of the Appalachian Semester Panel

In the early 1970’s , I think it was 1971, Julian Mosley the Director of the Appalachian Semester at Union College in Barbourville Kentucky ask me to be on a panel with Arthur Johnson and Julia Ann Fleming.

(This was about the time that the of Berea’s First Appalachian Music Symposium was held as well. Dr. Gary English asked Glenn Lawson, Dean Louie Smith and I go out to Indian Fort Theater and do some photos for the promotion of an Appalachian Music Symposium beginnings which were little more than a concert of local entertainers at Phelps Stokes Chapel. Later it became a multi-day more scholarly approach of traditional music. This was my innatial introduction to Glenn who became a wonderful friend and band mate for the remainder of our time in college. At that point Glenn was playing a 12 string guitar with a big Peace Symbol on it and we didn‘t know if for some time but Dean Smith didn‘t play the fiddle, it was one he just bought somewhere and it was a joke having him
look as if he was playing. Dean Louie Smith was one of the most beloved members of the Berea College Community)

Julia Ann who was a musicologist and working on an advanced degree at Indiana University and Arthur who was a living, breathing and walking encyclopedia of traditional music from the mountains. I was to add a Bluegrass perspective to the group. Our sessions were always held on a Friday.

The original format was two morning sessions, two afternoon sessions and an evening performance. It was a very informal atmosphere with the 3 of us sitting on a corner couch and chair and with students either sitting on the floor or in folding chairs.
The morning usually began with Julia Ann or Arthur with either a dulcimer or guitar accompanied song and that would lead to a lively interchange of facts and questions. a discussion of music and its role through the ages, music from the British Isles, Child Ballads, Broadsides, early collectors like Cecil Sharp were usually a good area of discussion.

As the day progressed, the discussion moved into the role of music in the daily life of the pioneers, immigration patterns of people and how traditions were maintained and evolved, the various schools of thought of the origin of the dulcimer, early commercial entertainers on the radio such as the Carter Family, The Monroe Brothers, Early Radio Programs, like Farm and Fun Time, WSL Barn Dance, WSM Grand Ole Opry, The Renfro Valley Barn Dance then on into early country entertainers, then known as hillbilly musicians.
We would talk about the music for a while then someone would sing or play an example.

I learned a lot. Most of the information I knew was from early (commercial) country music. I had been a member of a the Berea Country Dancer’s a folk dance troupe that did all sorts of Folk Dances from around the world and had heard of Cecil Sharpe. I don’t mind telling you that I felt totally out of my element the first morning, but as the day progressed Arthur in his folksy way brought me around. He has a wonderful and sensitive approach to the music and its people and I’ve never felt out of place around him since then.
After the first year Julian left Union College and Sherman Oxendine took over the Appalachian Semester. Sherman was a wonderful warm individual that always reminded me of my Uncle Eustace. Easy going and so appreciative of all that we did at Union College. It was during the time that Sherman was the Director of the Appalachian Semester that it really blossomed. After a few years it was only Arthur and I doing the sessions. We kept the same format as before with Arthur filling in on the things that Julia had talked about in previous years.
Sherman arranged for us to visit to the local radio station WYWY during the noon hour while folks were eating their lunch which provided a great opportunity to invite the community to the evening concert. Soon our audience grew so large we had to move from the multi-purpose room to the Little Theater there at Union College.

We had a number of wonderful students as well as local entertainers that always came and was a part of the program. I can remember Doc (and my mind goes blank of his last name) and his Full Gospel Banjo Band who always had request for “The Cat Came Back“ , The Phipps Family who did wonderful Original Carter Family Music. There were many, many others which escape me now, but those evenings were a wonderful and magical example of the power of music.
The evening sessions were always well attended by the community.

When Sherman retired in 1984 the format of The Appalachian Semester Traditional Music Symposium remained but 1985 was the last year that I participated. Since then Arthur and I have performed many times. He came to Alice Lloyd College for a couple of performances while I worked there and did convocations of which I had the honor to play with him on and for the past several years he had graciously joined us at Our Appalachia Day at Alice Lloyd College.

For some of Arthurs music,%20Kentucky/field/all/mode/exact/conn/and/order/subjec
Arthur Johnson is a wonderful entertainer and great friend.

Doug Hutchens

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A quote to remember...

In either late 1975 or early 1976 George Jessel was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Johnny was giving George a hard time about being called the "Toastmaster General of the United States".
To which George made a statement I wrote down and have long since lost but have never forgotten. George said "I've been fortunate to have lived a long life, but whats more important, I've lived a wide life. After all, if when you get to the end of your life if you turn around and look back and are disappointed, you have a right to be; you made it that way".

Have a good day.

Doug Hutchens

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rudy Lyle: Classic Bluegrass Banjo Man

Reprinted by permission Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine ( All rights reserved. Copyright April 1985

In any conversation about the great musicians in the formative years of bluegrass music one names always come up, Rudy Lyle. Rudy played the banjo on many of the classic Bill Monroe recordings including “Rawhide”, “On and On”, “Sugar Coated Love”, and probably his most noted performance on “White House Blues”.
Rudy grew up on the Black Water River near Rocky Mount, Virginia. He lived with his grandfather Lomax Blankenship who was a noted local fiddler. At the age of 9 he began to learn to play the five-string banjo. “Lawrence Wright, he lives to Rocky Mount, He was the first man I heard play rolls and I picked it up from him. I also learned a lot from Paul Jefferson” Rudy recalled.
In a few years Rudy met two boys from Rocky Mount that played music and began picking with them on WPAQ radio in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. “We had Wilbur Turner on the fiddle. They told my granddad that they would take care of me and they talked him in to letting me go with them”. During the time they worked at WPAQ they worked with Uncle Joe Johnson and Pretty Little Blue-eyed Odessa. The band included Uncle Joe on the dobro, Wilber Turner on the guitar, Lefty Hall on the Fiddle, Pretty Little Blue-eyed Odessa singing and Rudy on the banjo. It was during this time that Rudy first met Bill Monroe. “I was in Mt. Airy working with Uncle Joe. Bill came through there with a show at the high school. It was on a Friday night that we weren’t working so we all were there. We had announced on our radio program that he was going to be there with his show. At that time Bill’s band had just broken up. Don Reno had just left. He didn’t have too many people working with him. He had two boys called the Kentucky Twins and another fellow named Bill Myrick but he didn’t have a banjo player so I tuned up and went out there with him. That’s where we got together. After the show I told Bill that I’d sure like to work for him and he said that he would like for me to but he didn’t want to take me away from Uncle Joe. Bill didn’t want to hire me on the spot. I respect Bill for that.
“About three weeks later we were working a show in Radford, Virginia at the theatre. The manager came back stage and said I had a long distance call. It was Bill, He was in D.C. and asked me if I wanted to come to work. I said yes, I was ready.
I got into Nashville and I didn’t known anything about the town. I had rode a Greyhound bus in. Back then everyone wanted a car but everyone didn’t have one. We had been using Wilber Turners car in Mt. Airy. Cars were kind of scarce. I got into Nashville early Saturday morning. I spent the whole day walking around the block down around the station. The Grand Ole Opry was on the next corner. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. Bill had said to be there Saturday night for the first show, The Royal Crown Cola Show. I was there in the alley when Bill and all the guys came round the corner. We went in and did the R.C.Cola Show. The first tune I did was “Cumberland Gap’. I think the R.C.Cola Show was network then like the Prince Albert Show, so it was getting out pretty good. Bill told them that he had a brand new banjo player from over in Virginia --Rocky Mount, Virginia. Then he told them what I was going to play. I played, then Grant Turner came in. Boy, it was great, it was something else.
“When I got to Nashville Bill had Chubby Wise, Mac Wiseman, Jack Thompson, me and him (Bill). Joel Price was playing comedy. Jack Thompson was playing bass and he left to work with Lou Childre and Stringbean, to play rhythm guitar for them. Then Joel started playing bass. After Mac left, Jimmy Martin took his place. I brought Jimmy Martin in the back door of the Opry. Jimmy was standing out in the alley one Saturday night. Old Sergeant Edwards, the policeman on the door, had turned him away two or three times. Sergeant Edwards was a big old heavyset mean looking policeman. He could just look at the people trying to get in the back door and they’d run. There was all kinds of people trying to get in that back door“.
“I had heard Jimmy play a little bit and I told him to put his guitar back in the case and lets go inside. We came through. I told sergeant Edwards that Bill wanted to try this man out. Bill liked Jimmy’s guitar playing because he played good guitar-- solid rhythm. He also like Jimmy’s singing. Bill could tenor him good. The had a good close duet that was very close to Bill and (Lester) Flatt.”
Rudy stayed with Bill from mid 1949 until late summer of 1951. During this time he saw other personnel changes. Red Taylor replaced Chubby Wise then Vassar Clements took Red’s place.

During this time, “Bill had the baseball team, the Blue Grass All-Stars.
They were made of a group of guys that played good baseball. I mean good baseball. Some of them went on to the majors. Bill had a booking agent that would book these towns and book the local ball club against the Blue Grass All-Stars ball club plus the show. We would always open it up with the music and after that the game would start.”

“Bill would always let Stringbean start out pitching. Then if they got too hot on him and start beating us he would call in his other pitchers like G.W. Wilkerson. They called him Ziggy, he was great. G.W. was the son of Grandpappy George Wilkerson, the fiddler player with the Fruit Jar Drinkers.
“One of the other pitchers was Roy Pardue from there in Nashville. There was Stringbean, Ziggy and Roy Pardue. They were all great. String was really playing ball. He was a super pitcher but he lacked a little bit of speed that Ziggy and Roy could put on it. He was a good straight honest pitcher and loved baseball.
“ I love baseball too and a lot of times me and Bill would go out to Long Hollow and pitch. He would say, “Rudy you’re pretty good but not good enough.’ and I’d answer him back saying. “Yes, I know but I’m better than you.”
“Bill would manage (the team); he didn’t miss anything going on. He watched every little thing. He would work a lot with the catcher and pitchers to make sure they’d change up the pitches. We had a super ball club. We were easy on the other teams when we knew we could win. Sometimes Bill would put Stringbean back in to pitch. The hardest team we ever played was in Des Arc, Arkansas. They a super good team there. They really had some good pitchers; a good team and good players but we beat them by a couple of runs. The game was so good, the people enjoyed it so well we re-booked it right there on the spot for another game to follow up the next month”

During this period the Blue Grass Boys were in great demand. “We did a lot of package shows-Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb and Bill Monroe. Those were the big names on the Opry at that time. Hank Williams used to prank with us a lot especially at the Friday Night Frolic up at Old WSM on 7th Avenue. There used to be a dummy elevator that they used to bring food up in. Every Friday night Hank would be sitting in that elevator signing autographs and having his boots shined and talking crazy.. He talked to everyone, he never met strangers. He used to always kid Bill about where he got his banjo players.”
During this time the Shenandoah Trio was formed. “The Shenandoah Trio was Joel Price, Red Taylor and me. Bill would use us as a break from himself on the show. We used to do things like the Rag Mop song and tunes like that. There were also many songs written during this period. He wrote “Uncle Pen” in the back seat of the car up the Pennsylvania Turnpike on the way to Rising Sun, Maryland. On that same trip to Maryland, we were traveling in a Hudson Hornet and had a rack on the top of the car. We had all our instruments up on the rack. We were going down the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the rack blew off. I mean just blew off. There were all our instruments scattered all over the highway. It broke the neck out of Chubby’s fiddle and skinned up Bill’s mandolin case pretty bad but my banjo wasn’t even out of tune.”
The banjo that Rudy played while he worked with the Blue Grass Boys was a RB 3 Gibson Master tone (with wreath inlays) “I bought that banjo from a fellow close to Mt. Airy. I can’t remember his name. (Johnny Vipperman, a noted local musician things it was possibly Early Jarrell) Uncle Joe advertised that I was needing another banjo I was having problems with mine-I had a been playing a Bacon. This guy came over and said you can have it if you want it for $150.00. I bought it and wasn’t ever sorry. Rudy traded that banjo to Tom Morgan’s brother in the 60’s. The banjo was severely damaged and its current whereabouts is not know. (***See note) In those days of the skin head banjo heads, the banjo player but be a technician also. The skin heads w ere very responsive to climatic clanged and you would have to change heads whenever one broke.
We didn’t have room to take two instruments so I’d carry extra heads with me. I kept eight to ten with me all the time in my suitcase. A lot of times I’d get to a job and the head would be busted so I wouldn’t work that job. I’d be busy putting a brand new head on. There was only one way to get them on. They were calf skin heads, I mean real calf skins. You had to soak them in water and get them real loose to even put them on. They you get them on, you had to wait for the drying process for it to set up and not get it too tight or it would bust again. You just had to work with it. I’ve put them on everywhere; in hotel rooms, in the car going to shows. I even put one on backstage at the Opry one night. Banjo players have it good these days with plastic heads.
“We worked a lot of theaters, one nighters; on weekends we’d work matinees. One time we had Johnny Mack Brown, another time Max Terhune, the old Western Cowboys worked with Bill. They do shows with us. Max Terhune would come out with his doll Elmer. Me and Jimmy Martin would hide behind the curtain and aggravate him. He would talk back there through the screen and say “Boys, now don’t start that stuff.” I remember once we had been up in Charleston, West Virginia and Bill had this fine race horse he’d bought, trailer and everything. We had that trailer on the back of the car coming around those mountains in West Virginia heading back to Nashville. If I’m not mistaken it was Chubby Wise driving and he said “I think I hear a horse running and he really did. When we got back there we found the whole trailer floor had fell apart and the horse had kept up with the car.”
“Once we played a show in Meadows of Dan, Virginia and on the way out we stopped in Wytheville, Virginia. Bill bought this dog from a man there. It was the best dog this man had, a “Lemon Walker” he called him. We had to be in Poplar Bluff, Missouri the next day so Bill put that dog in the trunk of the car. We had all the instruments in the rack on top. We went all the way to Poplar Bluff, Missouri with that dog in the trunk of the car. We were afraid to open the trunk afraid he’d get out and run. When we got there, there was a big fox chase. The old dog won the chase, he caught the fox. He had rode halfway across the country and still won the race.”
Rudy was no different than many other young men when it came to the service. Rudy went into the Army August 3, 1951 and was replaced in the Blue Grass Boys by the young Sonny Osborne. If I hadn’t went in the Army I’d have probably stayed with Bill. I’d have been another Oswald.
During the time Rudy was in the Army he pulled duty in Korea. “On my way back I was in Japan. I was in the PX one day and at the table next to me I kept hearing this guy talking and I kept thinking, I know him. Come to find out it was Dale Potter, he was on his way back home. Dale was one of the finest Fiddlers in Nashville.”
After he got out of service he returned to his old job with the Blue Grass Boys. “When I came back from the Army, Flatt & Scruggs were doing the morning Martha White Show at WSM. They were in one studio and we were in the other. Me and Earl was good buddies. He would come by ever so often. I remember one Sunday they were working Dunbar Cave in Clarksville and Carter Stanley and me went up there with Earl.”
There had been a lot of changes during the time Rudy was in service. One especially bright star was on the horizon. Rudy remembers the beginning of another legendary artist. “We done the Phillip Morris Cigarette Show with Elvis. It was the T.D. Kempt circuit out of Charlotte, North Carolina. They called it the ‘Chittlin Circuit.”. It started in Florida and went to Pennsylvania. It was one nighters - theaters, mainly. That was when Elvis was first starting in ‘54-55’. We had Carl Smith on the show plus Hank Snow, Bill Monroe, of course Elvis was an added attraction. Tom Parker was bringing him out first and it got to where no one else could go on stage. I remember that Hank Snow was trying to follow him one night and there was no way, so Hank just threw up his hands and walked off. They were all hollering, “We want Elvis.” So Tom Parker changed it around and put Elvis last.”
After returning from the service, as Rudy put it, “Things weren’t the same.” Many young servicemen probably suffered those same experiences returning after a period of turbulence such as the Korean conflict. So in 1954 Rudy left the Blue Grass Boys.
“I went up to D.C. and worked a while. Jimmy Dean had a TV show up there so I went up there. I was a little mixed up. I was just back from Korea. Everything wasn’t the same. My brother, dad and mother had moved up there. There was 3 of us brothers and I have one sister her name is Patsy. My brother Bobby still works around D.C. playing music five nights a week. He plays the cord--vox (accordion). Nelson my other brother doesn’t play much any more, he just plays for fun.”
”I was working up there with Jimmy Dean, working package shows with him. Roy Clark was working at the Dixie Pig on Bladensburg Road. I worked some with him. I had started switching back and forth from lead guitar to five-string. Hank Garland is the one that got me to switch. We all used to live together over on Boscobel Street (in Nashville). There was a rooming house over there, Mom Upchurch’s. So I moved in and at that time Hank used to come around there a lot and we always got along real good together. I used to really enjoy to listen to him and watch him play. He was always so accurate, everything was so perfect and in my mind I felt I could do it too.
“I worked a while with Claude King, he had the hit song ‘Woverton Mountain.’ I worked with Patsy Cline while she was with the Jimmy Dean Show.”
In the late 50’s Rudy moved to the Knoxville area. “I worked for Cas Walker there with a friend of mine at a car dealership.” It was while selling cars he met his wife, Mary. I met Mary when I sold here a car, that in 1963. I was working some with Red Rector and Fred Smith about that time. They had an act equivalent to Homer & Jethro. That where Homer & Jethro and Jamup and Honey came from, too.”
After a few years in Knoxville, Mary and Rudy moved outside Nashville where for a while they ran a restaurant and began working for the Tennessee Department of Corrections in Nashville.
Much of Rudy’s time in recent years has been filled with his hobby of building and flying airplanes. “I’ve always liked airplanes. Back when I was living down on Boscobel Street, years ago, me and Randy Hughes, who was with Cowboy Copas when they had their accident learned to fly together. We would go over to Comelia Fort Air Park there in Nashville and go flying.
“I bought this airplane, it was all to pieces and put it back together and I restored it. I’ve been everywhere in that plane. I worked on it for five years and I’ve been flying it for ten years. It’s a EAA Sport Biplane, with a 85 Continental engine. It cruses a little over a 100 miles an hour. I have a buddy who’s an aircraft engineer who’s got one just like it. We’ll get up early and go out early on weekends and fly--The Dawn Patrol.
I’ve built a couple of airplanes there in my garage. I helped a doctor in Franklin build one. I went ahead and got all my ratings then I got my FAA rating to do annual inspections on the aircraft, the A & P License. It’s something I enjoy doing.”
Rudy occasionally got together with some local musicians around his home in Franklin, Tennessee and Rudy said, “I’ll never retire from my music. I’ll keep on writing songs and playing and working on my airplanes.”
All bluegrass musicians owe a great deal to all those musicians like Rudy Lyle who blazed the trail for the music as we now know as bluegrass. And Rudy was a trailblazer as Bill Monroe recently said. “There was Earl Scruggs, then Don Reno, they were wonderful banjo players but when Rudy Lyle came in there with me even Earl and Don was listening to Rudy. He could really roll that banjo and he was powerful.”

Rudy Lyle: Reprint Classic Bluegrass Banjo Man

Reprinted by permission Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine
( All rights reserved. Copyright April 1985

Monday, January 26, 2009

January 26, 1952

57 years ago today at about this time of the day I was born. I had no idea what a wonderful family I had joined. A Mother and Father that taught me right from wrong, two sisters, Kathy and Vicki, that were wonderful and a neice, Cristen Hamm and two nephews, Brikk and Gage Bennett to come. Its been a great life.

Doug Hutchens 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Lesson that has lasted a lifetime

In 1959 I was 7 years old.
In those years during tobacco planting time, kids would “carry water”. This was in the days before the tractor drawn equipment, when a hand planter, some called it a setter was used. It was fabricated from sheet metal and had a reservoir that would hold about 2 1/2 or 3 gallons of water with a cylindrical tube where the plants would be “dropped”. The bottom of the planter would be set on the ground then pushed into the ridge we call the ‘list’ where the fertilizer had been put. When the trigger was pulled on the handle, the bottom of the planter would open like a
fish’s mouth and release a predetermined amount of water with the plant.

Our family ran a little country store and there was an older gentleman who lived just up the road , Mr. Jess Knight.
When he came by the store on Sunday He ask me if I would carry water for them the next afternoon when I got in from school, he said he would give me twenty five cents an hour. When I got home that day one of my cousins got off the bus with me and we ran to ask Mr. Jess if he could use both of us. He said that he could.
On the back of the farm trailer he had three or four 55 gallon barrels filled with water. We would fill up our buckets and carry them across the field and pour them in the planters as they needed it, it took a bucket to completely refill the planter. I would pour my water in the planter and immediately go back and get another in order to have it there when Mr. Jess and his wife Miss Mag would run out. After a few trips I had it timed pretty good. Those buckets filled with water would probably weigh about 20 to 25 pounds and walking through the plowed land being off balance with the bucket was a little tough.
Mr. Jess was swapping work with his brother Hamp and his wife (Practically all who planted tobacco swapped work with another family to save money in those days) my cousin was to carry water to them. Several times he would get back and fill up his bucket then “bat rocks” (in those days all kids batted rocks, Just get a stick and pitch a small rock up in the air and hit it like you would a baseball. (I probably batted at least 25 dump truck loads while I was waiting for the school bus) Hamp would have to call him to bring water. I kept Mr. Jess and Miss Mag supplied.
We worked for 3 hours that afternoon and when we finished Mr. Jess called us over to “settle up”. As he reached into his pocket he called my cousin by name and said now I am going to give you what I told you I would, but I’m disappointed that Hamp had to stop and call for you several times; then he gave him 3 quarters. Then he said “Now Doug, I’m going to give you the seventy five cents I promised but I’m going to give you a bonus because we never had to call you once and you even filled Hamp's planter two or three times, you were there every time we looked around. He promptly pulled his billfold from his bibbed overalls breast pocket and gave me a clean crisp dollar bill.
That dollar bill was only a quarter more, but to have folding money, that felt like a lot more. Then he said “let this be a lesson to you boys“.
This was a wonderful early lessons that has served me each day of my life and I have Mr. Jess Knight to thank for it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Committing ideas to a readable form instead of being stored in my head, heart and soul.


Clarence Hall, Mike Longworth and Marion Hall at Martin Factory in 1977.
I have been asked many times the past several years “do you have this stuff written down”?
Well some things happened January 10th 2009 in Maryville, Tennessee that showed me that I should be getting my house in order, including writing some things down.
In January 2003 I lost a wonderful friend Mike Longworth.

I first met Mike Longworth in Bean Blossom Indiana in the June of 1970. He and Ken Cagle a Martin Sales Rep were at Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Festival.

In talking to them, they were not in an official capacity from Martin Guitars in any way, but on vacation.
When it was made known that two guys from the Martin Guitar Company were on the grounds they became very, very popular. Mike had been well known for years for his pearl inlay capabilities that allowed guitar enthusiast to own a re-creation of a model that Martin Guitars did not offer at the time, the D45. He had worked as a part time craftsman for years before Martin hired him to come to the factory in Nazareth Pa to inlay and oversee the production of the D45 reintroduction in the late 1960’s.

Anyway, Clarence Hall my longtime friend, and banjo building partner happened to be at Bean Blossom as well. It was something!! Ken and Mike talked, talked, and talked, they were treated by the guitar players and collectors as royalty.
After Clarence and I returned home Clarence suggested that we write the president of Martin Guitars and thank them for sending Mike and Ken to Bean Blossom; knowing full well the guys were on their vacation. We sent the letters and didn’t think anymore about it until the first week in August that year. I was standing in front of the Liberty Banjo booth at the Galax Old Time Fiddlers Convention where I had traded Bob Flesher a National Metal bodied guitar for a banjo resonator that they had built and was trying to decide which one to take. Mike walked up tapped me on the shoulder and I ask him which of the purfling was more Gibson like. He pointed to one and that is the one I chose. Mike said that he wanted to thank me for writing the company and he was looking for Clarence who came by in a few minutes. He said that when he got back to Nazareth that some of the guys in the front office had kidded him about what he called “The Glory Letters”. He didn’t know what they were talking about for a few days and finally ask one of the secretaries about them. She got the letters from the file and let him read them. He said that Mr. Martin had ask him about possibly attending some additional events around the country as an Official Martin Representative and the Galax trip was his first one. Over the next several years Martins promotion “Meet Mike” graced the back cover of some of the Blue Grass periodicals like Blue Grass Unlimited. Little did I know that about 18 years later I would have a similar job with the Gibson Guitar Company, Not the flair of Full Page back covers, but I spent a couple of years doing a very similar thing.
Mike and I became great friends; for the summer of 1971 I worked the road as bass player with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys and Mike was at many, many of the events we performed at.
In the late 1970’s he called me while I was living in Kentucky and working at Alice Lloyd College asking if I would be interested in becoming an authorized Martin Guitar Repairman. He said that they had a huge number of instruments in the region with no repairman to service them. I had no idea of the honor that was until I talked to some well respected repairmen and hear what they had to go through to become authorized, and mine was a simple as a call from Mike. I used to kid the guys at Gibson about being only Authorized Martin Repairman working for Gibson.

This past Saturday I was at an event called the Banjothon in Maryville, Tennessee and on Saturday evening as the event was closing a friend, Wayne Holcombe brought in a box that he said that Paul Hopkins another friend, had said for him to take care of. This box was one of those boxes that we all have stashed back in the closet, up on the shelf and under the benches of the areas where we squirrel things away. He had some case covers and asked if I would be interested in one of them. I thought they were tenor case covers and had little interest except for the fact that they had belonged to my friend Mike. After getting back to the hotel room I realized that the cover was not for a tenor but a 5 string and I began to get a feeling that this was just something that was supposed to be…..The last time I spoke to Mike was a few months before his passing he was somewhat rushed as he said he had to go because they had just taken the last box of his stuff out to the truck to be put into storage and they were waiting for him to come out, and this would be the last time I would be able to reach him there as he was moving into an assisted living facility. He was to contact me soon about a new phone number soon…I did not know how sick Mike was….he never did.
The longer I live, the more I feel that we are not alone on this earth. As Buckminster Fuller once said “Sometimes I think we're alone. Sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the thought is staggering“.
I feel that I have been shown some things and now its my time to follow….
I guess what scares me the most about this undertaking is that after all my remembrances are no longer stored in my body, someone will find what is left of me; a few bones in a bag of skin, for who I am is not of my making. Many, many wonderful people have a lot of time, effort and friendship invested in who I am, and after all my thoughts, feelings and words are released, there might be very little left.
Its been a wonderful trip so far, and I’m going to share if for anyone who wishes to read it.
January 16, 2009 334 b1