Thursday, May 17, 2012

Doug Dillard......You had too many ends to your candle and yet you kept them all lit.....

Thanks for being my friend..... Still remember you playing "Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed" on the Andy Griffith, Don Knott, Jim Neighbors TV Special....told you about it several times and you all ways grinned... And Kenny Baker talking about you following him on the banjo playing fiddle tunes....He said it time and time again...."that Dillard Boy could get it"......Again you grinned.

I told you time and time again...I love you man.....tonight I miss you Man......and I always will.

Rest Easy Doug Dillard

I love you

Doug Hutchens

Soon those who are interested can come back here soon and hear an interview I did with Doug in 1990.....It was a pleasure then and I consider it an honor to pass it along.......

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom and Aunt Lou

Easter has always been a special time in our family and this one is no different.

Yesterday afternoon Uncle Eustaces' family did a birthday supper for Mom (Lillian Hutchens) and Aunt Lou (Lou Hutchens) They are sisters. Mom's birthday was friday and she was 88 and Aunt Lou's will be 90 on Monday .
Many neighbors and family members were able to attend....It was a great afternoon of fellowship, friends and food.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Earl Scruggs Interview

This morning I awoke for the first time in my life to a world with out an Earl Scruggs. I will try to assemble some words later, but I tried to give Earl "my flowers while he was living" and will allow you if you choose, to remember him today in his own words.
Here is a link to an interview I did with Earl on Halloween night 1989 in his home in Madison Tennessee.

Scroll down the page and you will see: The Doug Hutchens and Earl Scruggs Interview Track 01 -- 15 where he talked about a variety of things and I played music before and after each segment. Somehow track 15 is so appropriate today.....
I don't think you have to be a member to listen, but if you do its free and I think you will find it worthwhile.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Earl Scruggs January 6, 1924 - March 28, 2012


September 28th, 1989

September 28th 1989...

Bill’s words from July 27th 1971 gave me the best of both worlds.

The night of his 50th Anniversary on the Opry and the whole TV segment was devoted to honoring him on The Opry portion on the Nashville Network.
Billy Rose was playing bass but wanted the job that Vic Jordan was leaving with Jim and Jesse. Billy had talked to Jesse earlier in the week and thought he had the job. So he was going to turn his notice into Bill that night.
Tater and Blake took care of much of the band hiring etc at that time like Kenny Baker had done in the past and they ask Billy not to say anything to Bill until after the TV portion (Bill’s health was fragile at that time) of the show, knowing that it might upset Bill.
I had gone down to the backstage of the Opry that night and as I came through the back door I ran into Tater he asked "Are you still interested in working with us again?" He had heard Bill and I talking a few times about me returning....and he wanted someone in the band that could drive the bus. I said sure. He told me that Billy was going to turn in his notice to Bill after the TV portion and that if I wanted the job it would make things much easier because Bill would not get as upset in loosing a band member.
I walked around the corner and ran into Blake. He said "Do you know what's going on" I told him I had just talked to Tater.
So I was going back and be a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. I was thrilled.

Hal Durham and Grant Turner presenting Bill with a Special Mandolin that the Grand Ole Opry had comissioned for him. It had a carving of his head on the peghead.

The TV portion came off well and about the time they took their instruments in the dressing room Jimmy Campbell's wife at that time, Andrea came through the back door in a rush asking where Billy was. We looked around and he and Bill were both gone. Someone said I think he's gone to turn in his notice. She said we’ve got to catch him. Her husband Jimmy was playing fiddle with Jim & Jesse and had heard them talking as they drove up the interstate. Jim had hired Raymond McClain the day before Jesse had hired Billy with out Jesse knowing it. Jimmy knowing what Billy's plans were had called back to let him know what was happening, because if he turned in his notice Bill might not have him back.
The long and the short, she caught Billy and I became probably the only guy to get the job and loose the job while never playing a single note.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Planning the first Blue Grass Boy Reunion

During the fall of 1999 James Monroe, Bill's son called and asked if I would organize a Blue Grass Boy Reunion for the Memorial Day Weekend for 2000. He wanted to start a Blue Grass Festival in Rosine Kentucky where Bill was born. I was honored, James went on to say that he knew that his Dad put a lot of trust in me and I could do it in a way that Bill would have wanted it done.

I first sent out invitations to the many individuals that I had kept in touch with since the late 70's when I started searching for all the men who had worked with the Blue Grass Boys. Over the years about 175 individuals worked for Bill Monroe on a regular basis playing music. David Deese was the first to call, then Guy Stevenson....they kept calling and dropping letters and emails. Over the next several months I got response after response…(professional musicians aren't quick to commit to a weekend of "no pay") They play music as their livelihood so making a living had to come first. This was to be a reunion of those who could and wanted to come.
Since I had arranged some birthday celebrations for Bill starting in 1982...I had seen how much fun Bill had arranging some last minute things for Kenny Bakers Birthday in June of that year( …I decided we need to do something special for Bills birthday. So I started in early July (for the next several years I put the information in the mail over the first weekend of July for Bill's Birthday Celebration) and we were able to pull it off as a surprise in Louisville in September just a day or two before Bill’s birthday.

I had many ideas going at the same time trying to come up with a worthy celebration for The Blue Grass Boys......
I did a lot of behind the scenes work; contacting the offices of Governor Patton of Kentucky, Governor Jim Hunt of North Carolina and Governor
Don Sundquist of Tennessee. I also contacted former President Jimmy Carter who Bill had played the White House during his term in office.

I started on a special cancellation for the Post Office in Rosine...

As I was working I kept thinking; How can we make this an event that Bill would be so proud of...there was no budget so kept digging.... finally I got an idea and contacted Willard Gayheart who is one of the greates pencil artist I've ever seen and asked if we could work it out to do a special "Commemorative Print" for the occasion.......... Willard was a big Bill Monroe fan and had known of the Birthday Celebrations I'd put together for Bill and was very willing....It was decided that he would draw it, and could sell some copies to pay for his time and I'd take care of the printing cost and I would have some to give the guys who took the time and effort to join us in Rosine. I had hopes of selling enought to take care of the printing cost to cover my investement.

But what kind of illustration would be best…..

(Fall Back in time to 1982) During the first Birthday Celebration I arranged for Bill in Louisville, Kentucky in 1982, I had hired a professional photographer, Jim Silliman, to go and capture the proceedings on film. I had no idea of why I was doing it, but it just seemed to the right thing to do. Jim shot several rolls of both black and white and slide film...(looking back I wish he had shot 10 times more than he did, but hindsight is usually 20/20). But I had this one special photo of Bill on stage that stood out ...I thought back to Arnold Banker's Shinnhopple New York festival a couple of years before. John Hartford and I had become friends and I was traveling at the time with the "Lost and Found". John came by the bus one afternoon and asked if I was on board, to which Dempsey said I think he's in the back....John came on in and I got up out of the bunk and went to the lounge area and met him....He said that he had found some things while spending some time around Rosine that I might like to see.....They were photo's of Uncle Pen, Bill Uncle who he lived with after his parents died, and the person he had learned to play music with....These were photo's that I had never seen except for one which Bill had shown me. That photo Bill had carried it around in his wallet for so many years it was difficult to see any details.... I asked John if there was a possibility I could get copies of the photos....John, in only the way he could, just grinned and said "I knew you would appreciate them....these copies are yours"... (John Hartford my friend I sure miss you)

So...we had the main photo of Bill and in what we called the "dream world" we put Uncle the photo's; one had Uncle Pen sitting but he had a hat and its shadow was over his of the others he didn't have a hat on...In one he had his dog with him, another his crutch that he had to use in his later years after being thrown by a mule...

I took all these elements and told the story........Willard took his pencil and did his magic....He created a drawing of a photo that didn't exist...I decided we would title the print after the tune Uncle Pen and it was named Blue Grass Boy Print 2000 "Late in the evening..."

Late in the evening about sundown
High on a hill and above the town
Uncle Pen played the fiddle and how it would ring
You could hear it talk, you could hear it sing.

This is the limited edition print "Late in the evening..."...

a few copies are still available at for details

By the time we got to Rosine in late May the electricity was in the air.....
possibly too much it rained all day every day for 4 days.. The Festival was a disaster.......The crowd was sparce, but those attended witnessed history.
There is a little Music Barn in the center of village of Rosine and the folks there took us under their wing..
They were gracious to let us hang out in the barn... It was kind of our unofficial meeting place, we ate our meals there, stayed out of the rain and even did some of our "Reunion" there.

Our Reunion consisted of two or three hours each day of telling stories of things that happened on the road…many were very funny.

Soon everyone was saying that someone should "write this stuff down"..(I had a friend Rob Marshall with me who taped everything). It took some time but the modest publication Howdy Folks, Howdy appeared in 2003...
The cover: Howdy Folks, Howdy.....

Available from:

Janet Davis Music

and Elderly Instrument

...or from me at

Everyone really enjoyed the gathering and looked forward to doing it again next Memorial Day Weekend (2001)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The First Blue Grass Boy Reunion

Our First Blue Grass Boy Reunion.
Memorial Day Weekend 2000
A success…..Damp! but a success. It rained hard all day long each day…
I was asked in October of 1999 to put together a Blue Grass Boy Reunion and I was able to contact 89 of the 110 living former band members .

Participants were Gordon Terry (1950) Johnny Vipperman (1951) Noah Crase (1954) Carlos Brock (1954). Eddie Adcock (1957) Tater Tate (1958 and 1984) Frank Buchanan (1960) Lonnie Hoppers (1962) David Deese (1962) Gary Thurman (1962) Doug Green (1967) RC Harris (1970) Dan Jones (1971) Guy Stevenson (1973) Jim Moratto (1973), Dwight Dillman (1974) Wayne Lewis (1977) Larry Beasley (1977) Art Stamper (1984) Wayne Jerrolds (1989) Jimmy Campbell (1988) Ernie Sykes (1996) and James Monroe (1963). Sonny Osborne (1952 and Dana Cupp (1991)were on the grounds but the rains were heavy and didn't make it up to the Barn. Some great stories were shared of the time they spent working with Bill Monroe.

Stories ranged from Gordon telling about the first time on stage and not knowing that when Bill nodded at him on stage it meant for him to take a break to Lonnie and Frank's dog stories.

The little Jamboree Barn in Rosine was a lifesaver as 3 of our 4 sessions accompanied the sound of the rain on the tin roof. Very fitting.
The little Barn was very reminiscent of the Old Brown County Barn that stood in Bean Blossom for years, not near as large but we felt right at home.

Blue Grass Boy 2000 "Late in the evening...." A limited edition print was unveiled which featured Bill in a familiar pose with his faithful F5 from a day prior to Gibson’s repair to the peg head, to his left and faded into time and distance Uncle Pen appears.

There were 1050 prints signed and numbered by the artist, Willard Gayheart available for sale to the public. Each Blue Grass Boy received a copy of the print signed and numbered with BGB followed by the number that corresponding to the belt buckle number from the birthday project from 1987. .
It was a great two days, and just to be able to spend time with these guys, they were there when musical history was being made.

Having being made aware of the gathering the following sent welcomes, greetings and messages. Governor Sundquist of Tennessee commended the Blue Grass Boys on their "Determination and dedication....." Governor Hunt of North Carolina send a greetings saying "Many of the Blue Grass Boys are among North Carolina's treasures". And Former President Jimmy Carter said in his message "I recall with fondness Bill's first performance at the White House...."

Rosine Kentucky is one of those special places, I can recall raising my head from the final prayer during the September 12 1996 services and looking to a sky that was just a little more blue and the trees just a little more green than I'd ever noticed before, those were things that meant so much to Bill, he spoke of it around the globe…. now he enjoys them daily as he rest in Ohio County Kentucky.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Li'l Abner

In the summer of 1974 while working with the Wilderness Road Outdoor Drama as an actor/musican, it was decided that we would do an Dark Night presentation of "Lil Abner".
Dark Night meaning that we would do it on night we were usually off. The Drama ran from Monday thru Saturday so Dark Nights were Sunday nights.
I’d never done any acting, I think we had a grade school play back at Hardin Reynolds Memorial School where I walked out on stage to sell apples in "the depression scene" and I did something in our Senior play which we wrote ourselves(We were the last graduating class at Hardin Reynolds and they had stopped senior plays a few years before but we had Miss DeHaven for english and talked her into sponsoring us for the last senior play...wasn't bad, but I would hardly call that acting.) I told them kiddingly during the Wilderness Road audition that I had been a dandelion in a third grade play but I was hired for my musical ability rather than my acting skills….

Mayor Daniel D. Dogmeat (Tony Estes) and Marryin' Sam (Doug Hutchens)

The leading actors weren’t really interested in doing another production so this gave the other Wilderness Road cast members the opportunity to be featured in more challenging roles.
I didn’t know much about Li’l Abner other that I had seen the comic strip. I began hearing rumblings that I would be a perfect “Marryin' Sam” and not knowing who he was I said sure…I‘ll do it...

Mayor Dogmeat (Tony Estes) and Marryin' Sam (Doug Hutchens)
being watched by those dispicable Scraggs (Lem, Luke and Romeo) and as
Evil-Eye Fleegle comes into town.

I had no idea that he was a central character…3rd only to Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae with the number of lines in the show…Marryin’ Sam was the preacher who Pappy and Pansy Yokum were counting on to get Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae married. He sang, he danced and many more lines that I‘d ever seen….and I was supposed to do all this??? I wasn't into theater and had no idea that Li’l Abner was a musical either…the comic strip didn't have any in it.....and also we did all the music live on stage…

A Cornpone Meeting

It featured a Sadie Hawkins Race and a Jubilation T. Cornpone Celebration and hopefully a wedding for Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae…

Pappy Yokum (John Forbes) Marryin' Sam (Doug Hutchens) with Mammy Yokum, Daisy Mae and
that World Famous Wrestler "Earthquake McGoon"
We would read lines in the afternoon before Wilderness Road and then do various scenes after the show each night. It was so hot during that part of the summer we didn’t do any practices during the daylight hours.
We practiced for two or three weeks and when show time arrived it was tense…we had never gone through the whole production from beginning to end before opening night. Nerves were drawn tight.

A typical day in DogpatchThe Matromonial Stomp

After the opening number the tension eased and as the show started rolling it seemed to flow like water. There were slip up, I made my share of them, but the cast, crew and the audience all enjoyed the production. It was a big success. We only did the show twice that summer, but I think we came away with a new sense of adventure and accomplishment.
Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae didn't get married but everyone had a good time in front of the statue of that beloved Jubilation T. Cornpone

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Working with Kenny Baker and Josh Graves

Josh Graves, Doug Hutchens, Marsall Hall, Cecil Hall, Kenny Baker

Skyline NC. 1985
In the fall of 1984 while talking to Cecil Hall who I had played with off and on for 30 years....we decided that I could play banjo on some shows in the 1985 season. I still lived in Knott County Kentucky but all my weekends were free and during the summer I could take time off when ever I needed too.
The first date was to be at Old High School Roxboro NC in December of 84.

Along in November, I was talking to Cecil one night and he asked if I knew of a fiddle player we could get....He had been booking shows and using Uncle Josh Graves as a "Featured Artist" during the past couple of years.
I said well "Kenny Baker has left Bill (during October of 84)to which Cecil said "He wouldn't play with us would he? I said if he isn't booked somewhere else I'm sure he will if you pay him. I told him that he had been working some with Bob Black and his guys in Iowa, but didn't know how steady that work was, then I told him of the album that Josh and Kenny did sometime back on the Puritan label featuring Kenny on the guitar and of course Josh playing dobro. Somewhat hesitantly he said call him and see what you can work out.
I called Kenny and he said "Why I recond I could do a few dates with you guys...."

Fast forward ------December 1984....Roxboro North Carolina school Cecil Hall and the Dominion Blue Grass Boys Featuring Kenny Baker and Josh Graves....We did the school on a Foggy Friday night and the the Iroquise Club in Roanoke Va on Saturday.

Kenny Baker, Josh Graves, Cecil Hall, Billy Hutchens, Jake Tullock, Doug Hutchens

For a few special dates "Cousin Jake" Tullock joined us...from the days of "Uncle Josh and Cousin Jake" from the Flatt and Scruggs era.

Over the next year and a half we worked many dates around the country under the same billing...a few include The Sullivan's Homeplace St.Stevens. Al, Wiggins Ms, Ralph Stanley's Whitesburg Ky, Galax, Va, The Kitchens's Summerville W.Va. Wayside Park Stuart Va. Spruce Pine NC, Lilly Mae's Lorane Ohio, Bill Grant's Hugo Ok, Elizabethon Tn, The Carter Fold Macy Springs Va, Bass Mountain in Burlington NC, Myrtle Beach for Norman Adams...........

Galax Virginia, Fairview Ruritan Building Emma Smith joins us for a tune

At Summersville in 86 we found that Josh had already booked the festival for the 87 season. He had taken the innitative for he and Kenny to book show's themselves and then hire musicians from the area when ever possible, much like Mac Wiseman had done for years. This gave them a larger slice of the pie. In the coming months Kenny called me a few times times to work shows in Kentucky and Ohio since I still lived in Kentucky at that point.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Three years ago this morning.

James Aubrey Hutchens

Three years ago this morning my Father, James Aubrey Hutchens passed away.

We miss him greatly.

James Aubrey Hutchens and Cristen Hamm

Brikk Bennett, Lillian Hutchens, Aubrey Hutchens, Gage Bennett

Lillian Hutchens, Gage Bennett, Aubrey Hutchens, Cristen Hamm, Brikk Bennett

Cristen Hamm, Brikk Bennett, Mason Michael Bennett, Aubrey Hutchens, Gage Bennett

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Going to "Town" with Bill and the decison

Going to town with Bill
On Tuesday July 27th Bill came by the bus and wanted to know if I wanted to ride into town. I said sure. . I 65 was open up to the present day location of Briley Parkway but Bill preferred to take the “old road” to town, it brought us out on the James Robertson Parkway and across the bridge into downtown Nashville.
He was driving the old blue station wagon and as we started up the hill just past where we parked the bus and (I did some searching and it was at about 5000 US Highway 41 by a recent google search) Bill said that when I used to live in that house. It was a house that was covered with stone and on up the hill a short distance was a small trailer park. He said that’s where Lester and Earl lived when they first moved to town.
As we rode along I had been thinking a lot. I said “Chief you know I’ve been thinking about laying out of school for a year and playing music”. He didn’t say anything for a time and after what seemed an eternity which probably was only 2 or 3 minutes he said “you know I don’t that’s a good idea”. I asked “What” he continued “if I hadn’t done pretty good in music the only thing I could have ever done was farmed. Now your folks think a lot of you and really want you to finish school”.
Again it got very quiet, as I began some serious thinking. Bill then continued “Now you go back and finish school and if you ever want a job and I have an opening, the job is yours.” It wasn't mentioned again that summer.

We went on into Nashville and he parked behind the Opry off Fourth Avenue and walked down by GTR and toward Broadway. I stopped at GTR and Bill said to meet him at about 2:00 at Linebaugh’s.
I went in and John Hartford and Roy Acuff were both fiddling in the back. I admired a Florentine and All American banjo resonator in the show case and looked at a large bag of amber buttons for banjo tuners that George had purchased somewhere. He was good in those days of coming up with various parts from companies that had gone out of business years before. I spoke to Randy Wood who I had met a short time before but had known of through his association with Rual Yarbough before he came to work with George and Tut.
Randy invited me into the back, the place was small and I tried to find a spot out of the way and just became the proverbial fly on the wall. It seemed like only a short time I looked at my watch and it was about time to meet Bill at Linebaugh’s Restaurant. So I tried to leave as uneventful as I entered.
I went on down to Linebaugh’s and in a few minutes Bill entered. Being the early part of the week and after the regular lunch crowd had left, the restaurant was almost empty. Bill came in and immediately went over to the juke box to see what was on it. I don’t ever remember him playing anything but where ever we stopped that had a juke box he would go over and see what was on it. I never asked, but I always kind of figured he looked to see if any of his music was on it, In Linebaughs there was always some of Bill's single's on it. I remember Charlie Pride’s “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” was playing and he commented that it was a good number for Charlie.
While we were eating George Linebaugh came out and Bill ask him to sit down with us. He said he couldn’t as he had a lot to do in the back. They talked a few minutes and when he left Bill said that Linebaugh had come to Nashville about the same time that he had and was a “Good Hardworking Honest Man”.

Getting Mail in Goodlettsville 1971

Getting mail at Bakers Box

After getting back from Cosby Tennessee on July 5th. Dan parked the bus and he and Bill went on their way.
The next morning I decided that I was going to walk down to Goodlettsville to the Post Office. I started mailing cards along with a letter or two in Pennsylvania and Ohio the week before, I was like a tourist sending cards, from it seemed like every truck stop. Kenny had noticed the cards I was sending and told me that if I needed a place to get my mail in "town", I could use his post office box number and that he would tell the people at the post office that if I came in to go ahead and give me mail from his box. I had put his post office box number on all my cards and now I hoped that I might have a response or two.
When we initially came in from Columbus that first day I was with the group, Kenny had pointed it out the post office but I really had no idea of how far it was from the bus.

So I started walking up Dickerson Road….I walked, walked and walked.. I finally got to Forest Lawn Cemetery and I still couldn‘t see what I thought that looked like the little shopping center where the post office was so I turned back. It was a hot day and as I approached the bus I started to reach into my pocket for my key and I couldn’t find it. I thought it might have gotten sharp end down in the corner like it had the week before. I must have looked pretty strange walking down Dickerson Road with my hands digging deep in my pockets and counting through the change over and over for a key that wasn’t there.

When I got back to the bus my heart was racing….first I thought I might be able to force something in the crack of the door and move the plunger over to open it, but the deadbolt would not budge….I was about to panic….then another idea….see if one of the side window would move. The window to the left of the door would not budge….then I went over to the driver’s side and low and behold I found that the window would slide a little. I had to look around and find a sturdy stick, then was able to move the sliding window enough to climb up on the tire and pull myself into the window…..I was relieved. I climbed in and just sat there the longest time thinking how lucky I was. I immediately found a small piece of twine and tied a small piece of cardboard to the key.
When I went to the truck stop the next time I found a key ring with a half dollar size leather fob on it and I never misplaced my key again although I found my self checking my pocket each time I went out the door after that and never locked my self out again.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kenny Bakers Birthday June 26th, 1981

Paul Mullins helped to promote a Blue Grass Festival in southern Kentucky called Jellico Creek in 1982. Bill had such a good time putting together some things for Kenny's birthday....this is where I got the idea for our first Bill Monroe Birthday Celebration where the Blue Grass Boy's presented him with the leather covered case with "Bill Monroe" "The Father of Blue Grass Music" carved in the leather covering.

Bill announced on stage that "today is Kenny Baker's Birthday".

and gave Kenny a birthday card

it also had a 50 dollar bill in it.

A lady from the audience wanted to give Kenny a hug....

another gift that day

Bill had talked to Paul Mullins about any sort of old rough looking fiddle he could find...Paul said he had one that at one time had a hornets nest in it....they wrapped it in a plastic bag...

Kenny plays along....

"now this looks like one I lost years ago...."

Donna and Lewis Lamb

January 25th, 1974 Berea College

Bun McLain, Earl Barnes behind Bun, Doug Hutchens, unidentified autoharp player, Lewis Lamb, Donna Lamb, unidentified bass player, Jim Gaskin, and Asa Martin

Doug Hutchens, Bun McLain, Lewis Lamb and Donna Lamb (almost in photo)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Man and His World. August 1971

We worked in the geodesic dome that Buckminster Fuller designed for the 1967 Worlds Fair in Montreal for a week in 1971 for the Smithsonian.

This is a shot from the monorail while we were on the main stage.

The following are some scenes of the different displays within the dome and photos from the monorail.

There were all sorts of craftsmen and representatives of everyday life in the United States.
This was a dulcimer maker named McSpadden, from the Ozarks.

The Yankee Whitler, D.J. Holmes, Plymouth, Maine.

Utah Phillips entertains in "The Barn."

A fiddle maker.

Some wildlife from the States.

Native American Village from New Mexico....these folks had some wonderful food.

Shots from the monorail.

Mr. Sam McGee of the Grand Ole Opry, who was to perform the week after we left, is shown with a Sunday audience.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ellis Family 1904

#1. Ellis Family 1904 --Hats on.
Left to Right:
Back row: Sallie Ellis Roark, Peria Ellis, Drury Ellis, Mary Hutchens Ellis,
Lettie Corns (Hill), John Abram Corns, Rufus Ellis.
Front Row: Nellie Roark (Hutchens), Rufus Roark, Nannie Roark (Handy), John
C. Ellis, Lettie Rhodes Ellis, Maggie Corns (Hill), Verda Corns (Biggs),
Pearlie Corns, Emma Ellis Corns (Holding) Noel Corns, Louisa Corns Ellis
Florence Ellis (Griffin).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

June 28th, 1971 I've Made It!!!

I’ve made it…
After everyone drove away on the 28th of June, I just sat there. Thinking “I guess I’ve make it“! Here I am traveling with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys…..I was in Nashville, a place where I had never really thought a lot about other than Bill living there.
I don’t know what I expected but somehow it began to fit into my first experience at the Ryman..
Seeing the oiled floors, creaking steps, dark brownish amber of the worn varnish on those old church pews. Reminded me of so much of old country stores where I grew up. Truly a different reality from the perception that I had created in my mind from listening on Friday and Saturday nights.

I remember sitting in the drivers seat looking out the front window of Bill Monroe’s Bus….My view was a gravel parking lot looking down a slight grade toward Dickerson Road with a little restaurant down (now known as the Country Western Bar and Grill,+TN+37072+36.2882+-86.7431&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&sa=N&tab=wl)
about a hundred yards to the left and a self service gasoline station an equal distance to my right.(1381 Dickerson Road Goodlettsville, now a Mapco station) I had made it….but what had I made it too.
By this time it was close to noon and I went down to the restaurant and had some lunch and started back to the bus…..My first thought was that I have left my keys on the bus…On the Saturday before Joe Stuart and Kenny Baker and I had gone into a hardware store in Lancaster Pennsylvania. Joe said to Kenny guess we need some new keys to the bus don’t we….he gave the person his key and had keys made for Dan Jones and myself.
I looked in both front pockets, pulled out all my change, I was thinking what am I going to do. I don’t have Bill’s or Joe’s phone numbers, Kenny was the only number I had in my wallet and I didn’t know how far he lived from there. Finally I found it, the sharp end had stuck deep into the corner of my front pocket. I went back up to the bus and decided I’d clean things up a little.

The way it looked from the back Photo courtesy Gregg Kennedy

This coach was PD 4501 Scenic Cruiser and had a similar door apparatus as most school buses, a handle that ratchets the door open then pulls it back closed. ( )(not ours but you'll get the idea) A deadbolt style lockset had been drilled and mounted on the door so the coach could be secured when no one was aboard. There were three steps up to the level where the driver’s seat, then two small steps up to the seating area. There were three sets of the bus seats left in front and past that area there was again two steps up before you got into the bunk area. There were two bunks on each side with enough space for everyone’s instruments to go under them sufficiently. This was followed by an area where everyone’s clothes were hung on the right side of the coach. On the left side was a small bathroom which had not worked in a long time and only used to keep the broom and odds and ends in.
In the back of the coach was Bills room. It was a modest area with a bed that’s head was on the left side of the coach and was across the width of the bus rather than long ways like the bunks up front, with some hanging space for his suit’s and a few drawers under the bed and a small night stand along with a window air conditioner. Ralph Lewis had actually installed a home air-conditioning unit in Bill’s area. Bills area was just that “his area” You just didn't see the band go into Bills room and was only there twice myself. Once when he told me to go back and look in the bottom drawer to get the money box for the gate at the festival at Ashland Kentucky and the 2nd time when he ask me if I would go back and sleep in his room with the money box on Saturday night at Ashland.

There was a little trash can under the handle that opened the door.
I picked up what stuff there was in the seats, emptied the trash can and took the piece of carpet used as a rug outside then got the broom and started trying to sweep the carpet. The carpet under the little rug was so full of dust that I worked and worked finally getting a good amount of pure dirt that had been tracked in from all parts of the country and from the looks of it for a long time. After the broom I had to go back and wipe down the dash and window ledges because of the dust I’d kicked up in the air. This took the most of the afternoon.
This would become my routine each week when we returned. To have 6 people in a coach 96 inches wide and forty feet long for extended periods things can get close but everyone in the group made the effort to keep things looking presentable when we were on the road. From time to time either friends, fans or promoters would want to come on the coach and all the band took pride in keeping the coach clean. Each time we would stop for fuel someone would always grab the trash can and empty it. By the time we got back to “Town” things had usually began to pile up There would be a few newspapers and there were always festival fliers, schedules or programs of one sort or another.

Kenny Baker cuttin up with the fiddle. Photo courtesy Gregg Kennedy

Then Wednesday about noon Kenny Baker came over and picked me up and we headed to Jenkins. After Kenny and I got to Cosby we took our clothes on the bus and Joe and Bill were sitting there and started telling Kenny how clean the bus was when they left Nashville, kidding and thanking me for the cleaning I’d done.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dance at Virginia Carolina Ruritan Building

In the early 1960s, probably about 1962 or so, they started a round and square dance at the Virginia-Carolina Ruritan building just north of Spencer, Virginia. Marshall Hall led the band and played guitar. Gervace Pendleton played fiddle, Arthur “Uncle Arch” Hall played the banjo, and Lloyd Hodge played the electric guitar. Occasionally, Marshall's brother Robert Hall would join in on guitar and sing a few songs from time to time.

My father, Aubrey Hutchens, had never called dances before, but he had been to dances during his early years, and he began calling the square dances. I was just learning to play banjo and I used to sit and watch Arthur Hall week after week. Christmas of 1963, I got my first banjo, a “Beltone” that Dad got from Harold Cummins, who he had worked with at the Carnation Milk plant in Stuart.

Don Reno & Red Smiley were on TV each morning at WDBJ-TV, and Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs were on Winston-Salem's WSJS on Saturday night and the same show would be on WDBJ-TV in Roanoke on the following Monday night. In talking with Earl Scruggs in the late 1980s, he said they would "bicycle" the shows. This was in the days before UPS, when the fastest shipping method was by bus. They would send out the video tapes from Nashville and the tapes would go from town to town by bus. A station would go to the bus station, get the video, show it, then take it back to the bus station and ship it on to the next place, where it would be seen the next night, finally making it back into Nashville a week later.

Marshall Hall’s brother Cecil was playing a round and square dance at the skating rink in Stuart during this time. After a few years, for some reason Gervace quit coming to the Virginia-Carolina dance and joined Cecil at the skating rink, at which time Arthur Hall began playing fiddle at the Virginia-Carolina dance. At first, Dean Shelton, who had been learning to play the banjo, began picking with the Virginia-Carolina band. After a while, Arthur, too, began playing at the skating rink, and Marshall moved from the guitar to the fiddle for the square dances.

About this time, Doug and Larry Cobbler and I were just learning to play. They had a guitar and a mandolin and I had a banjo. Our parents, Richard and Mildred Cobbler and Aubrey and Lillian Hutchens, were at the dance each week and, before long, they began getting together to play Rook every week or so. Doug and Larry and I would go upstairs at our house or in the basement when we went down to the Cobblers'.

Before long, we were joining in from time to time at the dance. This was our first introduction to playing music. Soon, Doug, Larry, and myself starting playing more around the area, mainly at country stores and the like.

WHEO radio had opened in October of 1959 in Stuart, Virginia, and like most radio stations in rural areas, had some live music on it, especially on Saturdays. I’m not sure how many groups worked it, but I think Jim Eanes, with Roy Russell, worked it and I know that Gervace Pendleton and Arthur Hall had played with various bands on the station. In those days, it was live rather than pre-recorded. Besides, it was a great way to advertise the dance they would be playing that night.

During this era, there were many "round and square" dances around the area. There was one at Stella, Virginia, the American Legion in Martinsville, as well as the skating rink and the Virginia- Carolina Ruritan building. By the late 1960s, the Virginia-Carolina dance had about played out, but about this time, I had gotten to where I could play some on the banjo.

The first time I ever played out anywhere, except the dances, was the fiddlers' convention at the Collinsville Recreation Center. Camden Joyce played banjo with Cecil Hall and a band he had put together on Friday night, but "Cam" couldn’t play on Saturday night. Cecil asked if I could play with them. Cam was a great banjo player and I’ll never forget him playing the Friday night. They did “Just Because” and he really sounded good. On Saturday night, we only played one tune. I can’t remember the fiddler's name, but he played “Bear Creek Hop.” We didn’t place in the top 5 groups.

Then, by the next year, Doug and Larry Cobbler and I had met Henry and Louis Mabe. We heard about them and went over to see them on a Wednesday night, and then went to Boone's Mill, Virginia, to a fiddlers' convention and came in second that Saturday night. Henry was a good fiddler and Louis was a good mandolin player. Later that fall at Collinsville, we didn’t place as a band, but Henry won second on the fiddle.

Henry Mabe, Doug Cobbler, Larry Cobbler and Doug Hutchens

Sandy Ridge School.
The same stage where Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs played each year

from 1948 until 1968....and were supposed to play there on March 7th 1969.
(the week after they split up)

With Hender Saul, who promoted the fiddlers convention with the Collinsville Recreation folks.

Cecil Hall and I, in the banjo competition at Collinsville, Va.

Cecil Hall, Louis Mabe, Henry Mabe, and Doug Hutchens....we were really into in looks like anyway. Louis Mabe, Doug Hutchens, Doug Cobbler in Collinsville

Meanwhile, during the year somehow I had worked my way into doing the radio show with Marshall and Cecil Hall’s Mayo River Boys. By the time I started playing with them, we didn't do too much live on the air, but we taped them, usually two at a time, every couple of weeks. At first, it was Arthur, Marshall, and Cecil and myself. Later Mike Hazlewood, a good mandolin player and singer, started doing the show with us. After that, we began recording the shows in Cecil's basement, and Doug Cobbler would either play guitar or bass with us.
Marshall Hall, Mike Hazlewood, Cecil Hall, and Doug Hutchens at WHEO, 1972.

Over the next several years, we entered various competitions around the area while doing the radio show. In 1972, we went to Berryville, Virginia, to a competition at Watermelon Park that Carlton Haney promoted. Marion Hall, Mike, and I did the singing and we got second place. That fall, we also worked Camp Springs for Carlton Haney, since we had done well at Berryville.Cecil Hall, Doug Hutchens, Mike Hazelwood, Marion Hall at Camp Springs, NC, 1972.

Richard Joyce, Cecil Hall, Mike Hazelwood, Doug Hutchens,

Marion Hall, Doug Cobbler...

Carlton Haney's Blue Grass Festival Camp Springs. North Carolina 1972

I went to school in Berea, Kentucky, in the fall of 1970, but continued to record radio programs with the group when I would come home every few weeks.

I had also started doing some radio at WMYN in Madison, Virginia, with Lee Kiser and Sidney Thornton in mid-1969. I continued that until about 1972, recording shows when I would come in from college.

Crossing the Cumberlands

I remember one night about midnight, heading home from doing some recordings with Lee and Sidney. I was listening to the Mac Wiseman Record Shop show on WWVA in Wheeling. I had just turned at Sandy Ridge, North Carolina, and headed toward home.
It was a beautiful clear night with a big full moon. I could almost see Bull Mountain, 30 miles away in the distance…….. about that time there was a lull in the program for a moment, then this slow, deliberate banjo tune started on the radio….It was eerie sounding and I pulled over to the side of the road to listen to it. After the banjo came the fiddle…I was almost sure it was Kenny Baker playing fiddle as I had spent some time around him in the past couple of years…then the banjo again, then the mandolin….when it ended, again there was an eerie silence, for it seemed a long time before another tune started.

I listened closely hoping they would tell what the record was, but they didn’t. It was nothing I had ever heard before…I thought it must be Bill Monroe, and the next week I sent 3 dollars to the Mac Wiseman Record Shop in Wheeling and asked them to send me the eerie banjo tune that was played on their show at about midnight the preceding Saturday night on WWVA. It was about two weeks and I got the record “Crossing the Cumberlands.” It had “I Haven’t Seen Mary in Years” on the other side. On clear, full moonlit nights, even these days when I’m driving, I’m reminded of that night. The recording was released on May 19, 1969, and this was the first time I had heard it.