Signs Honor Longtime Radio Program
By David McGee | September 16, 2007
BRISTOL, Va. ? The "Farm and Fun Time" radio program gives the Twin City a claim as the birthplace of bluegrass music, Rhythm & Roots Reunion Chairman Ed Harlow said Friday.
Harlow compared the program to the 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings that historians call the "big bang" of commercial country music and led to Bristol earning the congressional designation as the birthplace of country music.
His comments came during a ceremony to honor the live show, which aired from 1947 to 1965 on WCYB radio.
About 40 people turned out as officials with the weekend music festival unveiled signs to honorarily rename Winston Alley as Farm and Fun Time Alley.
"It is pretty safe to say that Bristol is not only the birthplace of country music, but the birthplace of bluegrass as well," Harlow said during the ceremony.
"We don't want to take anything away from Bill Monroe as the father of bluegrass ... however, it was members of that original bluegrass band who left Nashville's Grand Ole Opry and came to Bristol Virginia's Farm and Fun Time to establish themselves as bluegrass artists," Harlow said, referring to Hall of Fame performers Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.
Flatt and Scruggs played in Monroe's band for three years before forming the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1948. Their first performances were on the Bristol radio show, Harlow said.
The program, which were broadcast daily from a studio in the General Shelby Hotel, also helped establish the careers of legendary bluegrass performers, including Ralph and Carter Stanley, the Osborne Brothers, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Mac Wiseman, Carl Story and the Blue Sky Boys.
"The show rated in the same category as the Grand Ole Opry, Louisiana Hay Ride and shows from Wheeling and Charleston, W.Va.," Harlow said.
Officials in both cities have renamed streets in honor of Bristol Sessions performers the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, the Stoneman Family and record producer Ralph Peer. The latest street renaming is the first not directly associated with the 1927 recordings.
"I think it says we need to recognize all of our city's musical history," Harlow said. "It goes beyond the 1927 recordings, which was the event."
The Farm and Fun Time program was so successful because its signal was so strong, said Roy Webb, who performed on the show as part of Curly King's Tennessee Hilltoppers. "It was 10,000 watts and clear channel," Webb said after the ceremony. "We got letters from people in five states. It was heard everywhere within a couple hundred miles."
The show began as a 30-minute program and later expanded to 90 minutes because there were so many bands coming to play, Webb said.
Cheryle Burkett said she was a child when she accompanied her father, Curly King, to play on the show. "I remember going with him to do his show on Saturdays at noon," Burkett said. "I remember the hustle and bustle of all the people in and out, the music and the [electric] cords on the floor. It was a small space."