Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Belmont Opens Gallery Of Rare Vintage
Guitars From A Reclusive Collector
Article by Amy Eskind / WPLN Nashville, TN
Nashville Public Radio 
April 25, 2017  
Steven Kern Shaw died unceremoniously in hospice care in August 2015 at age 72. You will not find an obituary. Yet what this guitar and mandolin collector amassed in his life is astounding.
Gibson F-5 mandolins signed by Gibson acoustic engineer Lloyd Loar in 1922-1924 are considered the finest mandolins ever made. Shaw owned six. Martin D-45 guitars made mid-1930s through 1942 are considered to be the finest steel string flat top acoustic guitars ever made. Shaw owned four. Martin style D-28 guitars with herringbone top trim made in the mid-1930s through mid-1940s are widely believed to be the finest bluegrass guitars ever made. And Shaw collected a whopping 43. Shaw's 500-piece collection is now a Belmont University treasure.
Music In His Blood And Royalties To Spend
Shaw was the son of clarinet player and band leader Artie Shaw and Betty Kern, the fourth of his eight wives -- the one just after Lana Turner and just before Ava Gardner. His parents divorced when he was two years old, and his father abandoned him. That same year, his grandfather on his mother's side passed away. He was Jerome Kern, beloved composer of the classics "Ol' Man River," "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." He left Shaw with a trust.
Shaw became a frequent shopper at Gruhn Guitar (sic) in Nashville. Store owner George Gruhn says Shaw never developed the musical brilliance of his father, nor his grandfather, but was nevertheless drawn to the finest quality vintage guitars and mandolins.
L to R: Randal Morton, GEORGE GRUHN, Christian Stanfield
Breakin' Up Winter, Cedars of Lebanon State Park
Lebanon, TN, March 2014

"He was a collector and a hoarder," Gruhn says. "He was not a great player, but he had a considerable amount of knowledge about the instruments. He was going for the cream of the crop. His basic income throughout life was, frankly, royalties from Jerome Kern, which supported his collecting habits."
The instruments had been stored in Shaw's house, without a security alarm or climate control--effectively taking 500 of the finest vintage guitars and mandolins out of circulation.
"His house, when we finally got into it, looked a lot like some of those TV shows about hoarders, the compulsive hoarders," Gruhn says. "He wouldn't let anyone in his house. He was afraid that people would find out what he had and break in. He was not one of the happier people that I've met."
"Late in his life he had no will, and I persuaded him that he really needed to have a will," Gruhn says. "The idea that it could be enjoyed by others and seen and heard was something that was pleasing to him, although he didn't want that done until after he was dead."
"These are important pieces of our cultural history, they are great instruments, they are fine study examples to show the evolution of some of the iconic instruments in American history, and these are the models that truly are the archetypes for virtually all of the instruments that followed," Gruhn says.
"These instruments are almost alive, and they have soul and personality. When you pick one up, the great instruments don't feel inanimate," Gruhn says. "They actually feel alive."
Some of the instruments have sapphires, engraved pearl inlays, and ivory pegs. According to Gruhn, the 1927 Gibson F-5 mandolin is rarer than a Stradivarius violin.
     "It's not a servant, it's a partner. It makes suggestions you might not have thought of otherwise.
     Bill Monroe, when he got an F-5 mandolin, his entire playing style changed. After he got an
     F-5 he started to do that chopped rhythm that could drive the rhythm of a 5-piece band."
Shaw's will was signed a mere two weeks before his death, bequeathing the $9.5 million collection to Belmont University. President Bob Fisher says he had to think twice about offering a home to the collection on campus. "My first response was, 500 guitars, what in the world do you do with them? Where do we put them?"
But Fisher quickly realized the university was a perfect fit. "We've got some people at Belmont that can play guitars!" he says, describing a guitar culture on campus that includes not just guitar majors, but even students in nursing and business studies.
A New Home In The Belmont Library
Fisher says he's already received a personal education in what these vintage instruments add to the art of making music. "I always was wondering, what's the difference between my old Silvertone guitar and a Martin anyway," he says. "Well, now I know. It's big."
"It's a treasure," says Doug Howard, dean of Belmont's Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business. "Our students don't really know yet the treasure that we have in store for them. The students that come here often are really trained, really competitive, but they want to take it to that next level. It's hard in life to think about a situation where you'd have an opportunity to check out and play some of the really finest instruments that have ever been made, and to have that access really a few steps away from your dorm room."
The Gallery of Iconic Guitars, or The GIG, is tucked behind the circulation desk inside Bunch Library at Belmont, and is open daily. Admission is free to students, faculty and staff and children under 12, and $5 to the general public. One hundred instruments are currently on display, with a select few available for playing in the sound-proof gallery. University officials are currently devising a secure method for loaning out the 400 additional instruments.
For more information:
Nashville Public Radio  http://nashvillepublicradio.org
Photo, Listen, Article  http://www.bit.ly/2opGUbG
Gruhn Guitars, Inc. www.guitars.com
  2120 8th Ave., South
  Nashville, TN 37204
Belmont University  www.belmont.edu
  1900 Belmont Boulevard
  Nashville, TN 37212
Blogger's Note: Special thanks to George Gruhn for his foresight in preserving the magnificent Steven Kern Shaw collection now called The Gallery of Iconic Guitars: The GIG at Belmont.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


APRIL 20, 2017
     GREAT FOOD AND FUN happen every Thursday night at the Old Country Store in Jackson, TN! In the Dixie Café inside the store, there's a buffet of all kinds of meats, fish and vegetables plus desserts and drinks just waiting to be enjoyed. Prices are reasonable. On the little stage there is bluegrass and country music from local musicians, and anyone is welcome to join them in playing and singing some of the old songs we know and love. It's just a barrel of fun for about three hours! If you haven't been, hop on over to I-40 Exit 80A at the Casey Jones Village and get comfortable inside the Dixie Café. You can even go to EPlusTV6 on the Internet to view an early-morning TV show 'live from the Dixie Café on Monday through Friday from 6:00 to 9:00 AM Central Time.
      Here are some candid shots of the scene from Thursday night, April 20, 2017. We had a ball! We hope you'll drop by any Thursday night around 5:30 or 6:00 for a great meal and lots of good music!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

APRIL 8, 2017
Rossville TN United Methodist Church built 1923
     THE FARM HANDS QUARTET from over around Nashville and Humphreys County in Middle Tennessee, dropped by the Rossville, TN, United Methodist Church on a perfect Saturday afternoon in April. The beautiful church was built in 1923 on land owned by the J. L. Crawford family after the original building was destroyed by fire. Pastor Roger Joseph welcomed the band and the audience, and we found him to be quite clever and funny! He shared a few stories of his own 'country livin' when he was a youngster. While the Farm Hands Quartet did not start another blaze at the church, their brand of bluegrass and gospel bluegrass is plenty hot! Apparently, church members and other bluegrass fans alike who packed the sanctuary were hungry and ready for some outstanding harmony singing and pickin' like nothin' you ever saw or heard! Toes were a-tappin' and hands were a-clappin'.
Sign to advertise the Farm Hands
The Farm Hands Bus/Van
     In the relatively brief time (2010) that the current band has been together, they have wasted no time in refining their sound and distinguishing themselves with the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA, or as fans pronounce it: spig' ma). The Farm Hands are the SPBGMA 2016 winners of Bluegrass Vocal Group of the Year and Bluegrass Gospel Group of the Year.
L to R: Tim, Don, Daryl, Keith
L to R: Tim, Don, Keith, Daryl
      TIM GRAVES handles Dobro(r) responsibilities in the expert fashion that sorta comes with DNA. His uncle was bluegrass hall-of-fame member, Josh Graves. Uncle Josh, as he was known, introduced Dobro(r) to the world of bluegrass. Tim has performed with Bobby and Sonny, the Osborne Brothers, and his own previous band was Tim Graves and Cherokee. Tim holds 11 awards for SPBGMA Dobro(r) player of the year. He performed on the Grand Ole Opry for 20 years. He sings, too!
     DARYL MOSLEY sings and plays bass. He performed at the Grand Ole Opry for 10 years, and he is a four-time nominee for SPBGMA Male Vocalist of the year. Daryl was named SPBGMA Songwriter of the Year in 2016.
     KEITH TEW is the guitarist, vocalist, and smiling-est fellow in the band. He has had his own band, High Strung, and he has performed with Rhonda Vincent & The Rage, Vassar Clements, and Rock County. Grammy-nominated for his songwriting, Keith is a past winner of the SPBGMA Song of the Year award.
     DON HILL is the 'new kid' in the band. His banjo is lightning-hot, and he has the distinction of being state champion banjo player in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He has performed with Bobby Osborne and also Jesse McReynolds. Don is the tall, quiet fellow in the band. He, too, handles vocal harmony in the Farm Hands.
     Here is the program of exciting bluegrass and bluegrass gospel music that we heard on that lovely April Saturday afternoon:
     Anywhere Is Home; Crying for Crumbs; There's Just the Four of Us; The Way I Was Raised; The Great Speckled Bird (Tim Graves instrumental); The World Would Never Know, But I Would; Nashville Skyline Rag (Don Hill instrumental); The Bible in the Drawer: Mama Prayed and Daddy Plowed; Dig in the Dirt; Colors; Ask the Blind Man--He Saw It All; and the encore with audience participation was I Saw the Light. Great music with an even greater message!
Farm Hands Quartet
L to R: Tim Graves, Don Hill, Keith Tew, Daryl Mosley
     You can catch the Farm Hands Quartet again on MondaySeptember 25, 2017, at the Collins Theatre, 120 W. Emerson St., Paragould, AR, at "Bluegrass Monday" sponsored by KASU 91.1 FM on the campus of Arkansas State University, Jonesboro. The concert will be replayed on KASU 91.9 FM on the following Sunday, October 1. Listen online at about 12:30 PM CT to "Down Home Harmonies" with DJ Marty Scarbrough, Program Director at KASU.
For more information;
The Farm Hands Quartet  www.farmhandsquartet.com
Rossville United Methodist Church  www.rumconline.com  
KASU 91.9 FM  www.kasu.org  

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Morton Museum
of Collierville TN History
Takes Us Back to the
"Good Ol' Days"
March 25, 2017
Mural depicting Collierville TN in earlier times
 "Remember those Good Ol' Days when a bottle of Coke(r) was only a nickel..?" (lyrics credit to Steve Gregory, Tennessee Gentlemen Bluegrass Band), and they were indeed some 'good ol' days'. The Morton Museum of Collierville TN History (formerly known as "The White Church") at the corner of Poplar Avenue and North Main Street in Collierville has a wonderful collection of items on display that were made and/or distributed in the town. Remember the Wonder Horse(r)? Made in Collierville in a Quonset hut just off the Historic Town Square. There are many other items, plus artifacts from the Battle of Collierville during the War Between the States or, as some hard-liners would say, the War of Northern Aggression. Today's version of that sad event is known simply as the Civil War.

Quonset Hut on South Main before
refurbishing in 2015-16
Wonder Horse(r) made in Collierville, TN
"Giddy-Up, Horsie!"
On March 25, 2017, the museum held a sort of open house in which artisans wore authentic costumes and displayed samples of quilting, weaving, candle-making, and other crafts which were popular during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Of course, there was music from back in the day, and local musicians displayed and explained the instruments they used while performing.
     Originally scheduled for location at the Log Cabin on the Town Square, the event was moved indoors to the Museum when unpredictable spring weather threatened to dampen the quilts and the spirits. Like the troupers they are, artisans and musicians moved indoors and the spectators and fans followed. The lovely stained-glass windows and the feel of the hundred-plus year-old church made for a perfect background to the pages out of the history books. It was splendid!
     We shall simply show you some photos of the event. We shall also encourage you to visit the Morton Museum of Collierville History at your first opportunity. It's worth the trip!
     Special thanks to all who volunteered their time and expertise to entertain and inform the visitors!