I’ve had some interesting assignments in the two and a half years I’ve been a volunteer at the Kentucky Historical Society. One of the most enjoyable was spending an evening with Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-Press.
Since I’m a bluegrass music fan it wasn’t a hard decision when the call came for volunteers to help with the September 15th opening of ”The Makings of a Master: Kentucky Folk Art Apprenticeships” exhibition and the concert to mark the Bill Monroe centennial.
Bob Gates, director of the Kentucky Folklife Program, surprised me with the assignment of looking after the musicians -- showing them where the food and soft drinks were and making sure they could get in and out of the locked doors to their tour bus.
When I informed Bobby Osborne about the cold sweet tea in the “green room” (the education rooms off the main lobby), he told me how he had gone off tea while fighting as a Marine in Korea. He said he had gotten too many cups of lukewarm tea when what he really wanted was something cold.
Bobby passed on the food and tea, but other members of the band dug into the fried chicken box suppers.
While waiting with the band members until time to go onstage, I spotted a small electronic device clipped to the neck of Joe Miller’s guitar. Miller explained that the digital readout allowed him to tune his guitar, even when the rest of the band was playing. Bobby Osborne Jr. also had one on his five-string bass.
It was a great concert! One of the highlights was the appearance with Osborne and the X-Press by Cory May, a young musician from Kentucky.
I had a chance to talk to Cory early in the evening. It’s easy to tell he’s very passionate about his music. His talent and long hours of practice were evident when he played both guitar and mandolin and sang with Osborne and his band.
"The Makings of a Master: Kentucky Folk Art Apprenticeships" will be open at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History through December 10 and will then tour the state through 2014.
The next concert in the Folklife series will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, and feature the Reel World String Band, Carla Gover and Jeri Katherine Howell. The exhibition and concert are free with admission to the Kentucky Historical Society.
I’m looking forward to it!
-Jim Gill, KHS volunteer since 2009. Jim also blogs at Searchin' for Kinfolk.
All photos by the Kentucky Folklife Program.