Interview with Al White by Sam Gleaves ’14

This interview was conducted as part of an independent study in 2014.   Recorded February 11, 2014 in Presser Hall, Berea College campus.

Sam Gleaves:  So could you tell us your name and the title of your position.

Al White: I lead Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble and a pre-college country band which is tied to the country dancers. [Jesse Anderson interrupts to have Al and Sam switch position slightly]

SG: So can you start all that mess again, sorry about that.

AW: The mess is my name is Al White, I lead the Bluegrass Ensemble, the Country Dance Band, which is a group that plays typically for the country dancers at rehearsals and performances.  I have a whole slew of students which play banjo, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, pretty much does it for me.

SG: So could you tell me a little bit about how you grew up or came into contact with traditional music and then eventually how it led you to Kentucky?

AW:  Wow, my mother’s family all played music some of those family were still living as I grew up a lot of them were older and had died or were unable to continue playing in fact my mother had wasn’t playing by the time I was born. So I kind of came in at the late end of all that unfortunately. And the music they played was fiddle music they sang songs and I think they listened to the radio and would learn stuff just like anybody else. But this was often the prairie of eastern Colorado Eastern New Mexico West Texas all through there they moved several times they were farmers. They played music just for their own entertainment for family entertainment. They would occasionally play dance so it was an early influence but unfortunately as I said I kind of got in on the tail end of that my mother gave me a mandolin when I was 11 was a tradition and her family that The kid when you get a harmonica at nine and if they showed promise they get a string instrument at 11 guitar banjo fiddle whatever and I did get the harmonica also at nine. And absolutely loved it. So then if you skip ahead a few years I started taking guitar lessons from a finger style guitar player in Hobbs, New Mexico. I was born in West Texas but by the time I was six years old moved cross the line to New Mexico. And he was a great teacher, great player, great guy, I was real lucky to have someone like that in my hometown to learn from. So early mandolin, then guitar finger style played it quite several years but then I got into it. I was exposed to bluegrass music there also and Hobbs from some people who are my neighbors in Hobbs, an unlikely place in Hobbs, New Mexico. They weren’t from there, course nobody’s from Hobbs, New Mexico. Everybody came in for some reason and basically everybody leaves for some other reason. Just decided to go off to college and play music where there was more venues for that type of thing I went off to Eastern New Mexico University for year came back tot to Hobbs for the summer. Went to bluegrass festivals in Oklahoma, Texas you know just became all wrapped up in that kind of music. Went off to college from there up to the University of New Mexico fell right in the bluegrass band playing up there and Albert Albuquerque that I had met at a festival in Oklahoma. Started on bass, quickly moved to guitar and I had to figure out what to do with a flatpick on guitar, I had never done that before. That one on for year two and then I left to go to Santa Fe. To attempt to start a full bluegrass band and one of the more unlikely places in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for bluegrass that is. It’s well-known for opera, mariachi, flamenco, but not bluegrass. So that was fun, we tried hard, had some good times and even made a little bit of money. But we really worked hard, we practiced every day whether we had a gig or not we always met and practiced. I mean it was great training, it was just basically bluegrass training grounds you know. Played a lot in ski areas all winter [the dude ranch?] the occasionally in Fairfield up in Idaho a little bit. Often the Far West there. Eventually through a couple of connections wound up in Louisville, Kentucky to play full-time in the Bluegrass Alliance there through an audition arranged by a friend of a friend. That was 1975. I met my future wife Alice the very first gig out in Nashville, I eventually came to Berea in 77, married Alice and joined her band, the McLain Family Band. So let me stop right there and you can ask another question.

SG:  Yeah cool that’s really helpful the way you did all that in such short time. We are archiving these interviews as well, so what was that guitar teacher’s name?

AW:  Oh back in Hobbs, Lynn Wooldrige.

SG: How do you spell that.

AW: Wooldrige pretty much how it sounds at assume again that was back in time ago. I was 14 when I started I probably took lessons for two years probably my sophomore and junior year in high school I took lessons from him. Let me just say one word about us picking it’s a thumb style that you would call well here in Kentucky they call it from picking out there we call it fingerpicking but it’s thumb picking. Thumb and two fingers. As in Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, that kind of style. I just want make sure we have some kind of agreement about what kind of fingerpicking we are talking about there.

SG:  Once you became involved with the McLains what was your exposure to Berea College and how did you get into the Berea music scene and explain how they were a part of that but also.

AW: Alice Ruth and Raymond, actually Raymond and just graduated about the time I married Alice. Ruth and Alice were students at that time and it just made a lot of sense for me to attempt to become a student to I wanted to get back into college Berea was right here it was a great school when I was excepted into and did get it so that was basically just how I got introduced to the college. I am moved here to marry Alice to live here and now here we are. Yeah and I was lucky they let me in.

SG:  So what was your Labor position at the college.

AW:  I worked two jobs, Loyal Jones had me start right out working for him I got to know Loyal through my in-laws so I worked in the archive indexing recordings listening to what was on the tape writing making note on 3 x 5 cards and on putting headings on Rolodexes and you know just put away the elementary recordings that were there that had yet to be organized so that an outsider could find what they’re looking for.

SG:  Tell me about the content of some of those recordings and which ones in particularly had an impact on you.

AW:  Yeah I mainly did the festival, the Celebration of Traditional Music it all had to be, I had to listen to all the tapes write down what was on each tape and part of that was when I found something that I liked, I’d make my own copy of it and go often listen to in my car. Which is fabulous I listen to a lot of great music that way. And relive the festival after was all over, I got to relive the whole thing as I was indexing it. The other thing I did mainly was, Loyal and put me on to Buell Kazee, pretty much all of his collection was given to the archive, the collection of his music from his family. And it was unedited or unorganized and so I went through all of that and just basically lived and breathed Buell for 10 hours a week for months and I either had to learn to play it like Buell as he or get another job pretty much. And so I did I studied from a student of Buell’s, Karen Collins and she lived in Lexington I did short-term project on learning Buell’s style from Karen. He didn’t teach I don’t think, her and his son Philip is about all he taught. So I learned his style from Karen plus just listened to the miles of his tapes and all. I pretty much internalized it, I was already playing some clawhammer patterned after no one in particular but I learned some tunes here and they’re already got it gotten into I’d gotten the banjo.

SG: So Karen performed at the festival, how did you meet her?

AW:  I just met her backstage I guess I think you know what I may not have I just remember when I had the idea to do the short-term project I contacted her in Lexington and she agreed to teach me. I can’t remember talking to her at the festival but I listen to her and Bruce Greene play both in person and lots and lots of on tape. I can’t remember meeting him though I think I did Bruce he was over at somebody’s, Jim Gage’s house. But I don’t remember me meeting Karen at that time just a little bit later it wasn’t much later.

SG:  So while we’re talking about that tell me a little bit about your friendship with Jim Gage and your musical collaborations with him because he was a very big part of the festival. Just anything you’d want to share about your relationship with him.

AW:  Well I got to be friends with him pretty much when I moved here great and player powerful delivery, He formed a band called the Bluebird Special with David and Rachel Faircloth and after a couple years after I moved here Alice and I were no longer playing with my in-laws and we joined The Bluebird Special band it was a band, that was the ultimate eclectic band that played about 20 different types of music and didn’t specialize in any one thing. It was great fun had a lot of fun did a lot of original songs from a team of singer songwriters that we all knew or was in the band.  Jim [Gage] was a good songwriter himself. We went on for two or three years of that group. For the rest of our college time we play with them I can’t remember if we did the festival or not maybe you can remember.

SG: You did.

AW:  Okay. It was a big group back then we sort of finished the band with a big tour of Alaska a six-week tour of Alaska, playing full time and then the band disbanded after that. We move to New Mexico for a few years after that and that was that. Jim’s been a good friend for years after that still is we keep in contact you this day. In fact he uses the archive as much as anybody studying fiddle music. He lives in war as Mexico, and he’s still on the old-time fiddle track you know using the archive.

SG: Yeah that’s helpful for us to because were to talk about how you know the archives been digitized. So let’s talk about how you experience the festival as a student and how you felt that other students felt about it think about the festival now. Think about the festival now and sort of how students don’t really come to it in less there performing at it.

AW:  Or required by a class.

SG:  And then take us back, because I wasn’t there in the years that you were and I’m wondering what it was like to be a student attending the festival when you were.

AW:  Well it seems like even back then they were concerned that not enough of the students were participating but it didn’t seem like more of them did back in those days I mean all of my friends were sort of like me they were all over that festival it was like the best time of year it was incredible most of us came to Berea. I don’t remember I don’t number discussions in classrooms though and about it I was a philosophy major didn’t come up too much in that class I wish I could remember better it’s been thirty something 37 years or so I wish I could remember better about all the dynamics of students involved in that festival but you know I was sort of coming at it as a professional bluegrass musician already but being exposed to some serious traditional music already The first time really liked about singers and like Cas Wallin and Berzilla Wallin was just incredible for me I’ve never heard anything like that about point so it was incredible very educational for me I guess I could speak further students as well in that way.

SG:  So what other performances or performers had an impact on you over the years that you were here at the festival.

AW:  I.D. Stamper, I didn’t even know I liked dulcimer until I heard him and he was great powerful it came off not subtle but I need riproaring when you get it of course Jean Ritchie was their year after year she was incredible also a great dulcimer player the company things on the dulcimer like nobody else. Let’s see, Buddy Moss, was great he was one of those that would come to a party and pick after hours with us liked it a lot. David Morris remember, he was interesting very unique character good singer Sparky Rucker was great first heard Sparky at this festival and then since then I’ve heard him 1 million times in various places.  Sparky’s great.  I don’t know, Ralph [Stanley] was there a little later I think probably mid 80s wasn’t me maybe mid-to-late 80s.  Lord, I mean, the list goes on and on I have to get out my notes to remember of course. Sheila Rice who is now your friend she has a different last name was an early influence on me just how great she played the banjo was incredible to listen to her over and over.

SG:  Cool.  Tell me about when you’re working for loyal and the festival came around did you become involved in helping the festival light go on like a production like working with performers working with getting them to them from their hotel I’ve done a lot of that stuff now and I was wondering if you when you were working when the festival is going on were helping a lot of those capacities.

AW:  I can’t remember doing that now we had student is there to walk performers to the venue and all and try to help keep the performers hands to himself sometimes when they ran around a little bit I was put in charge of the fiddler what was his name George Hawkins to sort of help him get around and play with play former play with him accompany him.  That was a lot of fun. George’s great he didn’t know me from anybody but he was plenty glad let me try to play with him you was encouraging and a lot of fun it was a great experience for me.

SG:  I remember I’ve seen pictures of you teaching a guitar workshop, so Loyal would sometimes have you help with things like that.

AW:  Yeah I guess so I must’ve forgotten about some things like that. But yeah and then later I guess I just did some clawhammer workshops.

SG:  What was that like.

AW:  Good to know people come around pretty informal that was my approach to it not quite just straight up jam but you know I just find it soon as somebody wanted to learn and put it together it was just fun informal.

SG:  In a broader way tell me about what makes the Celebration different from a bluegrass festival or different from the festivals you’ve been at before.

AW:  Well you know it’s just sort of a noncommercial-oriented you know, Loyal wanted to get the people who are real tradition carriers and bearers from these traditions whether they really had done any performing or not it wasn’t really important he did a great job at finding people who were as close to the real thing as there was I may just turn them loose on stage and see what happened it was pretty interesting most of the time what would happen but of course there’s a little Bluegrass not tons of there’s a lot of bluegrass festivals and what he had in mind was something a little more unique to the area that reflected the music of the area pretty much but I think he was faithful, faithful to that it was a great festival in that way kind of informal he have the people the performers were not performing at the moment set around and chairs on the stage just a kind create atmosphere more like somebody’s living room I think I thought that was pretty interesting to do that people talk a little bit wilder up there and stuff make comments about what was going on he was singing and stuff I thought that was a pretty nice touch, we haven’t done that for some time but it could happen again maybe.  Anyway it was a great festival in many ways.

SG:  So in 1992 Helen Lewis, who was taking over for Loyal, asked you to put together a student band and the next year you did perform with I think three students and you don’t have to be real specific and name them or anything but if you could tell me a little bit about that story and how the bluegrass band came to be here, because of the festival in a way.

AW:   What was that year for sure she asked me to put together a band specifically for the festival we didn’t perform on the main stage we performed on an upper stage so that was my first hand it trying to round up some musicians were students to pull together abandoned so it was new to me but we pulled it off we got some music together and it’s in the archives I should probably go back and listen to it and see what it sounded like I don’t even remember at this point what we did but it worked out pretty well I don’t know that directly legs the current bluegrass ensemble but it worked out pretty well in a few years went by before this group started before I was asked to interview to teach Appalachian instruments and pull together a bluegrass band but I mean it probably didn’t hurt to help pave the way for the current band that’s for sure I appreciated her asking us is a lot of fun she says that she says if they can do it at East Tennessee State we got to be able to do it here Berea and she was right and I appreciate her asking us to pull that together it was a lot of fun.

SG: So tell me about how the bluegrass ensemble as it is now came to be here and what it means for you to be the director what you actually do.

AW:  Well as I said I was asked to interview for this job it was a new job had been done before they did not offer to Appalachian instruments at Berea College before and there was talk at that time of later starting a bluegrass ensemble so I taught for year quite part time and then the next year started the group is started small maybe one third time or something.  For several years it was a part-time job but we started right off and put together a good band with great players and singers and great people and it just started off set the bar pretty high for good quality music my life and always been as a performer myself and mainly with bluegrass music so that was kind of where I started from I thought of, a band to be a professional quality group you know to be able play in any audience it any venue and hopefully it’s held that standard the whole time and it seems to just kind of gotten better and better in some ways you know.  We started off strong, it’s been great it’s just so satisfying for me to be able to work with talented young people, pull together towards the middle and make it all work.  You know it’s kind a democratic during the group, you bring in songs, I bring in songs, we all bring in songs and arrangements you know. Somebody’s got to be responsible ultimately which I guess I am but you know I think it helps people learn what it’s like to be in a group, a real group and the dynamics of putting together songs and arrangements and taking it on the road.  We travel a lot, we play a lot.   I think it’s a great experience for everyone concerned.  It seems work pretty well.

SG:  So tell me about when you get these students in the bluegrass band, they all come from varying levels of performing experience and even connections to Appalachia I mean lots of these people just come from whole different sides of the coin but they learn this stuff and perform at well can you tell me a little bit about bringing together a lots of different kinds of students.

AW:  We never know who’s going to show up here someone like you who is been playing quite a lot for Virginia or Brooke who comes from Utah and it never played bluegrass.  I had a singer named Micah [last name] never hardly even heard bluegrass but was a great singer, she thought she was additionally for the jazz band and not the bluegrass band but she was quite amazed that I wanted her to sing Bluegrass because I thought she’d be great sweet pull together all kinds of peoples who’ve had a lot of experience or had no experience but it seems to of work one way or another most the time, not all the time, some people wind up in the group and it just doesn’t work so well but that’s kind of the minority.  Usually works pretty well, but that’s the way it is out in the real world as well people come together from various places and they form groups based on common musical interests and hopefully music musical directions and sometimes it works. Hopefully it works but not always.  It’s a little bit like being married without any of the advantages in the band. Living in pretty close proximity with folks culturally musically and all kinds of ways yeah it’s been my life and I’m sticking with it. I don’t want to say I’m stuck with it but.

SG:  And also wasn’t your position out one time originally proposed by students.

AW:  Oh yeah actually it was yeah a former banjo student who was a former student, Joe Dinwiddie.  I gave him lessons at my house, there was no teacher at that time.  Joe Dinwiddie,  anyways who I’m talking about, he decided it was not right the Berea College did not offer classes and banjo and fiddle and guitar and things like that or bluegrass guitar or acoustic guitar, so he wrote a paper proposing to the college all the reasons why they just had to start offering this sort of thing and he sent it to the president and to each department.  It was a well-written paper and just convinced them to consider having someone like me come in and do this and I was just right here.  I already approached in a couple years before about this and got nowhere that time just didn’t get the support in that department but this time the support was there and so I was asked to come into interview for this job and it all happened after that.  It was largely because of Joe Dinwiddie’s desire to have a teacher teach him to play clawhammer banjo at Berea College unfortunately by the time you this it all happened I think he graduated but anyways.

SG:  Was Katie Morgan involved?

AW:  I think the idea was Joe’s but they conspired together that’s true she was quite involved and she became our first lead singer in the bluegrass band as well and a guitar student.

SG:  Now when you go back to perform at the Celebration most every year with your student band tell me about why that’s why that gig is special like a guest special to me and it was really time that I started so can you talk about what it’s like to bring students to perform at that festival how it’s unique.

AW:   Well what can you say, I appreciated them having us as a bluegrass band.  I think it’s great just to be involved and included in the festival and it’s a lucky opportunity for the students to be a little play and it is for me as well to live that life you know to be able to get to know these musicians that are coming in offstage and hang out back in the green room and pick some as well as perform in front of everybody.  It’s just, again it’s a unique festival and opportunities like I don’t grow on trees.  Part of what makes Berea fast Berea special is that we have this festival and students can just walk in here from Virginia and North Carolina and you can get booked. It’s really great I think, I don’t know again it’s been a while since I was a student when I was a student I was kind of a musician on one hand that gets paid on the other hand, I was doing of this kind of music and it works on so many different levels and that way you could say.  You could tell me better than what I could tell you about being part of the festival it’s been a long time since I was a student.

SG: So we talked a little bit earlier about how you’re a pecker you’re a musician and you don’t really put yourself in a particular genre, but you’re definitely more bluegrass oriented can you talk about how old time in bluegrass for a represented at the at the festival.

AW:  Well old-time and bluegrass are a little bit different and a whole lot the same to me, it’s just all good it always has been always will be.  I never felt any kind of rub there, I know that I do acknowledge the fact that the people involved in both kinds of music don’t always see eye to eye on certain things but I don’t know.  It’s just all good I think it’s so closely related, you know and there’s power and there’s beauty and there’s great picking in both kinds.  I guess bluegrass is just slightly more commercially oriented, people nit pick the harmonies need a little closer does, if you got to fiddle is there to be playing in harmony pretty well worked out duet style fiddling as if two singers were singing in harmony, but with an old-time band it’s more typical that both play the melody which is powerful too, that’s all good too.  I guess my early orientation was towards bluegrass and I guess always will be, my hobby has always been traditional music that’s why Istarted playing clawhammer banjo.  My hobby offstage was sitting around playing clawhammer when you’re driving to gigs and stuff it’s just charming and great and beautiful music.  I don’t know, I don’t really understand the problems people have not fully accepting the other kind of music.  I just figure everybody out enjoy everybody’s music and it’s like the dance world but I’m also involved in English country dance contra dance where dance you know some people just do one or the other just square dance just contra, it’s all great recreational community dancing.  The Berea style is kind of just to do it all dancing as well as music and so I subscribe to that but it’s all good just different. I like the diversity in the variety of all that music and all that dancing.

SG: Tell me about playing for dancing and coming to direct the dance band.

AW: Well my in-laws have always play dance music also the McLains they played for dancing where the kids grew up at the Hindman Settlement School, their father was a dance musician, he was one of the early dance musicians for the Country Dancers here.  I kind of fell into the music and dance music world when I came to Berea and started playing Christmas Country Dance School with my in-laws starting in ‘76 and became aware of all of that started dancing myself and I felt that that was a really interesting thing to do with music that I really never done before and when we stop playing full-time bluegrass, in ‘89 we started playing contra dance music, my wife and I formed a contra dance band later to be known as the Berea Castoffs and we’re still going too, still got the band together how many years 22 years later, so that’s especially, since I lived in Berea has always been a really big part of what we do.  It works, it works great it’s a different kind of performing you’re there for the dancers and the dances upfront and you’re helping to propel the dance but you’re not performing you know as a musician.  It’s a very distinct and different role and you got to be comfortable with that and appreciate the dance I think to really enjoy that which I do in many ways.  Does that answer your question?

SG: Because we’re also going to put this festival in context by talking about the Mountain Folk Festival and the Christmas Country Dance School.

AW:   I’ve been involved with playing for English country dance a lot as well as Appalachian square dance and contra dance and have played for 20 years at least for the Country Dancers before I formed the country dance band of students so I’ve been playing for them for quite a long time and then maybe form the dance band six or seven years ago I guess of students dedicated to the country dance school so we know meet on our own most the time and work out our own music for them but don’t necessarily play for the rehearsals as much as we used to come together into the painting performances and all.

SG:  So I’ve heard you tell stories about how great Jean Ritchie and Betty Smith were at coordinating the hymn sing, can you talk a little bit about that as you experienced it.

AW:  With her, both, just two charming people and they’re just so good at that role of pulling it altogether and being that person in front of everyone being that face of the hymn sing and they’re just such great singers as well as just beautiful personalities they just made it a great experience year after year for so long especially Betty who did it your after year after year I still done quite well to be sure but those are special years I think when they let it.

SG:   So tell me a little bit more about informal memories of the festival that you remember. Some of my favorite stuff is picking with everybody in that little hotel room in the Super 8 and I would assume that’s always gone on, you were alluding to it earlier.  So tell me a little bit more about what it was like to get to pick informally with some of these people who were, you know, legends in a way, but also normal people.  You know what I’m saying, could you tell me a little bit about what that was like?

AW:  What’s not quite what you might think, it’s a big mess of people who were just picking but carrying on, talking, telling jokes, dirty jokes you know whatever it was.  I remember Sparky he’s always got stories to tell and a pretty good stories too but stuff you wouldn’t hear at the festival for good reason, so you can imagine it’s just getting a bunch of folks like that together with are not performing after just having a good time hanging out.  What more can you say in an interview?  [laughter]

SG:  So just in conclusion looking back at having been involved in the festival for so many years and you told me that it’s added it to your repertoire as a musician, it’s brought you in connection with all these people that you admired and just giving you an opportunity to perform.  Just looking back on all of that, what makes this festival distinctive?

AW:  Well I’ve never had a part of anything as long as I have this festival except my marriage, I guess the only thing I’ve been involved with for that long. It’s evolved, it’s changed but it’s always been good and it needs to change and it needs to evolve, musical culture is evolving itself.  There’s been a lots of different directors and they’ve all had that kind of their own vision and it’s all been good, it’s all done it’s thing.  It’s all been vital on the way it was originally conceived to be and it still is and I assume it always will be planning, they get a lot of great input from people like you and students who are younger who know younger groups and people who were out hanging with that crowd and that’s great that they’ve made a good place for that.  It used to be maybe slightly older-people-oriented and now I think it’s kind of more inclusive all ages.  It’s always been very culturally diverse but now I think it’s also more open to young people being involved more closely to the festival which is all that much better just to make it make sense for everyone it be great if he could continue for another hundred years.  Yeah, I don’t know what else to say.

SG:  And so my last question is something I didn’t cover earlier, what you were doing in the center working with Loyal was the beginning of our sound archives and now you know that people come nationally and internationally to use those resources and so why do you think archiving all this music is important as a musician.

AW:  Well it’s quite an incredible collection of music, just about unrivaled I think, to make that accessible to the world, what a great resource you know.  My friend Jim Gage where he lives whether it’s in India or Florida or now in Mexico, he seen what’s been lately digitized and made available and it is enjoying it and I’m sure he’s just one of thousands of people who are making good use of the archives cause of all the work and digitizing that you all have been doing yeah my work is just early on where you just had to come to the archives look through the Rolodex pull out a real, real tape slap it on, you know that was good to is just so much more accessible than ever before through modern technologies.  It’s great.

SG:  And the very last thing I want to talk about is that you weren’t raised in the Appalachian region, but really have made a life of connecting with Appalachian music and you play it so well and you teach it, so I was wondering, you spoke about it some, but I was just wondering if you had anything else to say about being sort of like an outsider.  I don’t feel like you’re an outsider but you came to this in your lifetime and it wasn’t necessarily that you were born and raised in it so you do you have anything else to say about that?

AW:  Really interesting that I didn’t come from the heart of Appalachia, even though it’s the kind of music, I was drawn here ultimately because of the music and I stayed here ultimately because the music and the dance and this college.  It’s funny, I don’t know it’s interesting, you, my friend David Holt from Texas wound up down in Asheville living this life and kind of the greater world of Appalachia.  I don’t know and then there’s people like the old-time group that was great the New Yorkers what were they called but I mean nobody loved the music more than they did and nobody lived it and breathed it and would die for it, so I don’t know that you have to be from here, deep down from here to be a viable performer of this music and teacher of it, if you love it and you live it.  But it is interesting that there are several other of us who weren’t really from here but wound up being involved in all this so now.  Jim’s from Indiana believe you know we all came from one way or another we all wound up here and it seems to be for a reason.  That reason for us has been music.  My people played it, there’s a picture over here and play in front of a side house in eastern Oklahoma, not a mountain in sight, not a hill in sight, not a train in sight even and yet they’re playing pretty close to kind of music, are playing here you doing out in the prairie, so most of my family’s from North Carolina several generations back were Cherokee.  There’s a connection there but it’s good music whether it’s played, wherever it is.  Bluegrass is now universal, there’s dozens of bluegrass bands in Tokyo, so it’s pretty much played all over the world by people who didn’t grow up in the culture but yet who are drawn to here for various reasons but I can’t fully explain it.  I don’t know, I’ve been puzzled myself that I got this job having been born in Texas but I don’t know, you tell me.

SG: No I think you’re very competent and I think it’s good that you have this job but I was just.

AW:  It’s a good question I’m just not really sure I even understand it myself.

SG: Okay the only other thing we didn’t cover is that you take the bluegrass band internationally as well, so what is that they like to be along for that ride with Berea students and promoting Berea’s students.

AW:  It’s kind of been a diplomatic role but I found myself playing with my in-laws when we traveled for the State Department all over in Africa, Europe, you name it, in the Middle East, we went all kind of unlikely places.  The tours, we would often go play for the state embassy crowds and community concerts and you know I just found that to be really exciting and real meaningful and terrifically educational get this kind of worldview coming at it as a musician bringing certain kind of music from Kentucky to the world.  Yeah I just wanted to kind of continue that with this band and that’s why we done the touring we’ve done and it, you just can’t beat it, it’s education individually for us band members and for the good that comes out of it all and you know it is a good way to promote the college and the culture of this world, this country, American, music, Kentucky music, the college.  It’s been a great meeting ground for us all there’s just nothing better to me and plus it pulls a group together. You know when you’re on tour like that, it just brings us together as well as it brings us to the world.  It brings a group together like nothing else I know also, especially international travel, so we’ll keep doing that as long as we can keep figuring out how to do it.    [interview concludes]