Fiddler Jim Brock is pictured with bluegrass greats Jim and Jesse McReynolds in this vintage photo. The Columbus Arts Council presents Brock, master banjo player Larry Wallace and Jimmy D. Brock in a bluegrass concert at the Rosenzweig Arts Center Nov. 25. All three are veterans of the Grand Ole Opry stage. In the photo, from left, are Jesse McReynolds, Don McHan, Brock, Allen Shelton and Jim McReynolds. Photo by: Courtesy Photo
November 19, 2011 7:13:00 PM
When Thanksgiving's feast is settled, and kick-off for Egg Bowl is still hours away, a toe-tapping bluegrass show Friday night at the Rosenzweig Arts Center in Columbus will bring three Grand Ole Opry veterans to the stage in "The Road to Bluegrass."
The Columbus Arts Council presents Jim Brock, Larry Wallace and Jimmy D. Brock in concert at 7 p.m. in the Omnova Theater on the arts center's second floor. The event complements the Smithsonian Institution exhibit, New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music, now on display at the center at 501 Main St.
Sharing the story
Few people would be better equipped to share the bluegrass story. The senior Brock has a long resumé with greats including Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Charlie Louvin, and the "Father of Bluegrass," Bill Monroe. He was part of Carl Sauceman and the Green Valley Boys for a decade.
"Jim has been one of my heroes all my musical life," said Wallace, himself a master musician. "Jim, Jimmy D. and myself were all fortunate enough to be band members of first-generation bluegrass legends. In fact, Jim is considered a first-generation bluegrass fiddle player, and he's been an inspiration to me throughout my career."
Wallace, of the Larry Wallace Band, played five-string banjo for 10 years with "King of Bluegrass" Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys of Nashville, Tenn., among others.
His past students include young Ruby Jane Smith on guitar and mandolin (Brock Sr. was her fiddle mentor), Caroline Melby of the Colgate Country Showdown winning-band Nash Street, and Charlie Worsheim, who opened eight shows for Taylor Swift this past summer.
Jimmy D., the senior Brock's son, has performed with artists like Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper and Carl Jackson, and enjoyed long tenure with the Osborne Brothers, who first recorded "Rocky Top."
Between them, they've been on stages coast to coast, including the Ryman Auditorium, the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, the Country Music Association's Fan Fair and the CBS Evening News, to name only a few.
Of Friday night, Brock Sr. said, "We'll be telling a little bit about where bluegrass comes from, and how it got started. And we're going to have a whole lotta music."
The state of bluegrass
Bluegrass popularity seems to be riding a wave, Brock and Wallace agreed.
"It kindly died out when Elvis came along, went by the wayside a little while," recounted Brock. "Then it picked back up in the '60s and '70s, got real good in there, then died a little. Now, it's back bigger than ever."
He credits some of that to artists he watched grow up, like Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill and Sam Bush. He notes the impact of others like Joe Diffy and Dierks Bentley, too.
Wallace points to Alison Krauss, who was a good friend in his touring days. And to contemporary acts like Nickel Creek, and the even more recent Avett Brothers and Carolina Chocolate Drops. Both played in the Golden Triangle Nov. 10-11.
"We'll be performing traditional bluegrass," emphasized Wallace, who is listed on the Mississippi Arts Commission Artist Roster.
After 28 years, he only recently retired from a career with the City of Starkville and is enjoying more time to teach banjo, mandolin and guitar.
Brock Sr., too, is honing a new generation of hopefuls. He travels from his home in Pickens County Alabama to the Rosenzweig Arts Center weekly to teach.
The fiddler is now 77. Does he think of retiring his bow?
"No, no, no. Not as long as I can pick it up," he stated firmly. "I've had a job playing fiddle since I was 16."
Tickets to the event are $12 at the door, or in advance at the arts center. For more information, contact the Columbus Arts Council at 662-328-2787.
The New Harmonies exhibit, part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian and Mississippi Humanities Council, will be on display through Dec. 10. Learn more at columbus-arts.org.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.