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Interview with Joe Mullins | Hall of Fame Homecoming

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Chris Joslin: Well, hey everybody. Chris Joslin here at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum in beautiful Owensboro, Kentucky, and I’ve got a special guest with me here today, a good friend, Joe Mullins. Joe Mullins, welcome.

Joe Mullins: Howdy Chris. Always glad to chat with an old friend like you and to be involved with anything at our Hall of Fame.

Chris Joslin: Well, thank you Joe. Joe and I are talking today because we have our inaugural Hall of Fame Homecoming coming up, Labor Day Weekend on Friday and Saturday. And Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers are essentially the musical hosts for that weekend. And what a treat. This weekend we get a concert, or that weekend we get a concert from Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers, but we also get to visit with some of my favorite Hall of Fame members, Paul Williams and Del McCoury. Joe, thank you so much for making this happen. I can’t wait for this weekend to come. It’s been circled on my calendar for months.

Joe Mullins: Well, we made it happen. What a blessing that the Hall of Fame, using that beautiful Woodward Auditorium is having all kinds of great bluegrass and roots music continually you’ve got it all from Marty Stuart to Southern Gospel to the Bluegrass Legends.

So, we’re glad to have a spot at the auditorium for us to perform. Right. And I think we kinda made the idea happen together because. I’ve been blessed with such a wonderful friendship with Paul Williams all these years, and Paul has been a mentor of mine as long as I can remember. Doyle Lawson will tell you the same thing.

Paul was one of Doyle’s biggest mentors in his young years. Coming up in the, in the sixties and seventies, they’ve had a wonderful lifelong friendship. They even both were Sunny Mountain boys at the same time, just for a little bit. When Doyle first came to Nashville to play banjo with Jimmy Martin, Paul was still there playing man and singing.

And they’ve had that, that lifelong friendship since the 19, early 1960s. The last time that Doyle and Paul produced an album together, I gotta play the banjo on that album. And didn’t follow that but working six or eight shows at festivals and concerts with Del and Paul. And it is just a great blessing to be with both those two as family friends and as Hall of Fame members.

So, you and I put together a weekend that the Radio Ramblers get to work on Friday night, September 1st. We’ll do some Hall of Fame activities Saturday morning and on the 2nd I’m gonna talk a little bit about Industrial Strength Bluegrass. Several members of our Hall of Fame have roots running right from the neighborhood where the Radio Ramblers started in southwestern Ohio, and we had success with the album of the year a couple of years ago, the Industrial Strength Bluegrass album.

So, we’ll elaborate on Ohio’s bluegrass history. My dad became a Hall of Fame member last year too. Saturday afternoon, Paul Williams will be with me too, we’ll have some, maybe some pictures and video and, and a good conversation with Paul. He’s a joyous storyteller, but we found out a few weeks ago that Doyle Lawson’s wife, Suzanne, is in a health crisis right now, and Doyle and I talked personally and a few weeks ago and as well as you and Del.

He, he can’t make it. He can’t leave Bristol right now. Where his home base is, and hallelujah, our Hall of Fame friend Del McCoury says, well, I wanna be there. Yeah. And so, and Del and I, he’s been a friend and a mentor as well for, I guess I first heard Del on stage about 40 years ago, and I became unglued when Del really, when Ronnie first started with Dell.

Seemed like their tour efforts took ’em out of the Baltimore DC area more often. And it was in the early to mid-eighties. I was working Ralph Stanley’s Bluegrass Festival and I hear this high on some sound, just killing it from the stage. And I take off running from backstage to see what was going on.

And it was Del McCoury and the Dixie Pals. Then Rob wasn’t even on, on the road yet with them. It was Ronnie and, and Paul Sylvia, Sonny Miller, and brother Jerry McCoury on the base. And the Dixie Pals were just cutting a wide path. And I’ve been a, a McCoury fan and friend ever since then. And then Del and I had a, had a hit on our hands.

We won an award for our collaboration a couple years ago on a fun little tune called The Guitar Song. Mm-hmm. So, with Doyle in a little family crisis, needing to stay and be with Suzanne in the weeks ahead, I’m glad Del McCoury wants to be at the Hall of Fame and hang out with the Radio Ramblers and Paul Williams.

That’ll be on Saturday night. Have an Allstar mashup. Paul and I worked on a set list last week. Me and Del are gonna work on one this week, and we’ll help host that on Saturday night. So yeah, that’s what we’re gonna do.

Chris Joslin: Yeah, that’s gonna be great. Well, and, and you and I have talked before, you know, here at the Hall of Fame, you know, we’re a nonprofit.

We have exhibit space and changing exhibits. We do a ton of educational programs. We produce the television show, My Bluegrass Story, publish Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine. But live music really energizes everything that we do. So that’s central, but as you and I have talked, we want the Hall of Fame to be more than simply about entertainment and I think that’s what this weekend is all about.

Great music, great entertainment, but it goes much deeper than that. So what do you think it means to, to our genre? And you take me to people like you and me are lifelong bluegrass musicians and fans to, to have a place where you can come, not only hear Del McCoury, but you get to experience. A night with some hall of Famers in a really unique setting like this.

Joe Mullins: Yeah. It’s the place to be for this type of collaboration and storytelling event. I knew how extraordinary; I knew what the opportunities were gonna be after you and I got well acquainted when you first came to the Hall of Fame. When we cut the ribbon in October of 2018, and we had 12 or 15 Hall of Fame members there.

It was extraordinary and I got a picture of me and my son Daniel, out in front of the Hall of Fame with Paul Williams and the late JD Crow. And Doyle Lawson. And then I was chairman of the board for IBMA and we facilitated a special election and installed eight or nine new Hall of Fame members that, that night.

Mm-hmm. And then and had half a dozen others participate in the program. From, you know, the late Sunny Osborn to Rodney Dillard, Paul Williams and Doyle Lawson and Larry Sparks to have all those guys have a home and to have lifelong fans like me and you. And hundreds of others that were there that night.

Yeah. Have, have a place to call home that is worthy from the time you first come up. The sidewalk on Second Street, I guess in Owensboro. Beautiful building on the riverfront. And then every nook and cranny of that beautiful building celebrates what these guys built. And so to be there and have them reminisce about, you know, Paul Williams, he’ll tell us a good story about leaving West Virginia with Lonesome Pine Fiddlers when he was 17 years old, writing songs and singing on radio down in the mountains with those guys and leaving there, going to Chicago for their first recording session for RCA and he’s got a good story about that. And then stories about riding in the front seat of a, of a Packard with Ezra Klein Bally who showing those shows playing ballparks and selling boxes of candy.

They at intermission to make a living. Yeah. And of course. Wonderful storyteller, just like Paul and him telling stories about first working with Bill Monroe back in the days of a non-air-conditioned rhyming auditorium. It’s a treasure to hear that. Yeah. And then, and then Del on the road with his own band all these years he’s seen it all and done it all, and he is still passionate about it.

And you, and we see that every time Del McCoury or Paul Williams goes on stage, seeing him together is gonna be pretty special too.

Chris Joslin: I agree. And I people make an effort. I know it is a little bit of an effort to come to Owensboro, but this is one of those weekends where it’s, it’s just one-of-a-kind programming and, and we just can’t wait.

And I think that’s just shine such a spotlight on the, the character and the nature of these great artists, these Hall of Famers that you and I grew up on and just love is the fact that they’ll come together for a unique night like this that there’s the kind of camaraderie amongst the artists, the musicians, but that they want to do this because they feel like things like this are important.

Hey, I’ve gotta mention too, Joe, I wanted to ask you how it feels with your father being inducted last year, long overdue in my book, and in fact, of course, his Hall of Fame plaque is here in the permanent exhibit. Telling the story of Hall of Fame members. And then each year we have a graphic that’s bigger than life that covers an entire wall in our lobby, basically welcoming the new Hall of Fame members.

So I see your father’s image every day when I come to work, and I think about that. And what does it mean to you and your family, knowing how your father just dedicated a lifetime to this music, such a labor of love and. Pass that passion on to you, that must be pretty special for you and your family?

Joe Mullins: It is. I haven’t got to visit the Hall of Fame. Excuse me. I haven’t got to be at the Hall of Fame since he was installed last fall as a member. So, it’ll be emotional, it’ll be overwhelming. It’ll be joyous to see his picture and his plaque. Prominently displayed alongside Peter Rowan and Norman Blake who went in last year.

Dad touched a lot of lives. He was a huge impact regionally in Kentucky and in Ohio. In this Industrial Strength Bluegrass neighborhoods surrounding Cincinnati and Dayton. My dad introduced tens of thousands of people to the music. He did it with passion and with dignity and with integrity. And same way, once he was a, a Radio legend in southwestern Ohio and had a very substantial audience he could bring in Reno and Smiley or the country gentleman or JD Crow in the New South, the Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver and auditoriums and Halls and, and festival grounds.

Gave those guys substantial audience base, so many of these Hall of Famers, including Paul Williams, Del McCoury, they were cheering all my dad in, in the wings. By the time he retired until, you know, it was years after he passed away that he finally got into the Hall of Fame. And besides all that, he was a great fiddle player.

Worked on so many recording sessions. We’ll tell, we’ll talk about some of that. Yeah. Industrial Strength Bluegrass. The book and the album were both a success and the, the name Industrial Strength Bluegrass was given to Southwestern Ohio Bluegrass by Neil Rosenberg, who wrote the book, who’s also a Hall of Fame member.

And there’s a display, prominent display at the Hall of Fame right now that celebrates Southwestern Ohio’s Bluegrass heritage, and we’ll talk about some of that. Maybe on Saturday morning I think we’re gonna gather. We got a lot of folks are spending the entire weekend with us, the Hall of Fame, Friday night, the Radio Ramblers show.

I’ll point out a few things. We’ll sing some of those old songs at my dad was part of in recording sessions. We’ll sing some of the old songs at the Osborne Brothers in Red Island. First carved out working the honkytonks in downtown of Dayton. And it’ll be an industrial strength weekend all the way around.

So be an honor to be there.

Chris Joslin: So, if you’ve been looking for an excuse to visit Owensboro, to visit your Hall of Fame and Museum, I think this is the weekend to do it. It’s September the 1st and 2nd, and it’s gonna be unique. An event for any bluegrass person who loves bluegrass music because Friday night is Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers Saturday, some special programming with storytelling. Saturday night is just a special night of music with Paul Williams and with Del McCoury. And featuring Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers and two floors of exhibits as well. And we have this video, oral history archive that you can access as well.

So, there’s plenty to keep you busy for a couple days and so I hope folks will, will join us. Anything you wanna know about this, you can go to our website bluegrasshall.org. Just go to the tickets tab and scroll down until you see Hall of Fame Homecoming. And you get a ticket for Friday night, Saturday night, or both.

So, I hope you will join us here in Owensboro for Labor Day Weekend and then circle that weekend for every year thereafter. As we highlight, celebrate our Hall of Fame and specific Hall of Fame members. Joe, thank you so much. We can’t wait.

Joe Mullins: Thank you, Chris. It’s gonna be exciting.

Chris Joslin: All right, we’ll see you here in Owensboro Labor Day weekend.


Concert:
Joe Mullins & Radio Ramblers

Concert:
Hall of Fame Homecoming Featuring Del McCoury & Paul Williams


Date:
September 1, 2023 – 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Date:
September 2, 2023 – 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Purchase Tickets
Purchase Tickets

The post Interview with Joe Mullins | Hall of Fame Homecoming first appeared on Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum.
 
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