ANOTHER ARCHIVAL HILLBILLY AT HARVARD
February 25, 1995, to be exact. Old Sinc has just returned from three weeks in Las Vegas, Larry Flint is there as well, and we’re expecting The James King Band. We’re in our new studios in Pennypacker Hall. However, the WHRB Trustees, “The Suits,” as Sinc calls them, have taken over sumptuous Studio B. James and band have to warm up in the Classical Music Library, and end up crowding into our small studio BC (‘B Control’) and playing single-file on one mic. Amazingly, it sounds great!
Actually, I was intending to use the live segment (which David Elliott had edited down for me) as filler for another Archival show that ran short, but then I found the original DAT recording of most of the 1995 show (tape started late, so about 3.5 hours), and enjoyed listening to it so much that I decided to run it this Saturday (July 10th). Sinc was in fine fettle, and Larry and I provided ample foils for his jokes. It’s a great example of the impromptu inanity of Hillbilly at Harvard in its prime, providing a knowledgeable but comical alternative to commercial country radio.
And of course we had the honor then of hosting the great James King, however inelegantly. This was not NPR; this was Studio BC, about 150 square feet, crammed with three disk jockeys, five musicians, and an audience including Rounder co-founder Ken Irwin (who spends some time on air with Sinc talking about Alison Krauss’s sudden emergence in the country charts with ‘When You Say Nothing at All’). James and company pull off the set with great alacrity and good humor.
This was James’s first visit to Boston, planning to record his second album with Rounder; he was playing that Saturday night at the Museum of Our National Heritage (as it was then called) with Lou Reid and Carolina, sponsored by the Boston Bluegrass Union. We spent so much time talking about the comfortable chairs (versus traditional church pews) that I wonder if it wasn’t the BBU’s first show at the Museum.
James was to return to HAH in November, and at other times. He died in 2016 (see HERE, though I never did a full appreciation). James King, from Carroll County, Virginia, was in my mind the closest bluegrass-country singer to Carter Stanley we’ve ever had (Carter was James’s hero, of course). He was a big, affable fellow with a warm heart, who conveyed real feeling in his singing. I hope you share some of the thrill I get when listening to him live on the radio, and some of the sadness, too, that we lost his voice so early. /CL