OId Devils Dream. . . of 1986


I just finished listening to an old Hillbilly show, which ended with a live performance from The Nashville Bluegrass Band, and a lengthy Old Sinc recitation of the Country Calendar as the boys played ‘Cumberland Gap’. I wanted to call up Sinc and tell him what a great job he and the NBB had done. But of course, it’s way too late: the show was on April 12th, 1986.

The Nashville Bluegrass Band has long been one of my favorite bands. I had forgotten how long, when I saw a sticker on a large tape reel from 1986. One of the four Hillbilly shows on that reel featured the NBBs, as I call them. At the time they had just performed with Riders in the Sky at Nightstage in Cambridge, and were scheduled to appear that night in Fitchburg. They turned up at the end of the program, but as the bluegrass show Panhandle Country then followed Hillbilly at Harvard (and not a baseball game, as I mistakenly announced early on), we were able to run a few minutes over.

Compared to some of the Archival shows we’ve aired, this one was fairly tame. In those days I hosted The Down Home Show from 8 to 10am; Hillbilly ran from 10 to 1, with a break for the Hillbilly News at Noon, a mostly straight newscast pulled from the AP ticker. I’ve cut that out, along with a song or two, to keep all of the live performance by the Nashville Bluegrass Band, which I think you’ll agree was just terrific.

Listening to these old programs as I copy tapes to the computer, ‘digitizing’ them, leaves me a little drained. Hillbilly at Harvard, back in the ’80s and ‘90s was a weekly exercise in organized inanity, programmed on the fly, but drawing on Sinc’s and my long (if mostly volunteer) radio experience and our common taste in music, augmented by a rotating cast of friends and guests. It was a lot of fun, but also a valuable resource for country fans in our broadcast area, and for the musicians, clubs, and promoters who made live country and bluegrass available. Hillbilly at Harvard had its own place in the grownup music community, quite apart from Harvard and from WHRB’s undergraduate staff, most of whom paid no attention.

Listening to these shows is a little like perusing old photograph albums, only more intense, flooding me with both delight and melancholy. After Sinc’s death in 2002, it was never quite the same. I kept our hoary ‘Top 40’ format and mostly the same mix of old and new country music, weeding out the schlock and pop, still open to a little tomfoolery, but it was nowhere near as much fun. That just came home to me when the visiting Nashville Bluegrass Band on the 1986 tape played a song from their (then) forthcoming album, written by Tommy Goldsmith, called ‘Old Devil’s Dream’. Sinc and I were in our 40s by 1986, but we were still young devils at heart, and the show had the kind of energy that young devils bring.

Well, this week I’m offering that show from April 12th, 1986. I know our long-time listeners will enjoy it. I hope any newcomers do, too. It seems like only yesterday, though this old devil knows better. /CL

This entry was posted in Administrivia, Bluegrass, Friends and Neighbors, Hillbilly History, Hillbilly Journal, Program Notes, Radio Talk and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to OId Devils Dream. . . of 1986

  1. Byron Marshall says:


    have you recently offered your observations on the Cambridge/Boston live bluegrass scene (does it exist?), radio and live country scene? It would be interesting to read.

    Any idea on your audience (local and internet)?


    ps what became of the Nashville Bluegrass Band?

    ps2 There was a teen-aged bluegrass group doing some pop crossovers touring with Red Smiley and partly comprised of some of his off-spring, that performed in Boston – this might of been when you were in Asia. Do you know anything of what became of them?



  2. Michael Eisenstadt says:

    I loved Sinc dearly before and after our historic trip to record the fiddle contest in North Caroline as well as in later years (aroung 1998) when he and wife Bertie visited us when we were living in the Lower East Side. I consider that proof of our mutual friendship. But as a double act in my most humble opinion you two were generally a disaster, stepping on one another’s lines. You were called the The Talkabilly show for a reason.

    I much admire your strong feelings and envy your personal friendship with Sinc which goes back to you 2 rooming together in Chapel Hill and even before so don’t take what I said above as anything other than my reaction to your double act. I used to listen from Austin with a 56k telephone modem which was an exercise in patience.

    Looking forward to Saturday because hearing Sinc brings back such memories even though I found the original broadcasts virtually unlistenable to way back when they were being broadcast live.

    I regret to this day not travelling to Cambridge in January of 2003 to attend Sinc’s memorial.


    • Well, as Sinc liked to say, “Tweak his own.” The ‘Talkabilly’ charge was, I’m sure, occasioned by the often overlong plugs for country and bluegrass events, which were numerous in the ’80s and ’90s. We did enjoy critiquing records, and trading jokes and jibes, which Sinc usually got the better of, as he was much cleverer than I, but we were having fun, and listeners enjoyed it (but not all, as you testify). I don’t expect the local events had any interest for you in Austin.

      How could you have been listening by modem? There was no World Wide Web in the ’80s, and WHRB was not streaming until much later (late ’90s?). But thanks for your recollections; never too late for a dig, right? /CL

  3. Byron Marshall says:

    excellent commentary, btw!



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