Bluegrass fiddler and legendary Ohio Valley radio personality Paul ‘Moon’ Mullins passed away on August 3. He had been in a nursing home for about a month. He was 71 years old.
Mullins was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy in 2007, a neurological disease often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s Disease. He was cared for at his home in Franklin Township until 6 weeks ago when admitted to Hillspring Nursing facility in Springboro, Ohio, where he passed away on Sunday evening.
Born September 24, 1936 in Frenchburg, Menifee County, Kentucky, Mullins was an exceptional fiddler, learning to play the instrument while in the army in which he served from 1955 through to 1958. He played with some of the elite from the first generation of bluegrass bands, notably the Stanley Brothers, with whom he worked from September 1958 through to January 1959. Stage fright got the better of him.
In 1962 he joined The Bluegrass Playboys and wrote and recorded one of his best contributions to the bluegrass genre, namely the song, Katy Daly, which has been a bluegrass standard for 40 years.
For several years beginning in 1967, Mullins assisted the late Bill Monroe, serving as the Master of Ceremonies for the Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festivals in Brown County, Indiana. For over 10 years, Bean Blossom was the biggest bluegrass event of its kind in the country. In addition to his role as a Master of Ceremonies at bluegrass events, he also personally promoted dozens of other area festivals and concerts.
In 1974 he helped to form The Boys From Indiana and he remained with the band until 1979. The group recorded seven LPs for King Bluegrass during that time. A recent Rebel collection, ‘Good Time Blues’, features Mullins on a 14-song retrospective look at this very talented and entertaining band.
Mullins formed The Traditional Grass in 1983, a group that worked locally originally. The band, which included son Joe Mullins on banjo, went full time from 1989, touring nationwide. The Traditional Grass produced and recorded many independent recordings and, eventually, four CDs for Rebel Records.
Up until 2004, Mullins still played fiddle occasionally when the WBZI Bluegrass Band would be called upon for special promotions.
In addition to being a working musician, Mullins was a radio personality of long-standing. In all he had over 45 years of service in broadcasting.
His unique broadcasting style was developed at WGOH in Grayson, Kentucky, WMST in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, and WTCR in Ashland, Kentucky, before moving to Ohio in 1964 where he joined the staff of WPFB in Middletown. His ad-lib advertising style for the thousands of sponsors he has been a spokesperson for and his stories of real life experiences, many relating to his Appalachian heritage, will never be forgotten by his many loyal listeners. The nickname ‘Moon’ caught on quickly after a few months on air in Ohio. From this point on, Mullins was instrumental in promoting the kind of music he loved to the people of the Miami Valley.
The Traditional Grass disbanded in 1995 when Joe Mullins formed Town and Country Broadcasting for the purposes of purchasing WBZI AM 1500 in Xenia, Ohio.
Moon was right at home again behind the mic at WBZI and once again thousands of listeners were endeared to his style each weekday. No other broadcast personality in the world could speak daily to listeners about planting potatoes, churning butter, grinding corn meal or curing country hams. Moon did not merely speak of these events from memory. He continued to carry on these rural traditions himself.
In 2004 the Mullins network of stations extended to include WKFI AM 1090 in Wilmington, and WEDI AM 1130 in Eaton and Paul Mullins could be heard on all three stations until his retirement from Classic Country Radio, as the group of stations has become known, on March 4, 2005.
In 2000 he was recognised twice by the IBMA, receiving the Radio Personality of the Year award and the Certificate of Merit.
Last year, Paul Mullins was awarded an Ohio Heritage Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council for his contributions to the bluegrass music industry and his 45 years of contributions to the Appalachian community.
To read what Katie Laur and Fred Bartenstein have to say about Paul Mullins you can download this PDF file.
After their comments, read on to see some “Moonisms”, typical Mullins sayings gathered from various of his radio programmes.
A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe.
He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.
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