Kentucky is well known as the home of bourbon, bluegrass, and Bill Monroe. It’s also the home of Bob Mitchell, host of the Best of Bluegrass radio show. Mitchell, a resident of Louisville, is a lifelong bluegrass fan who translated his love of the music into a weekly radio gig several years ago and can now be heard on FM, AM, and Internet radio stations.
Bluegrass music has been a part of Mitchell’s life since he was very young. “As a child, I rode my bicycle to downtown radio stations, department stores, and used car lots to hear country and bluegrass music,” he says. Many of the groups he heard were the first-generation artists who set the ground rules for the style, and because of that, they defined bluegrass for him.
“The “best” bluegrass is acoustic, not amplified,” he says. “The important instruments are mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, and bass. A dobro and “lightly played snare drums” can also be added. The vocal and lyrics are the core of the music. Instrumentation should support the vocals, not overpower the vocals.”
Just as bluegrass has always been a part of Mitchell’s life, so has radio. He has always loved radio and wanted to somehow take part in it, and even today, in the age of ever-expanding technology, he says he listens to more radio programming than he does television. However, he didn’t begin hosting his own show until 2008, when DJ Berk Bryant encouraged him to follow his dream. Bryant would occasionally invite Mitchell to his bluegrass radio program to read the album reviews he had written for such publications as Bluegrass Now, Bluegrass Music Profiles, and Louisville Music News. Bryant suggested that he start his own program, and six years later, Mitchell’s show can be heard on WKWC, WMAK, Crescent Hill Radio, The Bluegrass Mix, and The Bluegrass Jamboree.
Mitchell’s radio show has brought him several honors over the past several years. He was featured as the “DJ of the Month” in a 2010 edition of Bluegrass Music Profiles, and was named an “Honorary Lifetime Member” of the International Bluegrass Music Museum in 2012. The IBMM also gave him the opportunity to interview legendary songwriter Pete Goble in 2009 for its video oral history project.
Mitchell is also a guitar player, and released an album of humorous songs in 1995 entitled Some Days This Place is a Zoo (featuring a young Ron Stewart on fiddle and banjo). In his life outside of bluegrass, he was a public speaker and trainer for over thirty years, and always made sure to somehow include music in his presentations.
“I consider it an honor and privilege to be able to share the music all of us love,” Mitchell says in reference to his role as a DJ. “My goal is to present a professional radio program that reflects the best music our industry has to offer.”
Mitchell recently took the time to answer a few questions for us about his thoughts on bluegrass music. Here’s what he had to say.
What form of bluegrass do you most enjoy?
If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?
“Sorry, this is a trick question that cannot truly be answered by anyone who really loves bluegrass. There are too many great artists – past and present. So if I can only have one CD, I’ll burn it for myself. It would include, at least, Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, The Stanley Brothers, The Osborne Brothers, Lynn Morris, Reno & Smiley, Larry Sparks, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Junior Sisk, Michelle Nixon, Doyle Lawson, Rhonda Vincent, Jimmy Martin, Dailey & Vincent, Tony Holt, The Boxcars, and Mac Wiseman. The reason I would include those artists is that they represent the best the industry has to offer.”
What album is currently in your car stereo?
“Larry Sparks, 40.”
Artists who are interested in submitting their music to Mitchell for consideration on his radio show can send audio samples via email to email@example.com, or preferably, a CD to him at:
5800 Coach Gate Wynde (309D)
Louisville, KY 40207
If you host a bluegrass radio show and would like to participate in our chart as a weekly reporter, please fill out this form and we’ll get right back to you.