Mandolin player Buddy Merriam might be one of the most open-minded bluegrass traditionalists around. Although he professes to a deep love of first-generation bluegrass, particularly the stylings of Bill Monroe, in his role as host of the popular Blue Grass Time radio show on WUSB in Stony Brook, NY, he takes a bit of a different approach. “I listen to everything sent to me and find at least one track to play on the air,” he says. “I am aware that newer groups are trying to make a living at this great style of music and deserve to be played to have a chance at making it in this business.”
A glance at Merriam’s recent playlists supports his statements. While they’re heavy on Monroe and more recent traditional artists like James King, there are also newer bands like Flatt Lonesome, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Ashley Lewis, the Infamous Stringdusters, and Balsam Range to be heard. Merriam says, “Our music has to grow and evolve to remain relevant. As long as it keeps the important elements of bluegrass in there, it’s fine by me!”
Merriam was a musician before he was a broadcaster, and has fronted Buddy Merriam and Back Roads since 1980. He says that a former host at WUSB would allow him to come in as a guest on the station’s bluegrass show if he had a big show coming up, a new record out, or a concert recording to be played on the air. In 1991, that DJ decided to take a break from radio, and as Merriam puts it, “it fell in my lap.” He’s been hosting the show ever since, and can be heard every Wednesday from 6:00-8:00 p.m.
In addition to his work as a musician and DJ, Merriam is also the author of Back Roads Mandolin, Vol. 1, which consists of tablature and sheet music for thirty of his original mandolin tunes. He hopes to have volume 2 published sometime this year.
We recently had the chance to ask Merriam a few questions about bluegrass music. Here’s what he had to say.
How would you define bluegrass music as a genre?
“The High Lonesome Sound, singing from the heart with driving mandolin, banjo, and fiddles. Bill Monroe told me ‘keep good time, get good tone, and make every note count.’ ”
What form of bluegrass do you most enjoy?
Which artists do you consider examples of the form you most enjoy?
“Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Wakfield, Buzz Busby, Red Allen.”
If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
“Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza.”
What album is currently in your car stereo?
“Kathy Kallick, Cut to the Chase.”
Artists who would like their music considered for airplay on Merriam’s show can email him an MP3 link to firstname.lastname@example.org, or preferably, mail a physical copy to:
PO Box 862
Sound Beach, NY 11789
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