Bernie Faulkner – from Exile to Pot Belly Stove

We hear from time to time about bluegrass artists who go on to achieve greater success in pop music, but rarely does the story go the other way. Until we get to Bernie Faulker.

As a young man, he was touring with a group called The Exiles. It found him traveling with the Dick Clark Cavalcade of Stars, playing package shows all over the country, and opening up for some of the biggest names in pop music. The group had a hit in 1978 with Kiss You All Over, a rock power ballad, but went inactive shortly thereafter, returning with a new lineup in 1983 as Exile, performing country music.

Even before Exile, Faulkner had been involved in music most of his life. He says he recorded his first original song in Nashville back in ’63, and over the years he’s written many songs for both bluegrass and country artists, and served as a producer for many others. He was one of Nashville folks involved in developing the career of Billy Ray Cyrus and Troy Gentry.

But his earliest background was in bluegrass. Growing up in eastern Kentucky, it’s what he heard as a boy.

“I was raised on bluegrass. It’s in the air, in the water, in the people. That’s almost all they played on WKIC out of Hazard. When you’d pull into the Grandview Drive-In Theater, you’d see Flatt & Scruggs on the concession stand roof, playing through one mic to all the speakers in the cars.”

He said that one day, after hearing his song Black Diamonds recorded by both Ralph Stanley II and The Reno Brothers, he finally realized something about all the songs he had written.

“They’re all bluegrass songs! All this time I was just screwing them up with the wrong instrumentation!”

That was the start of a chain reaction that has led to Bernie recording his first bluegrass album, Pot Belly Stove, consisting of songs from his memories of a childhood in Kentucky. He had also written songs for Larry Sparks, Dale Ann Bradley, and Longview and figured it was time for him to sing his own songs.

When he was ready to work on this project, he gave us a call at Bluegrass Today to do a check-in with where the world of bluegrass was in 2017, and was delighted to hear how much the industry had grown and matured since he was a boy. It became quickly clear that a solo artist could indeed cut some tracks, get them to radio, and have a little impact of your own on the music working by yourself.

We told him to let us know when he was ready to share this new music, and he has done so, offering this audio of the title track for everyone here to enjoy.

Bernie was assisted in the studio by Glenn Duncan on fiddle, Cody Kilby on guitar, Charlie Cushman on banjo, Ashby Frank on mandolin, Rob Ickes on reso-guitar, and Terry Smith on bass.

Radio programmers can download the track now at Airplay Direct. More information about the full album will be forthcoming.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.