If you’ve never visited the Bluegrass Bus Museum, you’ve missed a great treat for lovers of bluegrass history. The converted 1955 Flixible bus has been restored to look like the bus that carried Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs all over the country in the 1960s by Museum founder, Don Clark, who purchased it in 1987. For many years Don drove it to festivals and events, and opened it as a rolling tribute to the iconic artists of yesteryear.
Clark filled the bus with mementoes, photographs, and even clothing worn by the big bluegrass stars, most of whom toured the museum while they were living. The upkeep of the Bluegrass Bus Museum has now largely fallen to Don’s son, the effervescent Danny “Hootenanny” Clark, but with Clark the younger now living on the west coast, the old ’55 doesn’t get far from its home in Tennessee much these days.
But what Danny is doing is using his quarantine time to continue converting the hundreds of hours of VHS tape that Don shot at festivals in the 1990s to a digital format, and uploading them to YouTube. The Museum channel there already has about 50 examples of his dad’s festival vids online, with quite literally thousands yet to be reviewed and converted.
Clark says that it’s a time-consuming job, but for him it is a labor of love.
“In the mid 1980s my Dad was an early adopter of VHS shoulder-mounted home cameras. He went to a lot of west coast festivals, and also traded live tapes with other tapers from back east. I’ve got full shows of Monroe, Jim & Jesse, Jimmy Martin, Osborne Brothers, AKUS, Lonesome River Band, Larry Sparks, etc.
I do all this for free, and make no money off of the video uploads. I’m just looking for an outlet to share these precious archived shows. There are adverts placed within the videos, but those are out of my control and auto populated via YouTube.”
Here’s one he posted just this week of the Bluegrass Youth All Stars at the IBMA Fan Fest in 1994. See how many of these future stars you recognize.
If you check the Bluegrass Bus Museum’s YouTube channel regularly, you’ll be able to watch all of these historic groups on stage back 20-30 years ago.
Well done Don, and well done Danny!