The Del McCoury Band shine in new arenas

This post is a contribution from Richard Thompson, a founding member of the British Bluegrass Music Association. He is also a longstanding contributor to British Bluegrass News, a quarterly print publication where he also briefly served as editor. He wrote the Roots & Branches column for International Country Music News for some years, and is now preparing a factbook (catalog of important events) on the life of Bill Monroe.

Looking back, it is surprising that on the last two occasions that I have seen The Del McCoury Band a “mouldye olde fygge” like me should have witnessed the band as co-stars with the notorious Steve Earle, touring in support of their collaboration CD “The Mountain”, and secondly as a support act on a Nanci Griffith’s tour. On the first occasion a friend “? he’s a Steve Earle fan “? and I enjoyed an excellent show at the Midland Arts Centre on the Warwick University campus in Coventry. My friend had never seen a bluegrass band in action before and probably only experienced it by listening to The Mountain CD. He was won over, recognising very early on in the concert the excellent musicianship of all the members of the band.

More recently, I saw The Del McCoury Band at the Birmingham Symphony Hall where the audience was predominantly made up of Nanci Griffith’s enthusiasts. Although the hall was not full during the time that The Del McCoury Band was on stage, (the hall was not sold out, even for Nanci Griffith) there was a very good audience for that period of the evening and there was very appreciative applause at the end of each song.

At one point, Del called for requests and although there was a response it was clear that very few people were familiar with his repertoire. I could not miss this opportunity and I called for the Richard Thompson song 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, which the band promptly played. There were a few requests made later but the band only had a limited time left on stage and couldn’t fit them into their schedule.

During the interval, after The Del McCoury Band set, there was a good gathering of people enthused by what they heard from the band to want to purchase a CD and other souvenirs and to talk with the band members. A tell tale sign of a well received performance.

Talking to Jean McCoury and Chris Harris before the concert started, I learned that they were pleased with the response the band had received at all the venues at which they had played earlier in the tour.

A couple of days later, I spoke with one of my work colleagues, who likes older styles of country music, as well as being a Nanci Griffith’s fan, and who attended the concert also. She thought The Del McCoury Band was great and their performance of 1952 Vincent Black Lightning was “fantastic.” I knew immediately that I could find a good home for a spare copy of The Promised Land CD that I had if I gave it to her. I was right; she thinks it is great!

Here’s a bit of bluegrass trivia “””. The person responsible for the acoustic engineering for the Symphony Hall is Bob Wolffe, who instigated the concept for ‘May Is Bluegrass Month,’ which we now take for granted as being a very good promotional tool for the genre.

As a footnote, let me say that I and a few others in England owe Bluegrass Today many thanks for posting the news about The Del McCoury Band being featured as a support act on the Nanci Griffith tour. Without that none of us would have been aware of the fact.

Richard F Thompson
Former Editor, British Bluegrass News

Editor’s note: Our Richard Thompson here is not the noted guitarist/songwriter by that same name, who is the author of 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.