For more than thirty years, Cindy has pursued her passion for Bluegrass Music as an award winning broadcaster, producer, promoter, singer, musician, writer, photographer and MC. Her national radio show, “Knee-Deep In Bluegrass”, went into syndication in 2003 with distribution by the John Boy & Billy Radio Network. Now heard weekly in nearly a hundred radio markets, Cindy uses her knowledge of the music and enthusiasm to entertain and educate the listeners of her show. Cindy was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Bluegrass Music Association for two terms and serves as chair of the IBMA Membership Committee. She was producer of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 IBMA Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN. Cindy has been involved with MerleFest since its beginning in 1988 and started serving as MC in 1990. Her MC work has taken her to a variety of stages and venues over the years.
For more than thirty years, Cindy has pursued her passion for Bluegrass Music as an award winning broadcaster, producer, promoter, singer, musician, writer, photographer and MC. Her national radio show, “Knee-Deep In Bluegrass”, went into syndication in 2003 with distribution by the John Boy & Billy Radio Network. Now heard weekly in nearly a hundred radio markets, Cindy uses her knowledge of the music and enthusiasm to entertain and educate the listeners of her show. Her radio career started at the age of seventeen at her hometown station, WKSK in West Jefferson, NC. Her radio work continued regionally over the next fifteen years at WKBC, North Wilkesboro, NC and WFMX, Statesville, NC, preparing her for her ultimate broadcasting goal of national syndication.
Cindy was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Bluegrass Music Association for two terms and serves as chair of the IBMA Membership Committee. She was producer of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 IBMA Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN.
Cindy has been involved with MerleFest since its beginning in 1988 and started serving as MC in 1990. Her MC work has taken her to a variety of stages and venues over the years.
She was producer on the 2011 Bluegrass release, “In A Groove” by her husband, Terry Baucom, bringing together some of the top names in Bluegrass for these recording sessions.
She credits her early love for Bluegrass 100% to her father who played banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin and built stringed instruments. As a teenager she performed in a band with her dad and went on to work in other regional bands, singing and playing bass and guitar. She feels fortunate to have been presented the opportunities to promote the music she has loved all her life.
While being blessed with many accomplishments, Cindy is most proud of her family – children, Houston, Molly and Hunter, grandson, Kayden and husband, Terry. She thanks her mother and brothers for tolerating her Bluegrass obsession when she was relentlessly thumping bass to albums late into the night; carrying around a cassette recorder insisting on an interview; having jam sessions in the den; and begging to attend the next festival or show. This honor she dedicates in loving memory to her dad, Jim Brooks, who taught her that music is less about notes and lyrics and more about the bond it creates among those we share it with.
Robert “Tut” Taylor who is known as “Tut Taylor the flat-picking Dobro man”. He came from a musical family. Tut began playing mandolin when he was twelve. He later acquired a six string National-Dobro lap steel and started playing it with a flat pick. Then he heard the sound of the Dobro being played by Brother Oswald. He found one and learned to play it with his flat pick. In 1970 he moved his family to Nashville. Along with George Gruhn and Randy Wood they opened GTR, a music store and repair shop. Tut is a songwriter, a vintage instrument collector and dealer, a craftsman, an instrument designer, an album producer, an artist, a sign painter, an author and a Grammy winner. Tut has received many awards including one from the Governor of Tennessee in 1976 for “Tennessee Ambassador of Goodwill”. He has been a friend, mentor and personal booster to many young and upcoming musicians.
Certain musicians achieve such a level of proficiency, have such a wide range of talents and accomplishments, and become so widely known, they become as one with the instruments they play. This is true of Robert “Tut” Taylor who is known as “Tut Taylor the flat-picking Dobro man”.
Tut was born in Baldwin County, GA on November 20, 1923. He came from a musical family. Daddy played thumpin Banjo. Mama played the fiddle, older brother played guitar and the other brother played the mandolin. He was nicknamed “Tut” by one of the brothers who gave everyone a nickname. Why Tut? No one will ever know, as he didn’t even know there was a King Tut.
Tut began playing mandolin when he was twelve. He later acquired a six string National-Dobro lap steel and started playing it with a flat pick. He didn’t even know that they were supposed to be played with fingerpicks! Then he heard the sound of the Dobro being played by Brother Oswald. He found one and learned to play it with his flat pick. He loved the sound of it so much he became a collector and trader with his collection reaching a high of 67 instruments at one time. With all those instruments over the years, it was 1968 before Tut found the one he loved. It was a special model 27. This is the only one he played from then on until recent years.
Tut, with his wife Lee and family of eight remained in Milledgeville, GA until 1970. During that early period he held numerous jobs of different kinds but sign painting was to be his main continuing vocation. In 1970 he moved his family to Nashville. Along with George Gruhn and Randy Wood they opened GTR, a music store and repair shop. Tut soon bought a Nashville sign shop to continue with his sign painting, opened the Old Time Pickin Parlor, bought the former Billy Grammer guitar factory and started manufacturing the “Tennessee” line of stringed musical instruments. He picked in a group with Norman Blake and toured with The John Hartford Aereo-plain Band. All this is just a sample of his activities. It would take a book to cover it all in detail. In fact, there was a lengthy article about his life published in 1988 and later around 2000 a book about his life was published by Pat Ahrens.
To briefly summarize some of it, Tut is a songwriter, a vintage instrument collector and dealer, a craftsman, an instrument designer, an album producer, an artist, a sign painter, an author and a Grammy winner. Tut’s creativity knows no bounds. He has picked and recorded with a who’s who list of some of the most innovative and famous musicians of the era, including, Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams Jr., Ricky Skaggs, John Hartford, Don Reno, Grandpa Jones, Roland and Clarence White, Peter Rowan, Glenn Campbell, Vasser Clements, Bennie Martin, Mark O’Conner, Charlie Collins, Don Humphrey, Butch Robbins, Rual Yarborough, Red Rector, Herschel Sizemore, Norman Blake, Brother Oswald, Josh Graves, Jerry Douglas, Mike Auldridge, Stacy Phillips, Sally Van Meter, Gene Wooten Rob Ickes, lifelong friends Bobby Wolfe and Curtis and Ricky Burch.
Tut has played for all kinds of audiences from family and friends to festival crowds, to those dressed in tuxedos and to those in bib overall. He has picked on a flatbed truck in the hot sun and he has performed in the comfort of a symphony concert hall and he has played on the stage of The Grand Ole Opry including “The Last Night” at the old Ryman Auditorium. He was a friend to the Dopyera Brothers who invented the Dobro in 1927 and he traveled in 1996 to their native home in Slovakia to attend an annual Festival held in their honor and to receive the coveted Dobro Player of the Year Award.
In addition to all of the above, Tut has received many awards including one from the Governor of Tennessee in 1976 for “Tennessee Ambassador of Goodwill”. There are eight awards listed in the book by Pat Ahrens. He has participated in seven albums with other artists, and has around thirteen CD’s and albums listed in his discography. Further, he has been a friend, mentor and personal booster to many young and upcoming musicians such as Mark O’Conner at age twelve. He did all the gold leaf work and signage at the old Roy Acuff Museum on Broadway Avenue in Nashville. He and son Mark did all the signage for the new Opryland amusement park that opened in the 70’s in Nashville. Tut is also well known for his art work on musical instrument cases.
One could go on and on for hours about the life of Tut Taylor, a man now in his late 80’s, a flat pickin dobro man who has been part of Merlefest for many years and a man we have called friend and neighbor for many years here in Wilkes County, NC. There are many stories untold.
William Oliver Swofford known professionally as Oliver, was an American pop singer. Born in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, he began singing as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the early 1960s. His clean-cut good looks and soaring baritone voice were the perfect vehicle for the up-tempo single entitled "Good Morning Starshine" from the pop/rock musical "Hair", which reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1969, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. a month later. Later that fall, a softer, ballad single entitled "Jean", bested his previous effort by one, reaching #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart.
William Oliver Swofford (February 22, 1945 – February 12, 2000), known professionally as Oliver, was an American pop singer. Born in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, he began singing as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the early 1960s. He was a member of two music groups — The Virginians and, later, The Good Earth — and was then known as Bill Swofford.
His clean-cut good looks and soaring baritone voice were the perfect vehicle for the up-tempo single entitled "Good Morning Starshine" from the pop/rock musical "Hair", which reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1969, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. a month later. Later that fall, a softer, ballad single entitled "Jean", (the theme from the Oscar-winning film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) bested his previous effort by one, reaching #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart. Written by longtime beatnik poet Rod McKuen, "Jean" also sold over one million copies, garnering Oliver his second gold disc in as many months. Performing both hits on a number of TV variety shows and specials in the late 1960s, including the Ed Sullivan Show helped propel both songs to the top of the charts.
Later recordings had more modest commercial success however with covers of such songs as "Sunday Mornin'", which peaked at #35 in December 1969, and "Angelica" which stalled at #97 four months later. In addition, his 1970 cover of "I Can Remember", the 1968 hit by James & Bobby Purify missed the Hot 100 but climbed into the top 25 of the Billboard Easy Listening chart in the late summer of that year. Late that fall, Oliver also had one inspirational recording entitled "Light the Way", composed by Eric Carmen and his last single to enter the pop music charts was his 1971 cover of "Early Morning Rain" by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. The song "Bubbled Under" at #124 on May 1st 1971 and also reached the Easy Listening chart a few weeks later.
Producer Bob Crewe also recorded with The Rays, Diane Renay, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Freddy Cannon, Lesley Gore, Michael Jackson, Bobby Darin, Roberta Flack, Peabo Bryson, Patti LaBelle, and Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons as well as his own The Bob Crewe Generation.
As Crewe preferred elaborate, often overly orchestrated musical arrangements and Oliver preferred a simpler folk sound, these "creative differences" led them to part ways in 1971. Resuming the name Bill Swofford, the singer toured hundreds of college campuses in the eastern and southern United States in 1976 and 1977, but a short-lived attempt to team up with Karen Carpenter during the same period proved unsuccessful.
Despite his vocal talents, Swofford was unable to sustain further success on the charts, and in 1983, People magazine ran a feature article on Swofford, describing him as a happily married father who kept his distance from the music industry, selling real estate. Several years later, it was reported that he was engaged as a business manager for a Louisiana pharmaceutical company.
Oliver had a brother, John Swofford, who was first a quarterback, and then athletic director for the UNCCH and became the commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1997 as well as Coordinator for the Bowl Championship Series.
In the late 1990s, Swofford was diagnosed with cancer and died at the age of 54 in Shreveport, Louisiana. On June 4, 2009, a resolution was introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly honoring Oliver.
Dr. T. R. Bryan Wilkes Heritage Music Award: Dr. T. R. Bryan
Dr. Thomas Rhudy Bryan, Jr. (Doc) was synonymous with love for all other human beings far beyond himself. He was also never present in any one place for very long, before the sounds of music could be heard around him. He was always drawn to music, especially the pure sounds of old Country Music, Bluegrass, Folk and Americana styles of music. He owned every kind of music reproducing device including an old megaphone record player with the cylinders, old 33 record players, 8 track tape players, MP3 players as well as CD and DVD players. In the car, camping, horseback riding, at home, rafting at the Nantahala, in the medical office, in the labor and delivery room, at a family reunion, sitting around with friends and family, wherever he was, he made sure he could listen to music.
He had a great love and appreciation for many of the grass roots performers of early country music and bluegrass. He was a big fan of The Carter Family and so many of the original Grand Ole Opry performers such as Patsy Cline, Flatt and Scruggs, Hank Williams, Uncle Dave Macon, Grandpa Jones, Jim Reeves, Roy Acuff, Little Jimmy Dickens, Johnny Cash, Doc Watson, and many more. He visited the Grand Ole Opry quite a few times in his life.
Doc attended the original MerleFest as its resident physician. He did not miss a single MerleFest since its inception in 1987 up to his last MerleFest in April of 2011. He was a fixture at all the musical events that occurred annually in Wilkes County. He was always present at Chickenfest, the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival, Carolina in the Fall, and Americana Day. According to Ken Welborn, publisher of The Record newspaper, the Mayor of North Wilkesboro, George Church, would officially open up Chickenfest with the words “We can begin now, because our faithful attendee, Dr. Bryan is present.” Doc would often bring a chair for his beloved “Ruthie” to sit and enjoy the music by his side.
He began his own musical gathering about 5 years ago and called it his “Pre –Memorial”. His theme for this gathering was based on the song, “Give Me the Roses While I am Living.” He wanted to enjoy the music of his friends while he could. He invited many of his talented friends to come and play music for him and his guests. It was a free fun jam for all who were able to attend. He also provided food and drinks to complete the occasion.
Doc Bryan was also a man who encouraged local musicians by attending their performances and also by financially supporting them. He was great friends with the Krüger Brothers, David Culler and BackPorch Bluegrass, The Snyder Family, David Johnson, Charlie Tesh, Tut Taylor, Herb Key, Bill Williams, Mule Ferguson, Kirk and Maria Stadlin, Wilkes Acoustic Folk Society and too many more to name. However, he did not like receiving recognition or accolades for the support he would give to these musicians. He preferred to stay out of the limelight and would blush or shake his head when recognized for his generosity.
He enjoyed going to the Hometown Opry many Friday mornings, arriving to begin as early as 6:30am to take in the local talent performing that day live on WKBC radio. On a few occasions, he would sing along or even sing the lead to a song. After the Hometown Opry was over, a favorite tradition would be to continue the music at Harold Call’s Restaurant at Broadway, enjoying good food and more fun music with friends.
He frequently attended the Senior Center musical gatherings on Tuesday evenings where he would sing along with his many friends there. He would bring family, such as Jim England with him to share his talents on the juice harp and the autoharp. The musicians loved having him around because he knew the words to most any old time song by heart. His instrument of choice was his walnut carved wooden spoons. He enjoyed making rhythm to the music with his spoons, but he also mastered a few tunes, such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on the Plicket that Tut Taylor gave him.
Of course, he was known for his active membership in the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame. His participation in that organization was a highlight to his promotion of traditional music in the area. Ken Welborn said that he was always glad to give Doc Bryan the stage to promote the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame. At the Chickenfest of 2011, Doc set up a table and sold raffle tickets all day for a Deering Banjo. Those funds were to help support the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame. At the Chickenfest performance, Dr. Bryan delighted the Elkville String Band and the audience when he made the remark that he would have just as soon been here (at Chickenfest) as at the Grand Ole Opry.
Doc Bryan’s lifelong love of traditional music gave him thousands of hours of listening pleasure and gave him a wonderful bond with so many of the talented and good people of Wilkes County. He would want the Traditional Americana Music of this area to continue to be promoted and preserved for future generations to enjoy as he did.
Dr. Bryan also enjoyed sharing his beloved music with his family. I can remember family reunions at Kerr Scott Lake when he would hire musicians to come play their instruments and sing the old time songs. He would also invite musicians and friends to his home to gather in the living room and play music and sing along. He enjoyed learning to play a “canjo” that his brother John Q. Bryan made for him and all the rest of the Bryan sisters. At the Bryan family reunion in Traphill, they played their canjos together. He and his brother-in-law Joe Brewer sang a few duets. Some of his 6 grandchildren had a love of traditional and bluegrass music. They spent many times at MerleFest together. The family remembers singing country tunes with Doc while riding up the ski lift to pass the time and try to stay warm. The nurses at the hospital have recalled many occasions in which Dr. Bryan sang in the delivery room, with nurses, and even patients joining in the old hymns or traditional songs. He would sing right in the middle of a delivery to calm the laboring mom down. He brightened up a room with his smile and his tunes. Doc was a living legend. Everyone who met Dr. Bryan knew that he loved life and that he had a deep abiding love for people. I am sure that in Heaven he is one of the loudest and happiest in the heavenly choir. And now he is playing his favorite instruments with perfect rhythm and is singing his favorite songs with perfect pitch.