Saturday, October 20, 2007

Goodnight Red Shipley

This name might not mean much to most of you Ulster readers, but will mean a lot to American gospel bluegrass fans. Red Shipley was the presenter of a fantastic gospel radio show in Washington DC called "Stained Glass Bluegrass" on the station WAMU 88.5FM. When Hilary and I were in DC in 1997 on our honeymoon, we listened to the programme absolutely spellbound - it was the perfect soundtrack to our Appalachian road trip. Red played loads of brilliant Country Gentlemen songs that day, and I bought 4 of their CDs as a result. I've bought many more since then!

It was a MASSIVE honour when he played the Low Country Boys version of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" on his show when we were at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival back in June/July. It's hard to explain what that meant to me. It's a bit like the gospel bluegrass equivalent of being on "Top of the Pops". I'm sure we have Mary Cliff to thank for that airplay - Mary was one of the presenters at the Festival, and a presenter at WAMU as well.

Red Shipley retired from the show in September, and sadly died earlier this month. Thanks to Denise Graveline for letting me know about his passing.

So in some ways it's significant for me that the man whose show inspired me so much back in October 1997 should both retire and then pass away in October 2007 - at the same time that I decide to take a year off from playing live so that I can have some more family time with Hilary and the kids. All good things must come to an end... for a wee while anyway.

"Some glad morning, when this life is o'er, I'll fly away..."

(PS: Stained Glass Bluegrass is now on Bluegrass Country - it broadcasts over the internet each Sunday afternoon (UK time), so if you register online you might be able to enjoy some good Scotch-Irish hillbilly gospel from our American kinsfolk as you clear up the Sunday lunch dishes!