Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bluegrass music's golden tenor

Very few bluegrass artists have been able to make the switch to country music and been successful. Mac Wiseman is the exception.

Malcom B. Wiseman was born on May 23, 1925, in the town of Crimora, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. (For local riders on the Bus, the small town of Crimora is just north of Waynesboro.) Mac Wiseman left the family farm to study music theory, piano, and radio broadcasting at the Conservatory of Music in Dayton, Virginia, making him one of the few classically trained bluegrass musicians. In 1946 Wiseman joined Molly O'Day's band and moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1947 he left the Molly O'Day band and played on WCYB's "Farm and Fun Time" in Bristol, Tennessee.

After Flatt and Scruggs split from Bill Monroe's band, they asked Wiseman to join their new Foggy Mountain Boys in 1948. Wiseman must have been born with itchy feet, by 1949 he left the Foggy Mountain Boys to join up with Bill Monroe. A couple years later and he was off again, this time to form his own band. Mac Wiseman and the Country Boys became regulars on the Louisiana Hayride.

In 1956, Wiseman moved to California to became A&R director for Dot Records. He had a few country hits with songs such as the classic "Jimmy Brown, The News Boy" and "'Tis Sweet To Be Remembered". He was a founding member of that evil organization, the Country Music Association. (I'll refrain from my usual speech about this Chamber of Commerce for country music and it's detrimental effect on the music it represents, turning country music into nothing more than "pop music with a twang".)

Here a couple live cuts from the 1963 Newport Festival. Mac Wiseman's wonderful tenor shining on each one.

Mac Wiseman & The Country Boys - I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home.mp3

Mac Wiseman & The Country Boys - Love Letters In The Sand.mp3

Mac Wiseman & The Country Boys - Little Footsteps In The Snow.mp3


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't remember Mac Wiseman but I do remember the dreaded Dot label from the 50's: Pat Boone's label.

Do you have Wiseman's "Step It Up And Go"? Be interesting to compare it to a variety of blues versions of the same song.


May 11, 2006 5:39 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

"the dreaded Dot label" - You've pegged that one Bill!

Unfortunately, I do not have Wiseman's rendition of "Step It Up And Go", but now you've got me looking for it. The comparison would be interesting.

I have posted comparisons such as that before. Many blues, gospel, and old-time musicians drew from the same repertoire. Perhaps I'll put another together soon.

May 11, 2006 7:55 PM  

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