We’re really in the Dog Days now, at least as far as the near-triple-digit temperatures up in the surface world. But even though Bluegrass Underground enjoys steadily cool temperatures around 60 degrees, even in August, this month we’ll be wildly mood-swinging with two concerts that literally range from the ridiculous to the sublime.
Aug. 12 we are happy to present a band that’s keeping alive good old-fashioned country comedy, from the clever lyrics of Homer & Jethro to the vaudeville slapstick of the country music’s Golden Age, when bass players were the band clowns, dressing in outlandish outfits and breaking up the show with comedic routines. Bill Monroe toured with comedians like Jamup and Honey through the ’40s and ’50s and the first real star of the Grand Ole Opry, Uncle Dave Macon, was as well known for his jokes and clowning as for his songs and banjo virtuosity.
So in that tradition, Bluegrass Underground welcomes back those modern-day Hokum’s Heroes, Leroy Troy and the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. One of the jug band’s founders, the late Lester Armistead, was a pal of Roy Acuff’s dobro player and banjo-picking comedian Bashful Brother Oswald (Pete Kirby) and proudly played the old ceramic jug Oswald used.
Lester’s son Mike is the TMJB’s singer and guitarist, Leroy Troy plays banjo and washboard, Dan Kelly plays fiddle, Mike Webb plays Oswald-style dobro and Ernie Sykes sings and plays upright bass. The group has a lot of the old Acuff sound, a Tennessee string band in the tradition of the Smoky Mountain Boys, equally at home playing red-hot fiddle tunes, classic country and hilarious parodies. Check the out here.

You might have seen them on The Marty Stuart Show here or on the Opry, but there’s nothing like seeing them live in a full concert. It’s a great show for the kids too, so before they have to go back to school, why not spend a day in the cave? Get there early, take one of the Cumberland Caverns tours, grab some of Robbie’s special cave-made chili for lunch and stay for the show. Johnny Campbell & The Bluegrass Drifters start things off at 1 p.m. with fewer laughs but plenty of fine pickin’ and singin’.  We’ve only got a few tickets left.

This month we’ll also be sharing some big news, as
Bluegrass Underground, the PBS TV series, readies its seventh season. Premiering in September throughout the United States, BGU VII presents everything from the hardcore bluegrass of Rhonda Vincent & the Rage and Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out to the jam-rock of Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Blues Traveler to the classic Memphis soul of Don Bryant and a lot more. So tune us in at home as BGU VI wraps up and BGU VII gears up.
 But nothing beats that walk in the woods down to the cave mouth, being met by an exhilarating rush of refreshingly cold air as you leave behind a steamy August day on the Cumberland Plateau for the welcoming cool and dark cave. I still get several kinds of chills every time I take that trip. Get your tickets today!
It’s always a great, cool day underground. Come see, hear – and feel – for yourself.
– Larry Nager