LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The International Bluegrass Music Association recognized recipients of its Distinguished Achievement Awards during a special luncheon today (Oct. 19) at The Galt House. Honors went to The Stoneman Family, the Grand Ole Opry, European bluegrass promoter Rienk Janssen and deejay and musician Paul “Moon” Mullins.
Stoneman Family patriarch Ernest “Pop” Stoneman made 250 recordings during his career and was part of the famous Bristol, Tenn., recording sessions in July 1927 where Ralph Peer recorded The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. His arrangement of “The Titanic” was an early bestseller.
Several of Stoneman’s children got their start as the Bluegrass Champs in the Washington, D.C., area in the late ’40s. Pop Stoneman and his wife, Hattie, began to work with their children in the late ’50s as The Stoneman Family. The group also included fiddler Scotty, guitarist Van, mandolinist Donna, banjo player Roni and bassist Jim. Older sister Patsy joined the group following Pop Stoneman’s death in 1968.
Patsy Stoneman and former Hee Haw star Roni Stoneman accepted their award from East Tennessee State University faculty member Jack Tottle. Both were visibly moved by the honor. “This is the first time I’ve ever been able to receive an award for the whole family,” Patsy said. The group was named Vocal Group of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1967 before Patsy joined the group. Of the Stonemans’ 23 children, eight are surviving including four brothers and four sisters.
Musician and deejay Joe Mullins presented his father’s Distinguished Achievement Award. Paul “Moon” Mullins played fiddle for two years with the Stanley Brothers. He took his first radio job in 1960 at WGOH in Grayson, Ky., after he bet a friend a bottle of moonshine that he could get the deejay position. Mullins was a fixture on station WPFB in Middleton, Ohio, for 25 years, doing wild, spontaneous radio ads that eventually made him a cult figure in Southwestern Ohio but also got him fired in 1989.
He wrote the bluegrass classic “Come Down the Mountain, Katie Daly” while playing with the Bluegrass Playboys and producing their only album, The World of Bluegrass.
Joe Mullins bought WBZI in Xenia, Ohio, in 1995 and hired his father as a deejay. Moon Mullins celebrated his 40th year in broadcasting with a congratulatory call from WSM announcer Eddie Stubbs. “Forty years ago, I began promoting the dignity of bluegrass music, and I ain’t done yet,” said Mullins as he accepted his award.
In October, both WSM radio and the Grand Ole Opry celebrated their 75th anniversaries. The two institutions were recognized by the IBMA for their contributions to bluegrass music. Over the years, Opry cast members have included bluegrass greats Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, The Osborne Brothers, Jim & Jesse McReynolds, Alison Krauss and Ralph Stanley, among others.
Sonny Osborne presented the award to WSM-AM personality Kyle Cantrell, who cited the contributions of bluegrass players to the world’s longest-running radio program. “It’s been quite an odyssey since 1925, and it’s fitting that (this award) is received in our 75th year,” Cantrell said. “The world is a better place because of bluegrass.”
Janssen has played a seminal role in spreading bluegrass music in Europe. Lynn Morris, IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year for 1999, recounted Janssen’s legendary hospitality to her band and other bluegrass artists. A native of the Netherlands, he organizes European tours for many bluegrass artists, hosting them in his own home. Jannsen started Strictly Country, a magazine that covers mostly bluegrass, in 1971. His label, Strictly Country Records, has released nearly 60 titles, most of them live recordings of festivals. Janssen is a high school teacher by day and plays in his own band, Spruce Pine.
Five special awards recognized excellence in the bluegrass industry. Journalist and historian Jon Weisberger was named Print Media Personality of the Year. The 34th Annual Bill Monroe Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival, in Bean Blossom, Ind., took Event of the Year.
Best Graphic Design for a Recorded Project went to Bela Fleck and Garrett Rittenberry, owner of guerrilla design, for Fleck’s The Bluegrass Sessions: Tales From the Acoustic Planet, Volume 2 on Warner Brothers. Best Liner Notes for a Recorded Project went to fiddler Benny Martin for his album The Big Tiger Roars Again, Part I on OMS Records. Hugh Moore of OMS accepted the award, saying, “In the time of MP3 and illegal downloads, this is an important award.”