Retro Crossroads 0112
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- [Joe Elmoore] This time on Retro Tennessee Crossroads, our first stop is Old Hickory Boulevard, where we'll find a festive spirit and a toe-tapping good time. Al Voecks meets up with an all tuba ensemble over in Cookeville. We lift off for a breathtaking view of Middle Tennessee in a hot air balloon. And finally, pay a visit to a real working gristmill. That's the lineup for this episode of Retro Tennessee Crossroads. I'm Joe Elmoore. Welcome. Well, Becky Magura and I are here back in the NPT Studios again. We'll be watching these segments from the nineties, along with you, and sharing our reactions. - You know, Joe, I've been hearing lots of great feedback about Retro Crossroads, so thank you for tuning in. - Yes. - And I understand this first segment is really for the bluegrass lovers, so I'm excited to see what it's all about. - Well, let's check it out, Becky. You know, there's a natural music tradition that's been going on for nearly 50 years now. It's for lovers and players of bluegrass music. Janet Tyson went there in the event's earlier years to discover the magic of a full moon picking party. - [Janet Tyson] Ted Walker's Farm on Old Hillsborough Road is a pastoral place. The distant lows of cattle and singing crickets are the only sounds that disturb the serenity. The moon even seems to lie cradled in the treetops. It's nice to know a place like this still exists on the planet, let alone, right outside Nashville's back door. But it isn't serenity that made this place famous. It's the historic sounds that often fill the silence of the Tennessee night air. Every full moon, from April through October, Ted Walker's Farm attracts bluegrass lovers like moths to a flame. Most of the people who come aren't professional musicians. They're lawyers, accountants, computer analysts, engineers, laborers, all moonlighting to support their passion, bluegrass music. And it isn't a night for the faint-hearted. The music doesn't begin until the moon sits high in the Tennessee sky, and it doesn't end until the sun rises over the rolling hills. They come equipped with lawn chairs, coolers, and of course, the acoustic instruments associated with bluegrass. That high lonesome sound, indigenous to the hill country of Kentucky that romps like a rabbit, or wails like a wayward wind. Ted Walker warmly welcomes them all to what is called his Full Moon party, among other things. - See, Bluegrass music kind of makes 'em act strange, and the full moon makes 'em act strange, and so that combination is just, you know, just a great big time. - [Janet Tyson] Whatever possessed an, otherwise sensible, attorney to host this wingding? Well, it all started when he fell in love at 18 with Bluegrass and culminated 12 years ago with the birth of this giant jam session. - We started the party kind of playing music one night, went to a few of the local places and came back out here. The moon was full and we weren't ready to quit playing, and we had some pickers with us, and they pulled out the guitars and had a few beers left. So we just stayed up picking a little while and decided we'd do it again the next month. We had so much fun and bring a friend, and everybody kept bringing friends and we kept doing it. - [Janet Tyson] How many friends does Ted have? Well, for last week's Full Moon party, about a thousand. Is there anything like this in Boston? - No, absolutely not. This is totally unique. There's nothing like this. We might get a bluegrass act at a club once a month or something like that. Doc Watson tours, you know, groups might come through and there are a few local groups, but there's really nothing regular as far as bluegrass goes, or even country, so this is just really exciting. - [Janet Tyson] There are only two rules of conduct for a Full Moon party. No smoking in the century-old barn loft and no dogs. They chase the wildlife. Animals, that is. - Well, there's like pickers etiquette, and it's a tough thing. It's always touchy, but you find out, you walk up and you see the size of the people that you're there. If you think you can play with them, you might listen to a couple of songs and ease your way in. If all of a sudden, they start walking away, then you're not as good as they are and you've broken up a little group. - [Janet Tyson] And you never know who you might be swapping chops with. Full Moon pickers are some of the biggest names in Bluegrass. - A lot of the famous people in Bluegrass are not really famous people, as far as the general public are concerned. But Chet Atkins has been out here, and John Prine and Frazier Moss is downstairs playing the fiddle right now. They've won many state fiddle contests. Just a really a bunch of outstanding people but if I gave you 30 names, most of the people out there listening wouldn't know any of them. We'd have the whole spectrum. I mean, we have lawyers and judges and district attorneys here, and we probably have a few of the people that the district attorneys have prosecuted, but, not very many of those people. For the most part, we have hardcore bluegrass music fanatics. That's for the most part because the party, I really invite certain musicians that I've seen or play, know of 'em and by reputation. And over the years I've got quite a few names, but other than that, you have to pay $10 a person to get in. So if you're not serious or you're not invited, you're probably not gonna be here. - You're the newcomer. What do you think? - I think it's great. I think there's a lot of fun people out here, a lot of people I know and surprising. I didn't know what to expect. - Okay, well, no. Now, you like the people. How about the music? - Well, I'm, bluegrass is growing on me. - We're working on her. We're working on her on the music, yeah. - [Janet Tyson] Besides, who cares about deafening decibels at a rock concert when you can play spoons on the sidelines of a bluegrass jamboree? - I don't know. It's a traditional kind of music. I wanna keep it alive. It's very important to me. And my parents have always played bluegrass, as long as I can remember, and I just think it's really special. I think a lot of young people are missing out, you know, they really don't know what they're missing by listening to bluegrass. - Even if you are a real party animal, there are some folks here who can put you to shame. Well, now, how late do you plan on staying up tonight? - Well, this thing is supposed to go until daylight, and I'm sure it'll be some of 'em here after the sun comes up and I'll try to be one of the last ones to leave. - Is there anything like this anywhere else? - As far as I know, there's not. I've never been. That's the thing that's unique about it, because it, there's nothing like this anywhere else. And even though it's sort of a secret, you kind of have to be in the know, but then everybody shows up, you know, people you never suspect. - And this is a full moon. This is a place for you to howl at night. - Yeah. - Do you plan to continue Full Moon parties for as long as there's a full moon? - At this stage, I'm gonna do it a while longer. I mean, I've gone, like I say, this August will be the 12th year, we go into our 12th year and it's, I think about it every year about doing it again but then, hey, look at this. Can't disappoint all these people. - In the old days, friends and neighbors came from miles around to swap stories, hear the news, and learn some new guitar riffs. Someone opened up his barn or pulled a few rockers up on the front porch, and if you didn't know folks when you came, you sure did when the night was out. Well, that's the way Bluegrass was born. And as long as the Full Moon party shines on, it'll be alive and well. ♪ Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining ♪ ♪ Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue ♪ ♪ Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue ♪ - So, Joe, did you ever go to the Full Moon picking party? I mean, I had a number of friends that I know they made a regular visit to the party. - Oh, yeah. You know, I moved here, it was about '85 and that's one of my first stops, actually. - Yeah? - The timing was just right for me to get invited as a guest and it was great. - Oh, I bet. I would love to experience that but maybe next time. - Maybe next time. Well, next up, Al Voecks brings us an unusual kind of music story. Now this one's about a band of tuba players. Yeah, they play tuba and nothing but. Well, Al went to Cookeville to meet up with the Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble. - Nashville is known worldwide as Music City, USA. Now, country music is the claim to fame, of course, but the city does boast other musical entertainment with one possible exception. And for that exception, we come to Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville. It's the Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble. Yes, you heard right. The Tennessee Tech Tuba Ensemble. Some 20-or-so years ago, Winston Morris was hired by the music Department at Tennessee Tech. He came to the campus with a, somewhat, radical idea that he felt tubas could play music. Well, nobody argued because no one had really thought about it. - I came here and this was a, you know, a growing young department of music, 24 years ago, but we weren't so sophisticated, at that point, that we didn't know that tubas weren't supposed to make music. So there was no problem when, all of a sudden, I started putting tuba players together and playing duets and trios and quartets and having a dozen tuba players on the stage. No one looked at that as being radical because they didn't realize that that was something that wasn't done. So we were doing something for the first time here, but they didn't realize that it was for the first time, I didn't tell anyone, including the tuba students. They didn't know. So I said, "Well, let's get together and have a tuba ensemble." "Oh, okay, fine. Yeah, we'll do that." And that's what started the whole thing going. - [Al Voecks] You are to be congratulated. You have built this program over the past 20-some odd years into something that you've taken this group to Carnegie Hall. - Been there four times. We're the only tuba ensemble, the tuba group, to perform in Carnegie Hall, and you know, we're very proud of that. - [Al Voecks] If all this was taken less than seriously years ago, times have certainly changed. Rehearsals are as intense as practice sessions on a football field. - Bill Bailey. One, two, a one, two, three. You've got a limited amount of time to get a job done. It's just like anything, you know, and you've got a limited amount of time to get a job done, to learn certain pieces of music. And, you know, we go to a lot of trouble to generate this music. We want it to sound good when we perform. Sound like Godzilla laid one, all right? A one, two, a one, two, three and. Tubas, man, give me a break, man. A one, two, a one. - [Al Voecks] Is it a hard instrument to play? - [Winston Morris] It's the largest instrument in the orchestra. It takes four times as much air to play the tuba as it does a trumpet, two times as much air as a trombone. So you've got a lot of air that you have to move through the instrument. So that makes it very difficult. It's very difficult from the point of view that the pitch of this instrument is so low, it's difficult to hear. Some people have problems with that and, therefore, it's a more difficult instrument to control. The larger the air mass of the instrument, the larger it is to control it. And so the challenge is to be able to pick this huge piece of plumbing up and make some music come out of it. It's a major challenge. - [Al Voecks] The members of this elite group consider it an honor to be a part of an ensemble whose fame has spread across the country. Mike Harris is from Aberdeen, Maryland. - This ensemble means a lot to me. I mean, playing tuba means a lot to me, still, and so I like to stay with it and keep up with it and I still learn a lot. I mean, there's a lot to learn and I just improve constantly as I'm in here. - [Al Voecks] Mark Walker made the trip to Cookeville from Little Rock, Arkansas. - Yeah, actually from the rehearsals are the better part of my day. Mr. Morris is great. I mean he's one of the most energetic people I've ever met and the music that we play is top quality and the enthusiasm is always up. - When the rehearsals are over, it's time to show off. Now, this is another of Winston Morris's radical ideas. It's time for the annual. Are you ready for this? Time for the annual OcTUBAfest, a week-long celebration of the tuba, capped off with a big concert, Friday night. - [Winston Morris] The tuba, to us, is a vehicle by which we make music. It's no more, it's no less. We just happen to choose this instrument. Is the tuba any more important or any less important than any other instrument? No, it's no less important and it's no more important, but it is as important. It is the instrument that some of us have chosen to express ourselves music. - Well, Becky you used to live in Cookeville, of course. - Yes. - Did you ever see the ensemble? - Oh, a lot. You know, they've played Carnegie Hall, they play, every year, a big annual concert at Tennessee Tech and all the alums come back. In fact, Winston Morris, who is the guy who started it all, he retired just, I believe, last year and wow, what a show that was but they're still going strong there, Joe. - So, the music continues. - That's right. You just can't imagine what you can get with a tuba. - Gotta love them. - Right? That's not the only place there's hot air, though, I bet. - That's right. Ooh, what a segue. Back in the early, early days of our show, hot air balloons were still quite a novel sight in the Middle Tennessee skies. You know, you always noticed them, but did you ever ride in one? Well, we took our first Crossroads balloon ride back in the late eighties to get a unique perspective on this beautiful local landscape. It's early in the morning here in Franklin, Tennessee, and we're getting ready to go on a hot air balloon ride. Our hosts say the weather is perfect for ballooning and, for Paul and Lindsey Wossner, it's all in a day's work. Paul and Lindsey make their living getting people high. You see, they have a ballooning business that includes a $100 champagne flight. And, although Paul has won several national championships, he says every flight like this is an adventure. - Because ballooning, it never gets old and you never go to the same place twice, it really is an adventure. It's sort of like lightning striking. We rarely... While we take off here all the time, the local peoples in this immediate area see us a lot but our destination point is wherever Mother Nature takes us so. We're gonna probably just try to fly, kind of, formation so you can stay close to us. You're flying in this balloon over here with , Captain Lou, and we're taking a couple, I think, celebrating their anniversary or something today. - [Joe Elmoore] Should be a happy anniversary. - Yeah, should be. - Let's go. - All right. - [Joe Elmoore] Are you excited? - Yes. - [Joe Elmoore] You're not scared, are you? - No, I'm not. - I am. I admit it. - Bye, bye-bye. - Bye-bye. - [Joe Elmoore] While Paul and Lou commandeer the balloons, Lindsay and the chase crew will be equally busy below. - So what we do is, with radio contact, we stay in radio contact with the balloon and we just drive the different back roads and stuff and try to meet 'em where they're gonna land. - [Joe Elmoore] Except for an occasional burner firing, you never hear anything except the wind, a few farm animals below, and, if you feel daring enough, the sound of trees against your basket. - Gonna be able to see downtown here in another 2 to 300 feet. - [Joe Elmoore] I couldn't quite see downtown, but who cares? From here you can see a clear view of Middle Tennessee's countryside. It's a vantage point only birds and balloonists are privileged to witness. About an hour and a half after liftoff, we passed Leaper's Fork. When you're ballooning like this, the wind pretty much determines where you go and how fast. You have a couple of gauges for altitude and vertical speed and when you descend, you try to land in a friendly field. We found one about a mile from where Paul landed. Now we've landed and, luckily, these folks here in the farmhouse don't mind a bit coming down. Is that the way it is most of the places? - 95% of the time you'll find that people are very, very friendly around this area. There are a few like, like we mentioned earlier, dairy farmers. We try to stay above dairy farms because the balloons do scare cattle and that does cause a problem upon their milking process. And we try to stay up above and don't land near dairy farms. - No bulls around, are they? - No, we landed in a field, I guess it was about a year ago. We landed in a field with a, we thought it was a beautiful field and out from under the trees, this bull that stood 12 hands and shoulder came tromping over to us. - Did you go back up? - We went back up. We decided we didn't like that field. - No. - [Joe Elmoore] In a minute the chase crews arrived and that's when the real work begins. Deflating and compressing the voluminous envelope and eventually packing it inside a little bag. - Winds have welcomed you with softness. The sun has blessed you with its warm hands. You have flown so high and so well that God has joined you in your laughter and sent you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth. - [Joe Elmoore] This is why they call it a champagne flight. And after the official pinning ceremony and the victorious toasting, there are a lot of memories to take home. - I thought it was great. It wasn't as scary as I thought it was gonna be and it was really neat going over, really slow over all the countryside. I don't know, I thought it was really great. - The thing I liked about it was the calmness. You've got the burner there, but most time when you fly, you're in an aircraft or something with a lot of noise, but it's real silent when you're just kind of drifting along over the little rolling hills. It was really nice. We enjoyed it a lot. - Joe, you looked good in that hot air balloon. You know, that's something I've always wanted to do. I never have. - Never have? - No, so that's on my bucket list. - Oh, tell me when your birthday is. - We'll go up in a hot air balloon? - We just might. - Okay. - Be good. Now, stories about preserving the past have been frequent features of the show and here's an early example from 1988. You see Al Voecks met a couple who bought an old gristmill near the town of Belvedere. They got it running again and immediately started grinding corn and other grains the old fashioned way. - [Al Voecks] A century ago, mills dotted the countryside. They were used for spinning yarn, sawing lumber, or grinding grain. Mills were commonplace. The years were not kind to mills. Many were allowed to fall into a sad state of disrepair but, fortunately, that has changed. And now mills, once again, are popular attractions such as Falls Mill in Franklin County. John and Jane Lovett bought Falls Mills four years ago and they're trying to maintain its rich and colorful history. - The mill was constructed in 1873 as a cotton and woolen factory, originally, and it employed, primarily, women in those days, produced thread and woolen products for home spinning and weaving and then it was converted to a cotton gin about the turn of the century, and then, after that, a woodworking shop about World War II, and then, in the late sixties, a couple from Huntsville bought it and restored it and moved in the old grain milling machinery at that point. - [Jane Lovett] We bought the mill in September of 1984. So we're up to our fourth anniversary this fall. - [Al Voecks] Why did you buy it? - [John Lovett] Well, my interest is old technology and Janie is an anthropologist. So we set up a museum when we were in Chattanooga and our idea was to try to locate an old mill site where we could trace the development of power sources from animal powered machinery through water power and so on. We found out this one was available, so we negotiated almost four years with the previous owner before we were able to get it and were finally, then, able to move in. - [Jane Lovett] The exhibits that we have, detail the history of the mill and then we're also bringing in other buildings. We'll have several log buildings. We've put in a log carriage house, which houses the horse drawn equipment display and we've been donated, recently, a collection of woolen milling equipment, very similar to the same vintage that was in this mill when it was constructed. - [Al Voecks] The focal point of the mill appears to be the wheel. - [John Lovett] Yes, the original wheel here was wooden. The present wheel, we believe, was installed in 1886. It's a steel wheel, primarily, and it was moved here in segments and assembled here on site by a machinist that lived nearby. This is the largest operating overshot water wheel in the country that is still in regular productive service. It's 32 feet in diameter and four feet wide. The original machinery in the mill was powered by the wheel and it's been the primary power source no matter what has been going on in the mill since 1873. So we still use it for all our power here. All our grain milling machinery is still turned by the water wheel. We have no backup power. The corn, we primarily buy from local farmers. We also do some custom grinding for farmers who bring it in to us to be ground. But when they bring it in, we either clean it or have it coming in already clean and the miller either stores it or feeds it directly into one of the set of stones that we use. Now, we use a large flat runner stone to do the corn grinding on. It feeds into the mill and is crushed between two sets of stones, which is the traditional way of milling. A lot of the modern mills have gotten away from that technique now. So we're still trying to mill on stones by water power because we think it produces a fresher tastier product with more nutrient value. - [Al Voecks] Is fresh mill better than store-bought mill? - [John Lovett] We think so. We think the taste is better and the fresher you can get it, of course, the more nutritional value it has. - [Jane Lovett] Our customers seem to think so too. Most of them come back. We mail order all over the country. People that'll visit and say, "We loved it, we want everything in it. Send it back to us." - [Al Voecks] You are on the historic register? - [Jane Lovett] Yes, the mill was listed on the national register in 1972. - Two. - [Jane Lovett] And this past year, we were designated a historic district. - [John Lovett] We're open daily. We had about 13,000 people through last year from all over the world. - Falls Mill is included in Reader's Digest's publication of Off the Beaten Path, and, while it is, the picturesque setting makes the visit well worthwhile. - Well, it's good to know, Becky, that the mill is still in operation. They even have a BnB there now, I understand. - Wow, and you know what? You can learn about all the places that are still active on our show by going to Tennesseecrossroads.org and making sure that you check out the interactive crossroads map. - [Joe Elmoore] Good idea. - Yeah. - Well, that's it for this edition of Retro Tennessee Crossroads. We surely appreciate that you joined us for our journey through time and Tennessee. - And remember, you can watch Retro Tennessee Crossroads, or any of our local shows, on demand, anytime with the free PBS app. - Okay, bye for now.
Retro Tennessee Crossroads
July 02, 2023
Season 01 | Episode 12
This time on Retro Tennessee Crossroads, our first stop is Old Hickory Boulevard in 1989. There and then we'll find a festive spirit, bluegrass lovers and a toe-tappin’ good time. Al Voecks meets up with an all-tuba ensemble over in Cookeville. We lift off for a breathtaking view of Middle Tennessee in a hot-air balloon and finally pay a visit to a real working gristmill.