Nashville, TN -- Recipients of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s 2012 Distinguished Achievement Awards have been announced, and this year’s group includes a “Pee Wee,” a fiddler, a “Queen,” a pair of Cornetts, and a man with a golden voice.
Byron Berline: Known as one of the world’s most skillful and versatile fiddlers, Byron Berline has a fascinating resume that includes recordings with Bill Monroe, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones; three national fiddle championships; appearances on soundtracks for Basic Instinct and Star Trek; and proprietorship of the Double Stop Fiddle Shop in Guthrie, OK.
Berline began fiddling at age five and recorded with the Dillards before he was out of his teens. Just after graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 1967, he joined the Blue Grass Boys. Within six months, he was drafted into the Army – but he did manage to co-write and record the classic "Gold Rush" with Bill Monroe. Early in his career, Berline worked with the Flying Burrito Brothers, co-founded the Country Gazette, and tapped guitarist Dan Crary and banjo player John Hickman for his band Sundance, which later included Vince Gill on mandolin. In the late ‘70s, Berline began working with Hickman and Crary as an eponymous trio. With the addition of Steve Spurgin and John Moore, the band called itself California and was named IBMA’s Instrumental Group of the Year in 1992, 1993, and 1994. Fiddle and a Song, Berline’s solo recording, featured Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and Vince Gill and was nominated for two Grammy awards in 1995. His Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, founded in 1997, draws about 15,000 people each year.
Berline has recorded soundtracks with Henry Mancini, Johnny Williams, and Lalo Schifrin; and recorded with The Eagles, The Band, Earl Scruggs, Linda Ronstadt, Elton John, Gram Parsons, The Byrds, Willie Nelson, Doc Watson, Kris Kristofferson, the Doobie Brothers, Rod Stewart, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette, James Taylor, Lucinda Williams, Alabama, and his own Byron Berline Band.
Joe & Lil Cornett: In 1972, Joe and Lil Cornett bought a large parcel of land in the historic hills of Gettysburg, PA. Over the next three decades, the Cornetts would develop the property’s working farm/campground into a full-amenity resort with 300 campsites on 150 acres. After a chance meeting in the mid-'70s with bluegrass legend Bob Paisley at an RV show, the Cornetts made high lonesome history in 1979 when they founded the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, a semi-annual event that became legendary for showcasing the finest in traditional and contemporary bluegrass.
Bill Monroe played Gettysburg several times, including a date on his 75th birthday; Charlie Waller of the Country Gentlemen was a regular, and John Duffey played the festival each year from 1979 until his death in 1996. The festival’s Workshop Stage was the scene of the original “Dobro Summit,” with the legendary trio of Josh Graves, Mike Auldridge, and Jerry Douglas. When Alison Krauss was just a senior in high school, the Cornetts hired her, "a virtual unknown," to play the festival; she performed there each year through 1998. In 2002, the Cornetts sold Granite Hill to their carefully chosen successors, daughter and son-in-law Cyndie Cornett and Rich Winkelmann. This year (2012) will mark the 64th and 65th events over 34 years for Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, one of the longest-running festivals on the planet.
Orin Friesen: The warm, resonant voice of Orin Friesen has been heard on bluegrass radio for almost 50 years, when he first began playing traditional acoustic music on the air. In 1973, he launched the very first syndicated bluegrass radio show. It has now been running continuously for 38 years, and has aired on 35 stations around the country. Mr. Friesen also helped develop the IBMA Awards Show, which he co-produced for a decade.
“Many IBMA members may not realize [that] Orin’s career was ‘at risk,’ being so deeply involved doing what he did for so many years,” said entertainer John McEuen in his recommendation letter. “He was in the very commercial side of country music at a major station. Yet he went out to help build a bluegrass entity, to build its exposure and credibility.”
Over the course of his long career, Mr. Friesen has written newsletters, columns, and articles on various aspects of bluegrass, and produced and emceed numerous shows and festivals; he has emceed the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS for more than 30 years. He is a lifetime member of the Kansas Bluegrass Association. He is also a working musician and founder of the Prairie Rose Rangers. In 1994, Mr. Friesen established The Brian Friesen Award, in memory of his son who died at age seven, with Deering Banjos. Each year the award – a Golden Era Deering Banjo – is presented to a promising young banjo player.
Kitsy Kuykendall: Affectionately dubbed “Queen Kitsy” by musicians and fans alike, Ms. Kuykendall, a founding member of IBMA, has actively promoted and supported bluegrass for more than 40 years. In the 1970s and ‘80s she served as co-chair for fundraising and on the advisory board of American University’s WAMU-FM in Washington, DC. She has been closely involved with the promotion of the internationally renowned publication Bluegrass Unlimited since the 1980s. For four years, she was assistant producer of Fan Fest, IBMA’s 60-act annual weekend music festival, and served as its chair for five years; she also chaired ROMP, a major fundraiser for the International Bluegrass Music Museum (IBMM). Ms. Kuykendall has served on the IBMA Board of Directors, the IBMM Board of Trustees (including two years as chair), and currently serves on the board for the Foundation for Bluegrass Music.
“I firmly believe that Kitsy has been one of the most visible and prominent supporters of bluegrass music throughout these many years of volunteering her time and energy to the never-ending quest to grow and promote the music,” said Greg Cahill, president of the Foundation for Bluegrass Music, in his nomination letter.
Darrell “Pee Wee” Lambert (August 5, 1924 - June 15, 1965): While in his teens, mandolinist Pee Wee Lambert became a great admirer of Bill Monroe, painstakingly copying his idol’s smallest nuances of dress, facial expressions, vocal style, and posture. He was the Stanley Brothers’ first mandolin player in the mid-1940s. He left in 1950, but in that short time Lambert helped define the Stanleys’ distinctive sound—with his mandolin playing and trademark high tenor stacked above both Carter and Ralph.
After leaving the Stanley Brothers, Lambert worked with Curly Parker as the Bluegrass Pardners, later the Pine Ridge Boys, a regional band that gave a teenage J.D. Crowe some of his first gigs in the early 1950s and also hired fiddler Art Wooten. Lambert and Parker worked together for the better part of a decade and recorded a handful of singles and EPs on the Rich R Tone label, which they sold out of the trunk of their car after their shows.
Lambert owned a 1922 F-5 Gibson “Fern” mandolin, signed and dated by the legendary Lloyd Loar, which he broke and abandoned in a trash can. Restored in 2007 by luthier Steve Gilchrist, the instrument is now owned by Ricky Skaggs, whose mother once prayed it would come into his possession when Ricky was still a young boy.
IBMA’s Distinguished Achievement Awards honor those in bluegrass music who are forerunners in their particular fields of endeavor, and/or who have fostered bluegrass music’s image with developments that broaden the music’s recognition and accessibility. Nominations may fall into one or more categories – music, media, business, and general.
The Distinguished Achievement Awards will be presented at a Special Awards luncheon on Thursday, September 27 from 10:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. at the World of Bluegrass Business Conference in Nashville. Affectionately dubbed “Queen Kitsy” by musicians and fans alike, Ms. Kuykendall, a founding member of IBMA, has actively promoted and supported bluegrass for more than 40 years. In the 1970s and ‘80s she served as co-chair for fundraising and on the advisory board of American University’s WAMU-FM in Washington, DC. She has been closely involved with the promotion of the internationally renowned publication Bluegrass Unlimited since the 1980s. For four years, she was assistant producer of Fan Fest, IBMA’s 60-act annual weekend music festival, and served as its chair for five years; she also chaired ROMP, a major fundraiser for the International Bluegrass Music Museum (IBMM). Ms. Kuykendall has served on the IBMA Board of Directors, the IBMM Board of Trustees (including two years as chair), and currently serves on the board for the Foundation for Bluegrass Music.