Actress, Bluegrass radio personality and artist Carol Beaugard received the Brown Jug Award at the 14th annual Park Slope Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Jamboree. This award recognizes her contributions to bluegrass music in the northeast. She follows a list of well known recipients including Stephanie Ledgin, Bill Knowlton, Pat Conte and Doug Tuchman, among others.
The Brown Jug Award is the brainchild of James Reams, a bluegrass musician and bandleader for 20 years, who conceived of it as a way to recognize people in the Northeast whose impact on the music deserved to be honored but who might be less likely to be recognized by national organizations since for some of them (unlike this year’s recipient), their impact was only regional in nature.
Carol Beaugard is hard to corral into just one definition—she’s an internationally known radio personality, professional actress, emcee, musician and bandleader. To some, she’s a Jack (or maybe that should be Jill?) of all trades. But what made her into a champion for bluegrass music?
Probably best known for hosting the syndicated “Lonesome Pine RFD” heard on WFDU-FM in the NYC Metro area and WAMU’s “Bluegrass Country” 24-hour bluegrass and American roots music (streaming on bluegrasscountry.org), you might be surprised to learn that Carol started out as a jazz announcer in Boston. In fact, when she joined WFDU in the mid-80s, she hosted a jazz show. Carol admits that she “had never heard bluegrass but discovered it as part of the station’s format.” It was love at first sound bite! “I was drawn to its drive, the magical sounds of the banjo, mandolin, fiddle and guitar. And there was something about its high lonesome feel that spoke to my soul. It captured me.” She asked to join Musicamerica and, in 1985, began broadcasting bluegrass.
Just like a lot of bluegrass followers, Carol learned about the music by going to festivals. Fellow WFDU DJ, Terry McGill, took her under his wing. One of the NYC area’s finest banjo players, Terry dug up the roots of bluegrass and classic country music and planted them firmly in her heart. He even took her to her first jams and festivals. Later they played in a band together. She also got to work with other incredibly talented musicians such as Buddy Woodward (banjo/guitar of the Dixie Bee-Liners fame), Van Manakas (who toured and recorded professionally with many Nashville greats including Butch Baldassari), and her husband, Wayne Fugate who plays a mean mandolin!
With her radio background, it just made sense for Carol to start doing emcee work and soon she was hanging around backstage hobnobbing with Bill Monroe, Jim & Jesse, The Seldom Scene, Chubby Wise, Little Roy Lewis, Doyle Lawson, the Goins Brothers, the Johnson Mountain Boys and Rose Maddox - just to name a few. Carol remembers, “Bill Monroe and Jesse McReynolds in particular spent a lot of time with me talking about the early days of bluegrass and teaching me about the history of the music.” You couldn’t ask for better teachers!
As she became more involved in the bluegrass scene, she made friends with some of the up and coming bands like The Gibson Brothers, IIIrd Tyme Out, and the Lonesome River Band. Oh yeah, and she just happened to be there when Alison Krauss, then just a teenager, hit the stage. Carol also recalls meeting, “a gal just breaking out from her family band named Rhonda Vincent. I used to emcee for the Sally Mountain show and watched her brother, Darrin Vincent, emerge and go on to work with Ricky Skaggs and now he’s, of course, half of Dailey & Vincent.” Watching the success of these talented performers has been truly rewarding for Carol.
But Carol had the bluegrass bug, and she had it bad. Next thing she knew, she was fronting her own bluegrass/Americana band “Blue Express” with appearances at venues and festivals. As she says, "I had always sung since I was a young girl. I loved the music so much, it was only natural to want to perform the songs onstage." When asked what it's like to play and sing bluegrass music on stage as opposed to acting in a play, Carol responded, "In a band and on the radio, I'm always me. My interactions are very personal and the one-to-one connection with the audience is deep. In a play, I'm portraying a role. While I bring elements of myself to every part in order to connect and bring the role to life, I'm still creating a person based on the author's character."
If you aren’t already a dedicated listener, then you’ll definitely want to catch her show, “The Lonesome Pine RFD” (on WFDU-FM 89.1 in the NYC metro area and syndicated on WAMU’s “Bluegrass Country” in the DC area on 105.5FM and in Frederick & Hagerstown on 93.5FM). You can also listen in online at www.bluegrasscountry.org. The show airs on Fridays from 9 to noon and spotlights a mix of traditional and contemporary bluegrass, as well as progressive string music. Over the years she has welcomed such guests as Claire Lynch, Eric Gibson, the Del McCoury Band, Ralph Stanley, Bill Emerson, Danny Paisley, Alison Krauss, Dailey & Vincent, among many others.
vCarol has had the pleasure of introducing just about every major performer in bluegrass history. She carries a wealth of knowledge and a passion as big as all outdoors for this music. Her blood truly does run blue…bluegrass that is!
Carol is in some good company as previous recipients of the Brown Jug Award include such notables as the late singer-songwriter and musician John Herald, Peter Stampfel of The Holy Modal Rounders, Bill Knowlton (who was named Broadcaster of the Year by the IBMA in 1997), Stephanie Ledgin (an award-winning folk and bluegrass music photo-journalist and author) and the late Doug Tuchman, a bluegrass promoter who was instrumental in bringing Bill Monroe and other bluegrass music greats to play venues in the city.
The Brown Jug Award is sponsored by The Clay Pot, a well-known Park Slope business specializing in one-of-a-kind art glass, jewelry and other gifts and collectibles. Other sponsors include The Old Stone House and the Folk Music Society of NY, who provided friendly volunteers as well. The Jamboree is also made possible by the generosity of our hosts, Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture.
Be sure to catch next year’s Jamboree the last weekend in September at the BSEC meeting house at 53 Prospect Park West at 2nd Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Further information may be obtained by contacting the Jamboree promoter, James Reams, at 718-374-1086 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information is also available at www.jamesreams.com.