Bgrass, Inc.
About Miami Hamilton
Campus Offices
Continuing Education and Business & Industry Center
Bgrass, Inc.

The Isaacs are a family gospel group that originally consisted of Joe and Lily Isaacs and their three children, Ben, Sonya, and Becky.  Later on, Becky’s husband, John Bowman, and Sonya’s then-husband Tim Surrett were added.  In 2006, the group consists of Lily, Ben, Sonya, Becky, and John.  Joe and Lily lived in Morrow, Ohio, and had a band from 1975 to 1986 called Joe Isaacs and Sacred Bluegrass.  As their children got older and began appearing more and more with them, the decision was made in 1986 to have an all-family band and call it The Isaacs.  The group today is based in LaFollette, Tennessee and has been accepted by both bluegrass and southern gospel audiences.

Jalyn was owned by Jack Lynch and was located at 1806 Brown Street in Dayton (which was actually Jack’s apartment).  From 1963 to 1978, Jalyn was a significant player in the bluegrass record business, issuing LPs by Ralph Stanley, Don Reno & Bill Harrell, the Goins Brothers, the Valley Ramblers, Lee Allen, and Curly Ray Cline, as well as many LPs by local bluegrass and gospel artists.  One of the most interesting LPs was “A Tribute To the Stanley Brothers,” recorded by Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs as teenagers shortly after Ralph Stanley discovered them.  Jalyn also issued approximately 100 singles which really document Dayton bluegrass and bluegrass gospel of the time.  Larry Sparks cut a single on Jalyn in 1966 as “Larry Sparks and the Sandy Mountain Boys” which pre-dated his recordings with Ralph Stanley.

JEWEL RECORDS                
Founded by Rusty York in 1961, Jewel began in York’s garage and moved to a rented building which he eventually purchased at 1594 Kinney Avenue in Cincinnati’s Mt. Healthy suburb.  Rusty York’s experience as a club and road musician, his business and engineering experience gained working for Jimmie Skinner, and his multi-instrumental abilities on guitar, banjo, and resonator guitar all stood him in good stead when he opened his studio.  He engineered and produced hundreds of custom recordings on Jewel for local musicians in all fields of music but primarily country, gospel, and bluegrass.  He engineered sessions for Rural Rhythm, Vetco, and other labels.  He produced bluegrass records sold through special radio offers by the Jimmie Skinner Music Center.  Bluegrass musicians who recorded at Jewel include Mac Wiseman, Hylo Brown, Katie Laur, the Boys From Indiana, Joe Isaacs, the Russell Brothers, Larry Sparks, J.D. Jarvis, and Jimmie Skinner, among others.

JOHNNY’S NIGHT CLUB              
Johnny’s was a bar located at 401 Wayne Avenue in Dayton, Ohio.  In 1953 and 1954, Lonnie and Carlos Brock and Sonny Osborne were the house band there.  Later on, it became The Bitter End.

The Kanawha label was founded by Ken Davidson in the early 1960s in West Virginia.  The original purpose of the label was to document old-time music in the area, primarily fiddle music.  The label hit pay dirt when they released an album by Clark Kessinger, a highly regarded old-time fiddler who hadn’t been heard of for years.  After a detour to Florida, the label moved to Dayton and started recording some bluegrass records.  They included LPs by the Hagan Brothers, Dorsey Harvey, and Ron Thomason, and a single by Chris Montgomery.

KEG # 1
KEG # 2     
The first Keg was a bar at 1725 West Third Street and the second was located at 611 North Western Avenue in Dayton.  Both existed in 1953 and were managed by George M. Taylor, but by 1960 only the Western Avenue location remained and was owned by Art Guy.  They featured hillbilly music.  “Little” Bun Wilson had a band at the Western Avenue location in 1955 before he went to Nashville and became a comedian with Ernest Tubb, prior to settling at Renfro Valley.  “Cousin” Bill Hamby, a well-known local DJ and singer, also had a band there.

KEN-MILL CAFÉ          
The Ken-Mill was so named because it was at the corner of Kenton and McMillan Streets in Cincinnati.  In the early and mid 1960s it had bluegrass six nights a week with Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys, which in 1963 included Earl on mandolin, Jim McCall on guitar, Vernon (“Boatwhistle”) McIntyre on bass, and  Vernon (“Junior”) McIntyre Jr. on banjo.  Other band members at various times included Walter Hensley, Jim Hensley, Frankie Short, and Bennie Birchfield.

KENTUCKIANS (ALLEN)              
After he split with the Osborne Brothers and moved to Washington, D.C., around 1960, Red Allen selected this name for his band and he continued to use it as long as he had a band.  The original Kentuckians included Red on guitar, Frank Wakefield on mandolin, Ralph “Robbie” Robinson from Columbus, Ohio, on banjo, Tom Morgan on bass, and sometimes Billy Baker on fiddle.  Later members included Bill and Wayne Yates, Bill Emerson, Scotty Stoneman, Porter Church, and Richard Greene.

The Kentuckians were a group that played around the Dayton and Portsmouth, Ohio, areas in the mid to late 1960s and included Wayne Lewis, Paul Morris, R.C. Meade, Gerald Evans, Sr., and Ray Davis.  They cut two singles for Dayton’s Jalyn Records in 1967 and accompanied Paul “Moon” Mullins on several records.

Kentucky was Carl Burkhardt’s first label in the Rite-Gateway group.  It became active in the early 1950s and eventually issued around 120 singles.  The bulk of the recordings were covers or sound-alikes that were sold for bargain prices as special record offers on WCKY and other radio stations.  Several young local bluegrass artists got a start on this label including Sonny Osborne, Jim & Jesse, and Red Allen.

KING RECORDS          
King Records was founded by Syd Nathan and located at 1540 Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati.  Its first recordings were done in Dayton, Ohio, in a studio on the second floor of the Wurlitzer Building, an art deco structure on the east side of South Ludlow Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets (still standing in 2006).  Nathan brought Grandpa Jones and Merle Travis to Dayton to record under fictitious names because their employer, WLW, didn’t allow its artists to make records.  They did a duet as the Sheppard Brothers and Merle recorded solo as Bob McCarthy.  Grandpa eventually became one of King’s biggest selling artists under his own name, and he and Merle along with the Delmore Brothers made the famous Brown’s Ferry Four records on King.  Two of the best first-generation bluegrass bands helped keep King afloat during some of its lean years.  The Stanley Brothers and Don Reno & Red Smiley recorded literally hundreds of songs for King.  Other bluegrass artists who recorded for King included Tommy Magness, Jimmy Martin & Bob Osborne, Wade and J.E. Mainer, Mac O’Dell, Leon Jackson, Charlie Moore & Bill Napier, Bill Duncan, the Easter Brothers, Shannon Grayson, and Ralph Stanley.

Not to be confused with King Records, King Bluegrass was an offshoot of Lemco Records in Lexington, Kentucky.  A couple of the early LPs were issued on both Lemco and King Bluegrass labels.  King Bluegrass was located at 4766 Glendale Milford Road in Cincinnati, Ohio, although a lot of their recording continued to be done at the Lemco Studios in Lexington.  The label was operated and apparently owned by Robert Trout.  It began issuing LPs in 1973, and got off to a rather auspicious start with LPs by Ralph Stanley, Red Allen and the Allen Brothers, J.D. Crowe & the Kentucky Mountain Boys, and Don Reno & Bill Harrell.  Tony Rice did a landmark guitar album on King Bluegrass with his first LP, titled simply “Guitar.”  Larry Sparks cut three albums for the label, which included two of his best-known songs, “A Face In the Crowd” and “Smokey Mountain Memories.”  The Boys From Indiana recorded four LPs for King Bluegrass, the first one being the acclaimed “Atlanta Is Burning.”  The label issued 45 LPs and 16 singles before disappearing around 1977.

KING’S ROW      
At the intersection of Clifton and Ludlow near the University of Cincinnati, King’s Row was the bar home of the early Appalachian Grass.

A label owned by Ott Ginter of Miamisburg, Kitty became legendary because it released two 1951 singles that marked the first time that the Osborne Brothers appeared together on record.  The rare recordings featured Louise Osborne (Bob & Sonny’s sister) singing lead, Bobby singing tenor and playing mandolin, Sonny playing banjo, and supposedly Jimmy Martin playing guitar, although Jimmy later denied being on the recordings.

Lake Jewelry, at 215 South Main Street in Franklin, Ohio, was founded by Wilbur “Red” Lake and operated by his widow Betty and their two sons, Steve and Gary, after his death.  Because of Red’s love of bluegrass and country music, Lake Jewelry began to carry records and eventually had by far the largest selection of  bluegrass and country LPs and 45s in the Dayton/Cincinnati area, eventually moving into CDs.  They also sell instruments and strings, and continue in the jewelry business.

In the mid-to-late 1970s, the Katie Laur Band backed Katie on her recording sessions and traveled with her on the festival circuit and for other personal appearances.  The basic group was Katie on guitar, Jeff Roberts on banjo, Jeff Terflinger on mandolin, Buddy Griffin on fiddle, and Rich Flaig on bass.  Later members included Larry Nager on bass, Bill LaWarre on mandolin, and Jon Weisberger on bass.

LITTLE MICKEY’S # 2          
The first Little Mickey’s was at 408 West Third Street in Dayton, and was previously known as the Friendly Inn before being purchased by Milton A. “Little Mickey” Friedman.  It was a bluegrass haven in the 1950s.  At some point after urban renewal had caused Little Mickey’s to be demolished, “Little Mickey” opened Little Mickey’s Country Club at 133 East Fifth Street in downtown Dayton.  It featured modern country music and rock and roll.

The Living Arts Center was in a warehouse at 612 Linden Avenue in Dayton and was part of the Dayton City School System.  The Hotmud Family conducted workshops and jam sessions there which grew into the “WYSO Country Jamboree” in 1974 and continued there each Wednesday night until the Living Arts Center closed in 1977 due to funding problems.

A lot of musicians have gone through Larry Sparks’ band, the Lonesome Ramblers.  Notable alumni from the Cincinnati/Dayton area include Joe Isaacs, Mike Lilly, Wendy Miller, Tommy Boyd, Art Wydner, David Harvey, Dave Evans, and Larry’s sister, Bernice Sparks Neely.

In 1961, Jim Greer formed the Mac-O-Chee Valley Folks with Valeda Greer, Bob McPherson, and Dalton Burroughs.  The intriguing name comes from a creek that runs through Logan County near West Liberty and Bellefontaine.  In 1963 they cut an LP on Rite Records in Cincinnati, aptly titled “Bluegrass In Ohio”.  Around this time, they became members of the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia and played a lot of personal appearances up and down the east coast.  They recorded four LPs for Rural Rhythm Records and one for the Rite subsidiary, Golden Shield.  They disbanded in the 1970s after becoming tired of the road, but had reformed in 2006 and were making appearances around Ohio with two of the original members back on board, Jim on banjo and mandolin, and Bob McPherson on guitar and lead vocals.

Bill and Dewey were the Marcum Brothers.  They called their band the Stanton Mountain Boys and played around the Dayton area.   Bill played guitar and sang both tenor and lead.  Dewey played both lead guitar and banjo and sang lead.  Other musicians who worked with them were Jimmy Brewer, Ronnie Hatton, Dorsey Harvey, and Herman and Delbert Holt.

Located at 636 Washington Street in Dayton, Ohio, the Mecca Cafe was owned in the 1950s by Anthony Hasselman.  By 1960 it was called the Mecca Bar, and was being managed by Housard Hazel which apparently resulted in it also being referred to as Hazel’s.  Lonnie and Carlos Brock and Noah Crase played there in the early 1950s.

Founded in 1964 by Reverend William M. Jones in Hamilton, Ohio, this label concentrated on gospel records and released singles and/or LPs by Dave Woolum, Joe “Cannonball” Lewis, Joe Isaacs, J.D. Jarvis, and Curly Ray Cline, as well as a number of gospel groups.

MEMORIAL HALL                 
Located at 125 East First Street in Dayton, Ohio, and opened in 1910 as a memorial to the men from Montgomery County who had fought in the Civil and Spanish-American Wars, this venue played host to most of the bluegrass and country package shows to come through Dayton for many years.  Beginning in late 1938 and continuing until October 1939, John Lair’s “Renfro Valley Barn Dance” was broadcast from the stage of Memorial Hall, while construction of the barn in Renfro Valley, Kentucky, was being completed.  Bob Osborne first saw Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys there in 1947.  In the 1950s there would be shows with seven or eight name acts with a general admission charge of $1.00; if you wanted to sit in the first couple of rows it was 25 cents extra.  In those days, bluegrass and country acts appeared on the same show.  Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs appeared there shortly after “Earl’s Breakdown” had been released and every time Earl would do the tuning thing on his banjo the crowd would just go nuts.  In 1989 the “Dayton Bluegrass Reunion” was staged there, which brought together many of the bluegrass acts that had made Dayton famous in the bluegrass world over the previous 40 years.  In November of 1993 it hosted “A Tribute To Red Allen.”

The Mermaid was at 3100 East Third Street in Dayton.  At one time it had been a true night club featuring jazz and pop music.  In the early 1970s it began featuring bluegrass with Gene Sweet and Blue Grass Unlimited as the house band.  Red Allen made appearances here in 1971.

The successor to WLW’s Boone County Jamboree, the Midwestern Hayride started on radio in 1945 and moved to TV in 1948.  Eventually the Hayride was used by both the NBC and ABC-TV networks as a summer replacement show.  Some of the performers included the Turner Brothers and the Pleasant Valley Boys (Jerry Byrd, Tommy Jackson, Louie Innis, and Zeke Turner).  Toward the end in the 1970s the show was syndicated and used some national guest stars. including the Osborne Brothers.

Mountain Days is the annual celebration of the Appalachian culture in Dayton, Ohio.  August, 2006, is the 20th anniversary of the two-day event, which features bluegrass, country, old-time music, and clogging.  Both national and local acts are featured.  There are booths with traditional food, crafts, and organizations that can provide help for Dayton’s Appalachian population.  The event is coordinated by the Our Common Heritage organization.

A progressive-leaning bluegrass band, the Muddy River Band played a lot around the Dayton area in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Members included leader and bass player Ron Murphy, Ron’s wife Lora on guitar and vocals, Wayne Luessen on lead guitar, Pam Gadd on banjo, and Danny Cade on fiddle.  They cut an album on Vetco in 1980.

Tom Kopp
Miami University
President, Bgrass Board of Trustees

Bgrass, Inc.
P.O. Box 19253
Cincinnati, Ohio 45219-0253

Tax exempt 501(c) 3 organization

Sports & Events