Mac Wiseman – All My Memories Fit for Print
By Dick Bowden |Bluegrass Today/August 31, 2015
“Mac Wiseman – All My Memories Fit for Print.” I just picked up this wonderful, densely packed bio of Mac Wiseman, from County Sales magazine. It’s just riveting if you’re into the history of bluegrass and country music, radio, recording, promoting, the music “biz,” and the sharp memories of Mac Wiseman’s career. There are 297 pages of text, then a discography, and finally a detailed index, bringing the page count to 337. Mac is just about my mother’s favorite singer, and she tore this book from me and burned through it in a couple of days.
Written by Walt Trott from Mac’s extensive musings, one is struck first by the power of Mac’s memory. It apparently has served him very well since his earliest days of promoting his and others’ music for radio play and live shows. Mac seems to have never forgotten a radio station owner, DJ, promoter or fellow performer. What a treasure trove of music history.
Although Mac goes out of his way to deny he is a “bluegrass” artist, feeling a bit cursed by the presence of 5-string banjo on his first solo recordings, there are plenty of tidbits about bluegrass music in this fine book, going as far back as Uncle Dave Macon, Molly O’Day and company.
The interweaving of the early bluegrass and “old country” sidemen is a nice surprise – e.g. Mac having hired away Charlie Monroe’s entire Kentucky Partners band in the late ’40s to work WCYB radio with him. If you wonder who are the sidemen on the frequent Mac Wiseman airplays on Sirius/XM Bluegrass Junction, you’ll learn their names here (including Tommy Jackson, Dale Potter, Ernie Newton, Stringbean!!, Hank Garland, Grady Martin, Oscar Sullivan and many more).
There are plenty of black and white photos; mostly Mac posing with various entertainers whom he’s known down through the years, but many pictures from his boyhood too. Several sidemen or colleagues give interesting testimony, notably banjoists Eddie Adcock and Donnie Bryant. There are plenty of terrific road stories, too.
Mac is candid and frank, rarely pulling his punches. There’s a sprinkling of salty language that just makes everything seem more “real.” Charlie Daniels provides a nice foreword, having once recorded a bluegrass Gospel album with Mac’s help.
This reviewer particularly enjoyed the early chapters about Mac’s boyhood, farming in Crimora VA. Older readers will really enjoy these memories. They emphasize that the founders of the music we love grew up in VERY different times and circumstances. Also enjoyable and surprising were many unpublicized personal tidbits about major artists in bluegrass and other genres.
The list of Mac’s accomplishments and honors is too long for this review, but they’re well documented. Highlights include:
- Blue Grass Boy
- Founding member of the Country Music Association (the last living charter member)
- Country Music Hall of Fame
- Bluegrass Hall of Fame
- Virginia Music Hall of Fame
- Dot Records A&R man and west coast manager
- Manager of WWVA Jamboree
- Owner of the Renfro Valley Bluegrass Festival
- American Federation of Musicians union officer (however troubled)
- Winner of the Presidential Medal of the Arts
These, and others, reflect on the massive contribution Mac has made to the world of entertainment. Apparently the book had no editor. Walt Trott’s chapters frequently re-plow the same ground, but from the slightly different angle of another stakeholder or colleague. Turning this into a positive — major points are certainly hammered home unforgettably!
This book is an important addition to your library on bluegrass and country music. It will not disappoint. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.