Berk Bryant, long-time host of WFPK’s Sunday Bluegrass program has passed away. His daughter, Sherry, says she spoke to him briefly on the phone Thursday morning, so was supprised to learn of his passing on Christmas Eve. He’d been living with advanced vascular dementia and was residing in an assisted living facility located near her in Lynchburg, Virgina. A celebration of his life will be planned in Kentucky when COVID restrictions are lifted.
During his 30 years on-the-air, Berk garnered many fans and followers with his larger-than-life personality, knowledge of the genre and strong connection to the bluegrass community.
Click the play button above to hear a lovely tribute from our Best of Bluegrass host, Bob Mitchell followed by a montage of Berk’s show open, Berk reciting two of his original poems, and to hear him say “time to get a donut” one last time. Read the obituary here.
Born in 1930 in Lynchburg, Va., Bryant had always been a showman. After spending two years in the Army, Bryant found himself hosting a country radio show on Lynchburg’s WWOD that he dubbed Country Gentleman Time. That was in 1954, and the title stuck. Until his exit from the airwaves, Bryant was still known as the “Country Gentleman”.
Bryant eventually joined the Army again in the mid ’60s, working on the radio at Walter Reed Hospital and on AFKN in Korea. He spent the last 12 years of his military career as a special agent in counter-intelligence.
Following his retirement from the military, Bryant settled down in Louisville and was encouraged by friends to try to get a show on public radio. The rest, as they say, is history. Over his 30-year career at WFPK, Bryant championed many Louisville and regional bluegrass musicians and held fast in his mission to highlight the pioneers of traditional country and bluegrass, like Hank Williams, Sr. and Ralph Stanley.
Read more about Berk in a 1999 interview that appeared in a volunteer newsletter.
Our condolences are shared with all of Berk’s family, friends and many fans.