The Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys: Live at Midnight is a recording of an actual live broadcast over Allegheny Mountain Radio from the studios of WVMR, Frost, WV on October 10, 1999. In keeping with the traditional orientation of the band, there was no mixing or processing of the music, and only one microphone was used-an Audio-Technica AT4033A/SM.
The Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys are among West Virginia's oldest bluegrass bands. The group first organized in 1968 around the threesome of Richard Hefner (banjo/tenor vocal), his brother Bill Hefner (mandolin/baritone vocal), and the late Harley Carpenter (guitar/lead vocal). They took their name from Black Mountain in their native Pocahontas County. For some five years the group worked a weekly radio show on WVAR, Richwood WV and played at a lot of local events and regional bluegrass festivals. In the mid-1970s they recorded a pair of albums for the Lark label: "Million Lonely Days" (Lark 2140) and "Talk of the County" (Lark 2141).
As with most bluegrass bands, the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys have had personnel changes over the years. Richard Hefner is the only original member; Harley Carpenter passed away in 1998. Richard's traditional bluegrass banjo and tenor vocals have contributed both continuity and much of the "high lonesome" sound for which the band has become known. He has also displayed his banjo skills many times as a victor in contests and the Vandalia Festival. Chris Nickell from Monroe County, WV contributes some fine lead and rhythm guitar work as well as lead vocals. Rick Carpenter, Harley's son, does some fine mandolin picking as well as lead and baritone vocals. Bass player Mike Smith from Culloden, WV has worked with such notables as Larry Sparks, Dave Evans, and the Goins Brothers.
For their first recording project in several years, the band taped a live, on-air radio performance using a single microphone-as was much of the original bluegrass sound that later technology has never been able to surpass in quality. The numbers chosen reflect the band members' affection for the original pioneers of the music. "The Weary Heart You Stole Away", "The Memory of Your Smile", and "Honky Tonkin'" all come from the recorded repertory of the Stanley Brothers. So do "Train 45" and "Little Maggie", although these numbers date back to at least the late 20s. "I'm On My Way Back Home To The Old Home", "Pike County Breakdown", and "Shenandoah Breakdown" pay tribute to the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe. "Little Girl of Mine in Tennessee" and "Shuckin' the Corn" derive from the work of Flatt and Scruggs, as does the TV theme song "Petticoat Junction". "The Old Home Place" probably ranks as the most influential song introduced to bluegrass by the Dillards (the Darlings of the Andy Griffith TV show). "I'm Walking the Dog" was a big county hit for Webb Pierce in 1953, but only the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys and Del McCoury's Dixie Pals seem to have grasped what a great bluegrass song it is. "I Don't Know Why It Is That I Love You" comes from the Delmore Brothers and Wayne Raney. "Million Lonely Days" is a Richard Hefner original, dating back to 1968. Finally, two numbers demonstrate the band's ability to adapt songs from other musical traditions: "Charlie Brown" was a big hit in 1959 for the rock and roll group The Coasters and "Walking The Dog" comes from legendary Memphis blues man Rufus Thomas, who hit with it in the 1960s.
This radio show and CD are dedicated to the memory of Harley Carpenter whose dynamic guitar and great lead singing won him the title "The Elvis Presley of Bluegrass Music".