Saturday, December 15, 2012


“Peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody, that is far superior to the sound of war.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Over 40 children were killed or injured in two schools in one single day, one in CT and the other in China.

Sometime the music community needs to go beyond what is normal. I want to suggest that songwriters and musicians take the lead in bringing their music into the schools. These kids need it. Especially now. We are living among the first generation in h
uman history that receives art and music in a lifeless, non-community two dimensional form. Kids today rarely experience real, living music. 

I'm talking about folksingers, cello players, poets, storytellers, bluegrass bands and more calling on a hometown school and offering to play a 30-minute concert ... for free. Most schools work best if you are attached to a 501-c-3 non-profit, so I am willing to "loan" anyone mine for the project.

Just send an email to: (put SCHOOLS in the subject heading) and we will send you a one-page PDF explaining how to do it, and what kind of concerts work best. It's easy and very meaningful.

NOTE: For those a bit timid, most schools only have time for a thirty-minute concert. That's four songs, five tops. And yes, you are good enough.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

WoodSongs Finds New Home at the Lyric Theatre in Downtown Lexington



(Lexington, KY) - In what is described by all parties involved as a “win – win –win” the worldwide broadcast of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour will move from its current home of the Kentucky Theatre to the brand new facilities of the historic Lyric Theatre & Cultural Center, just a few blocks away.

WoodSongs airs on 506 radio stations including WEKU, WUKY and WMMT regionally. The show is broadcast each weekend on the American Forces Radio Network in 173 nations and every US Naval ship at sea. As a TV series it partners with KET and Insight Communications and is seen in millions of USA TV homes from San Diego to Orlando.  It is also broadcast three times a week on the Bluehighways TV Network coast-to-coast, plus online.
“The Kentucky Theatre has been and still is wonderful,” says WoodSongs creator and host Michael Johnathon. “They are preparing to undergo a major remodel, which we support completely. That means WoodSongs would need to vacate anyway to make room for the new construction. The broadcast normally shuts down for several weeks this time of year so, even though this is early in the remodeling process, moving to the Lyric now is the most practical for the crew and the theatre.” 

Just a few blocks away waits the Lyric Theatre, normally closed and dark on a Monday night. 

"Our partnership with Woodsongs comes at an exciting time," says Yetta Young, Executive Director of the Lyric Theatre.  "Not only will the ‘family and community friendly’ broadcast be a unique opportunity for the Lyric - located in the heart of Lexington - but this partnership will also introduce a new audience, as well as a new group of artists, to our historic, state-of-the-art venue. Aristotle says that 'friendship is essentially a partnership' and the Lyric Staff and Board are looking forward to creating a long-lasting friendship with Team Woodsongs."

“This worked out perfect,” Johnathon continues, “because the Lyric is uniquely designed and technically prepared for the coming high-definition TV upgrade for our show. The opportunity is amazing. What the show does for downtown, for the music, for the artists, for Kentucky and especially Lexington is equally amazing. Once WoodSongs converts to hi-def TV the show will have a bigger audience than A Prairie Home Companion and the Grand Ole Opry combined.”

Television has been a big part of WoodSongs worldwide audience. This summer, the all-volunteer TV crew for the show won the 2012 Telly Award for TV Broadcasting. 

"Woodsongs has been a key part of the KET program schedule for many years now,” says Craig Cornwell, KET Director of Programming. “The show presents an incredible array of artists as well as shining a proud spotlight on Kentucky. As the presenting station of Woodsongs to PBS stations around the country, we look forward to the new possibilities this change to the Lyric Theatre brings." 

Perhaps the most amazing part of WoodSongs, which attracted thousands of people through the doors of the Kentucky Theater to see the likes of Norah Jones, Judy Collins, Michael Martin Murphy, Jakob Dylan, Brandi Carlile, Neko Case, Wanda Jackson, Rhonda Vincent, Richie Havens, JD Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Blind Boys of Alabama, John McEuen, Iris DeMent, The Avett Brothers, Joan Osborne and scores of others, is that it is completely volunteer run. Even the artists come free to be on the show. 

 “Although we will miss the Kentucky, we are looking forward the move,” says WoodSongs chief engineer Kevin Johnson. “The Lyric has newer technology the show has needed for a while. The new theatre should be less work for the crew and provide a stable technical environment for the audience and broadcast.“

WoodSongs’ move to the Lyric is considered by all involved as a positive contribution to the huge musical history of the venue. Built in the 1940s the Lyric was the only stage in the region presenting concerts by Ray Charles, Count Basie, BB King, Cab Calloway and many others. 

"Woodsongs will contribute to the continued renaissance of downtown Lexington's East End." says Ed Lane, 12th District Council Member. “The program will be yet another cultural option at the historic Lyric Theater

The Kentucky Theater has been home for WoodSongs since 2003 and has recently launched a major fund raising campaign to install much need improvements and upgrades. 

 “They have been great and Fred Mills deserves a community award for his dedication to the theater," adds Johnathon. “And they’ve been patient. They’ve lost a lot of business from other presenters who wanted to use the stage but couldn’t because WoodSongs took up so much space.” 

The all-volunteer run broadcast operates on a delicately crafted business model that depends on community involvement. The show is supported by the Lexington Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Bluegrass Hospitality Association and area hotels, Insight Communications and KET, local restaurants that donate dinners for the artists the day of the broadcast, Highbridge Spring Water,, and American Recordable Media.  

In exchange for that support, WoodSongs sings the praises of Lexington and the Commonwealth worldwide. Literally. 

“We are delighted Woodsongs has found a new home at the historic Lyric Theater,” said Jim Browder, president of the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The Lyric is a wonderful venue with a great tradition in downtown Lexington. We commend Woodsongs for its commitment to downtown and for all it does to showcase Lexington to an international audience.” 

WoodSongs kicks off at the Lyric Theatre on Monday,  January 7 with multi-award winning musician Victor Wooten (of Bela Fleck and the Fleckstones.) Fans of the show can expect artists like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Crystal Gayle, Mike Scott and the Waterboys and many others to grace the stage of the Lyric in 2013, including the celebration of WoodSongs 700th broadcast.

The audience needs to be seated by 6:45 and there is plenty of free parking alongside the Lyric Theater. The shows reservation hotline remains 859-252-8888. 

The Troubadour Concert Series, also created and produced by Johnathon, celebrates 20 years at the Kentucky Theatre on January 31 with a concert by Grammy winner Shawn Colvin. Since Troubadour events are booked on a concert-by-concert basis, plans are to continue programs at the Kentucky Theatre until remodeling actually begins.

Details will be posted online at and 

The Lyric Theatre is located in downtown Lexington at 300 E Third St. Readers wishing to donate to the Kentucky Theatre's renovation fund can visit


CONTACT: Toni Melton

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 23, 1940 ... History on a Note Pad

It was a cold, winter day in early 1940.

It was February 23, and a songwriter hunkered down in his small New York City apartment, grateful to be home, sitting in front of a small heater by his window with his lyric pad and guitar in his lap, finishing the lyrics to a new song.

The young folksinger had just returned home from a job in the Pacific northwest writing a batch of songs for a documentary about the Grand Coulee Dam. He made his way south to Texas for a visit with his estranged wife and children, where he decided to divorce and leave them for good.

As he made his way back to his apartment in Greenwich Village in New York City and his new girlfriend, he ran out of money. First he sold his guitar. Then, finally, he sold his car and began hitch hiking.

He made his way as far as Pittsburgh and got caught in a cold, icy snowstorm. The winds blew right through him as he walked along the highway, hoping for a ride. Soon, the freezing cold overtook him, his body temperature began dropping and he started to feel faint.

A Pennsylvania Ranger happened along and found the songwriter suffering from hypothermia, gave him a ride to his home where he fed him a bowl of hot clam soup and gave him money for a bus ticket home.

This generosity had a profound affect on the young songwriter. He considered the beauty of the roads and country he just traveled, the ribbon of a highway he just hitched rides on to make his way home. America was at war. A global economic meltdown crippled economies world wide. Influenza was killing millions and Hitler was killing more millions in Europe. A massive climatic change sent hundreds of thousands of families fleeing the dust bowls of the mid-west to California, seeking jobs promised but never realized. And yet the people, the families of this land, were still to kind and passionate for each other. Their dignity superseded the troubles they faced.

On the radio was song written by Irving Berlin called “God Bless America” which offended and angered the troubled singer. He felt the Berlin song made light of the true spirit, integrity and love of the average person. He felt people needed a song that reflected their true goodness and love for home. As he made his way home on the bus, the ticket provided for him by the kindness of the Pennsylvania Ranger, he began writing the words to a song in retaliation to Irvin Berlin’s tune.

His song would be called “God Blessed America for You and Me” but his friend, a banjo player and fellow communist and folksinger, didn’t like it.

So he changed the title.

And on February 23, 1940, Woody Guthrie completed the lyrics to “This Land Is Your Land.”


This is the setting for the Woody Guthrie opera, called Woody: For the People. The first arias of act one have been recorded with a full orchestra and fine opera singers and released to radio. I had promised someone I would give them an opera as a gift ... and within a few months of that promise, I managed to actually do it. You can find more information about the project, hear the arias, even pick up a copy of the brand new CD at

Click on the YouTube window below to hear the opening Overture and the first aria, Pennsylvania Road. The graphics will tell the storty of the opera.

If you love Woody, love opera and would like to sponsor this project on public television and have it shown in schools across north America ... email me at