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Local historian's Derby song headlines Senate jam session

Thursday, February 9, 2006 12:00 AM
  • General
FLORENCE, KY . . . February 9, 2006 . . . A new song that captures the anticipation and drama of the Kentucky Derby will be performed on the floor of the Kentucky State Senate at 1:45 p.m., Wednesday, February 15. Featuring lyrics by Turfway Park historian James C. Claypool and music by Dan Knowles and Tim May, “Sunrise at the Downs” will introduce the session. After the legislative business of the day, Senate Majority Leader Dan Kelley will pick up his guitar and join Knowles and May in a jam session.

The idea for the performance came from Kentucky State Senator Jack Westwood, himself a member of a church quintet.

Claypool earned his Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky in 1968 and in 2002 was named professor emeritus at Northern Kentucky University. For the past 10 years he has been a Kentucky Humanities Council featured speaker, lecturing throughout the Tri-State on all aspects of Kentucky history, including its music. For several years he has lectured aboard the Delta Queen and the River Explorer on cruises down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and it was during one such trip that he wrote the lyrics to “Sunrise at the Downs.”

A national consultant on Thoroughbred racing for the Smithsonian Institution, Claypool is the author of The Tradition Continues: The Story of Old Latonia, Latonia, and Turfway Racecourses and is currently at work on a biography of Hall of Fame jockey Steve Cauthen.

Singer-songwriter Dan Knowles has four times been Tennessee State Old Time Banjo Champion and in 2003 earned the national title. With some of his songs hitting the national charts, he has released several CDs, most recently Dan Knowles Presents the Almost Brothers . . . Archive. Knowles also has been a guest at national venues including the Grand Ole Opry.

Tim May is an award-winning mandolin player and flatpicking guitarist from Tennessee. He has appeared on national radio and television and has been regularly featured at festivals as a soloist and with his former band Crucial Smith. In recent years he has toured with Patty Loveless, played on an all-star-cast Rounder project called Moody Bluegrass: A Nashville Tribute to the Moody Blues, and recorded a bluegrass gospel project with Charlie Daniels. His first solo CD, Find My Way Back, was released by FGM Records.

Cincinnati club owner and bluegrass artist Bobby Mackey plans to include a bluegrass version of “Sunrise at the Downs” on his next CD. The songwriters plan to invite 2006 Grammy nominee Rhonda Vincent to sit in with Mackey on the project; the two have successfully teamed on previous projects, including Mackey’s latest CD, Ten Shades of Green.

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