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Mac Wiseman

May 23, 1925

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Bluegrass master Mac Wiseman, known for having “the voice with a heart,” performed with everyone from Bill Monroe to Johnny Cash and John Prine and co-founded the Country Music Association. Photograph by kiagirltn on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Mac Wiseman, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Mac Wiseman, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Mac Wiseman, *On Susan’s Floor*, four-CD box set, Bear Family 2006
*Best of Mac Wiseman, Essential Original Masters*. Rural Rhythm 2006
*The Mac Wiseman Story*, audio cassette and vinyl. Cmh Records 1996
Mac Wiseman, *Precious Memories (The Classic Collection)*, Setco 2010
Mac Wiseman, *Bluegrass Hits and Heartsongs*, Rebel Record CD 7523

Malcolm B. “Mac” Wiseman grew up in Crimora, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley, an area steeped in traditional music. His home became a popular gathering place for music lovers because his parents had both a phonograph and a radio. At age 12, Wiseman began teaching himself to play the guitar and building a substantial repertoire of traditional songs.

After graduating from the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in 1945, Wiseman became an announcer for radio station WSVA in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and performed with local country bands on the weekends. Soon he was in demand by other groups and performed with Molly O’Day, Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys and Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Boys. He led his own band, then signed with Dot, a new label based in Gallatin, Tennessee. Their long association produced a number of hits, including Jimmy Brown the Newsboy, Shackles and Chains and The Ballad of Davy Crockett. Wiseman performed on several radio “barn dance” shows, including the Grand Ole Opry, before becoming a regular on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport in 1956. From 1957-61, Wiseman was an executive for Dot, which had moved to California. He was involved in founding the Country Music Association and served as its first secretary-treasurer.

Beginning with a performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1959, Wiseman became a regular at festivals throughout the United States and in Great Britain. Remaining active in music, in 1992 he narrated the bluegrass documentary High Lonesome and the following year was inducted into the International Bluegrass Association’s Hall of Fame.

A disc jockey friend once dubbed Wiseman’s soulful tenor “the voice with a heart.” Though he is thought of primarily as bluegrass musician, Wiseman has eclectic tastes and has admired singers from Montana Slim to Bing Crosby. He once recorded the pop tune My Blue Heaven with swing master Woody Herman and in 2007 teamed up for a CD with folk/country performer John Prine.

After he was nominated for the NEA honor, Wiseman was asked by an interviewer what had kept him playing, performing and writing music for so many years. “The enjoyment I get out of thinking I’m bringing others some happiness,” Wiseman replied. “I still learn a lot. I am able to give back to some extent, but I still pick up things that I think are important. I’ve always got my eyes and ears open. I listen to everything – I don’t always use it all, but I sift and listen to it.”

Bibliography
Ellis, Andy. “John Prine and Mac Wiseman Visit the Great American Standard Songs.” The Prine Shrine (December 2007).
Green, Douglas B. “Mac Wiseman – Remembering.” Muleskinner News 3, No. 5 (July 1972).
Henderson, Tom. “Mac Wiseman,” Pickin’ 2, No. 7 (August 1975) pp 4-14.
Rhodes, Don. “Mac Wiseman.” BGU 16, No. 2 (August 1981).
Thompson, Richard. “Mac Wiseman – Bluegrass Hits and Heartsongs.” The Bluegrass Blog (June 15, 2009).

Discography
Wiseman, Mac. Bluegrass Hits and Heartsongs. Rebel Record CD 7523, 2009.
__________. Old Likker in a New Jug. Wise CD-113.
__________. Waiting for the Boys to Come Home. Wise CD-114.
__________. 15 of My Grandma’s Favorites. Music Mill CD-50110 and Wise CD-110.
__________. On Susan’s Floor. Four-CD box set. Bear Family 2005.
__________. Mac Wiseman Story. Audiocassette and vinyl. Cmh Records 1996.

__________. Precious Memories (The Classic Collection). Setco 2010.
__________. Best of Mac Wiseman. Essential Original Masters. Rural Rhythm 2006.
__________. Tis Sweet to Be Remembered: Complete Recordings 1951-1964. Bear Family 2003.
__________ and John Prine. Standard Songs for Average People. Oh Boy Records CD.OBR-038.

Watch

Tribute to Mac Wiseman, featuring Jesse McReynolds, 2008 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Bethesda, Maryland, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Tribute to Mac Wiseman, featuring Jesse McReynolds, 2008 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Bethesda, Maryland, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts


Listen

Mac Wiseman, 'Tis Sweet To Be Remembered,' Tis Sweet to Be Remembered: Complete Recordings 1951-1964, Bear Family 2003

Mac Wiseman, 'Danger! Heartbreak Ahead,' Tis Sweet to Be Remembered: Complete Recordings 1951-1964, Bear Family 2003

Mac Wiseman, 'Shame, Shame, Shame,' Tis Sweet to Be Remembered: Complete Recordings 1951-1964, Bear Family 2003