Arts & Culture

Kevin Willis

Michael Veach is a man who knows his bourbon. Not just because he enjoys Kentucky's signature spirit, but because he's also one of the nation's foremost bourbon historians.

Veach is associate curator of special collections at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, and the author of the new book Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Tradition. In his recent interview with WKU Public Radio, Veach told us about the many tall tales he had to debunk surrounding the history of bourbon.

Here are a few web audio extras featuring Veach that we didn't have time to include in the interview we aired this week:

The world-renowned choral ensemble Chanticleer is coming to Western Kentucky University Thursday evening as part of the school's Cultural Enhancement Series. The performance is at 7:30pm C.T. at Van Meter Auditorium, and is free and open to the public.

The group will perform a program called The Siren's Call. This program celebrates the sea with music from New Zealand, Hawaii and China complemented by Chanticleer's signature treatments of Gregorian Chant and Renaissance music.

WKU Public Radio's Lee Stott spoke with Jace Wittig, Chanticleer's Music Director, about the group and its April 11 performance in Bowling Green.

Annette Funicello, who was one of the first child stars to emerge out of The Mickey Mouse Club, has died, the official Disney Fan Club reports.

Kevin Willis

It's a golden era for Kentucky's signature spirit. Bourbon has never been more popular in the U.S. or throughout the world. Bourbon's colorful history is shrouded in mystery, with a lot of tall tales and legends popping up throughout the years.

Michael Veach put bourbon under the microscope and put his skills as an historian to work in his new book, Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage. Veach is the associate curator of special collections at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville.

He spoke to WKU Public Radio's Kevin Willis about how the term "bourbon" first became applied to Kentucky whiskey, where the idea of charring barrels came from, and who we should thank for the current popularity of bourbon:

There are a lot of legends surrounding bourbon that you have to debunk as an historian looking into the origins of Kentucky’s famous whiskey. One of those legends is that bourbon is named after Bourbon County, Kentucky. What did you find out?

“You know, I would love to have been able to prove that bourbon was named after Bourbon County, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized I just couldn’t do that.”

Kevin Willis

When it’s lunch time at the Smokey Pig barbeque restaurant in Bowling Green, be prepared to wait in line. This place opens at 10:30 a.m., and within an hour on a recent Tuesday, almost every table was taken and every seat claimed. I came to the Smokey Pig today to meet with a man who claims to be afflicted with something he calls H.E.B.D--Hyper Enthusiastic Barbeque Disorder.

Wes Berry, the self-diagnosed victim of H.E.B.D is also a Ph.D-holding Professor of English at WKU. And he has just authored a book—not about fine literature or poetry—but about his true passion: barbeque. And more specifically, the kinds of barbeque one can find in the Bluegrass State.

The Kentucky Barbeque Book is Berry’s love letter to his favorite food and state. The Barren County native says he’s eaten at 168 barbeque restaurants, joints, shacks, festivals, and Catholic church picnics in the commonwealth.

All in the name of good research, of course.

Barbeque: Monroe County Style

The Smokey Pig is the place Wes and I have chosen to talk about Bluegrass State barbeque. I follow Wes’s lead regarding what I order. They say “when in Rome”, and when it comes to barbeque, Wes Berry is Caesar.

Owensboro Symphony

Note: Technical problems prevented the originally planned broadcast of this program last week.

Join us Sunday, March 24th at 8pm C.T., as conductor Nicholas Palmer joins Lee Stott to look back at some recent concerts, and to preview what's ahead for the Owensboro Symphony during its "Magical Season."


After 36 years, the curtain is closing on the Kentucky Repertory Theatre in Horse Cave. According to its board of directors, the theatre is no longer able to compete for funding and patrons. Liz Fentress is among those saddened by the announcement. She currently teaches at Actors Theatre of Louisville, but says some of her best times were spent at the theatre in Horse Cave.

"I have memories of being in the audience watching professional performances by other people. I have memories of directing fine actors, Warren Hammack and Pamela White being at the top of the list. "And I have wonderful memories of performing there myself," said Fentress.

In addition to professional acting, the Kentucky Repertory Theatre also served as a training ground for young talent. Since it opened in 1977, the theater staged 230 productions. 

Board of Directors Chairwoman Lyn Taylor Long says economic challenges were just too great to overcome, including a loss of major donors.

International Bluegrass Music Museum

Country music legend Merle Haggard will headline this year's Romp Festival near Owensboro. The three-day bluegrass festival is held as a fundraiser for the International Bluegrass Music Museum.  Marketing Director Danny Clark says Haggard is sure to please with a mix of country and bluegrass.

"I'm really glad he's coming because he has such a tie-in with bluegrass music. A lot of people know he actually recorded a bluegrass albumn a couple of years ago and had a lot of great performers on there with him,” says Clark.

The 76-year-old Haggard will be joined at ROMP by other legends like The Del McCoury Band and Sam Bush. This year's festival will be June 27th through 29th at Yellow Creek Park. The full lineup of performers and ticket information is available online at

Rogue Cinema

An independent filmmaker from Owensboro is wrapping up an effort to help spotlight other filmmaking talent in the region.

"Unscripted: An Indie Film Xperience" is the brainchild of P.J. Starks, and is a collaboration between his film company and the Daviess County Public Library. The series of short films written, directed, and produced by filmmakers in the Owensboro-Daviess County region concludes Friday night.

Starks says the series gives attendees the chance to see the local films, and then watch them again with the director offering live, interactive commentary.

"It gives the public and the community an opportunity to see the types of talent and artistry we have in the area, and the types of films being made, because it really does run the gamut," says Starks.

Several regional arts groups are combining efforts to bring Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" to Bowling Green.

Monday's performance will feature Orchestra Kentucky, the University of Louisville Collegiate Choir, the Murray State Concert Choir, and students from Briarwood and Richardsville Elementary Schools in Bowling Green.

Lee Stott spoke to members of the groups about the origins of the text used by Orff in his famous cantata, and the difficulty of singing some of the demanding vocal parts.

The show takes place Monday, Feb. 11, at SKyPAC in Bowling Green.