feeding people

I sang last night in Campton, Kentucky. I remember being there years ago when our family first started singing. We sang in a really small church that was packed as tight as possible. The church I sang in last night brought those memories back.

The occasion for the event was a food bank that distributes food to hundreds of families in that area of the state. There is too much poverty in the region, and some folks won't eat at all if this supply is not kept up. I felt the need very worthy of the effort.

When I was singing professionally it wasn't always easy to do things like this. As much as we wanted to, and as much as it really, really did hurt us to have to say no from time to time, it was impossible for the Bishops to sing for every charity and do every fundraiser that was requested of us. There were often contractual elements that prevented it. More often than not, it was just a matter of available time. We could've sung every day and night of the month if we'd accepted every invitation to sing at some sort of benefit.

These days I'm in a better position to help when I can. Not depending on the music to make ends meet, I'm able to say yes to very worthy charities that many professional singers cannot. The pros are not bad people. They are not greedy. They are not "just in it for the money." They are wise keepers of their gifts and sensitive members of their families. They are using Godly judgement.

Everyone I know who makes music for a living is always more than willing to do what they can to help when they can. They are always ready to help those in need. But their first obligation is to feed their own families. And when it comes to others, they love feeding people.



Sometimes you just meet someone who strikes you as fun and happy all the time. Of course, most all of us know how to turn on the charm. But Jamie is a contagious charmer. That only comes naturally.

I'd seen him around here and there, but the first time I remember getting to visit and know Jamie well was at a Shakespeare in the Park play we both happened to be at. The event is one of my favorites. Friends join up and everyone brings a blanket and a cooler and some food, usually cheeses and crackers and fruits, and enjoys good company and a great play.

I didn't know that someone in our group had invited him, but by the time the play was over I was thinking that Jamie was a great guy. His wit and his laugh are fun. When it's time to take the moment seriously he knows how to properly treat it. Most people with a quick wit never figure that out. Jamie has.

He lives in Nashville these days, so I should be hearing the laughter from down that way soon. Today is his birthday. Somebody down there throw him a blowout party. He really deserves it.

Happy birthday Jamie!!


big kenneth or little kenneth?

I'm asked all the time if I'm a junior. I'm named after my dad but I'm not a junior. I think the rules say that the oldest son is the only child qualified to use the suffix. I don't know where I heard that, but it's been my excuse since I got the word. My brother Mark is the oldest of Kenneth Bishop's sons.

These days everyone calls me Kenny. Except, from time to time I'll run into someone who calls me Kenneth. When they do I know we go way, way back. When I started elementary school my teachers called me by my formal name. I didn't know we were allowed to tell them otherwise. All of my family, all of my friends at home, everyone at church and in the neighborhood called me Kenny. But at Waco Elementary School my name was Kenneth. With a fresh start in middle school I asked my teachers and new friends to call me Kenny instead. Up until then, when someone would call our house and ask for me or my dad we'd always have to ask, "big Kenneth or little Kenneth?"

Mr. Kenneth Bishop, my dad, is a remarkable man. When we were traveling and singing and making records and appearing on TV he never really seemed to be enamored by all of the attention. When others were talking about the honor of appearing on a certain stage or on a particular show he was bragging on his family or his church. Of course he was humbled by the opportunities that he'd say a simple, country boy usually doesn't enjoy. But the notoriety never seemed to amount to a lot to him.

Having his name is a huge honor. It's a lot to live up to. My dad is a pure heart. He sees many things in a black-and-white kind of way that I can't seem to. He has settled issues that I still grapple with. I admire that in a way. Today is his birthday and I hope the day is worthy of the claim.

Happy birthday Dad!!

death defying...

When I was a kid I was a HUGE Evel Knievel fan. I had his lunch box and his three ring binder and models of his motorcycle and lots of other EK stuff. I used to build little ramps with boards and bricks, tie a towel around my neck and pretend I was the man himself. I'd peddle my bike as fast as I could, spitting motorcycle sounds while I jumped over every little Hot Wheels car I could find. I lined 'em up like school buses 'cause that's what Evel used to jump.

The Christmas I got the Evel Knievel T-string pull toy was awesome! You'd feed that plastic "key" down the narrow slot, then pull it as hard as you could then throw it to the ground. That thing would take off and fly like the wind for about ten seconds. What a rush!! Then I got the Evel Knievel crank toy. This was the ultimate in EK excitement and worlds above anything I'd ever had before. You'd set the bike in the cradle, with the Evel doll gripping the handlebars of course. Then you'd crank the handle as hard and fast as you could before pulling the trigger and watching the doll fly off the seat. I loved it!!!

Evel was called lots of things. Most people called him crazy. Besides the buses, he jumped lots of other stuff, including the Snake River Canyon. His first "big" jump was over a box of rattlesnakes and mountain lions. Not all of his jumps were successful. He never made it to the other side of the big hole in the earth, and he barely missed the venom and the claws. Some called him the death defyer. He'd cheated death on more than a couple of dozen occasions. He barely survived several of his biggest feats, but always made his way back to eventually jump again.

You can't do something like that forever though. Back in November of 2007 it was cancer that caught up with the man who'd been so close so many times. Evel is finished jumping things now. It's hard to call him a death defyer anymore.

Today is a celebration of the real and ultimate defyer of dying. I'll bet that in his day there were more than a few folks who thought the outspoken rebel who worked on sabbath days and touched forbidden things and ate with skank was close to being finished a time or two himself. You didn't ignore the law and disregard tradition and established religion in times like those then live to tell about it. So they killed him. For making crazy claims, loving people more than rules and bucking the same-old-same-old they killed him.

His ideas didn't seem so crazy though when the final word was said. All those ridiculous claims had sudden merit when what they were sure was the final solution was over ruled. He claimed he could beat it, but they obviously didn't believe him. Who can outlive death?

Evel made a lot of claims in his career. He knew he'd eventually stop breathing and die. He became a Christian before he did, and as the once self-proclaimed death defyer, he knew he really wasn't, and he certainly knew he wasn't the original.

Happy Easter!



My friend Eric is celebrating his birthday today. I like Eric. His thoughts are strong and he believes in them enough to state them and stand by them. I've never known him to intentionally offend anyone, but not everyone appreciates his way with words.

I like him because he allows me the courtesy I allow him. When we disagree with each other it's agreeable. He isn't put off when I'm not convinced of his stance on things. Neither does he belittle my position when I've given him every chance to. He's a good guy that way.

Eric and I have a lot in common. I enjoy spending time hanging out with him and chatting about the stuff of the world - politics and government and movies and music and lots of other stuff. We're both studied thinkers who gets the facts and forms opinions and talks about it. He deserves a really good and happy birthday today.

Happy birthday Eric!!


mr. & mrs. bishop

Reverend Paul Arvin was a fresh and fiery Pentecostal preacher who pastored a small congregation in the mountains of east-central Kentucky. He was young, real young. His ministry was young. His family was young. And he was getting ready to perform his very first wedding ceremony. The young lovers had met in his church, and his ordination was just in time to make the proceedings legal.

On March 5, 1964 Kenneth Bishop sporting a dark suit jacket with a trendy tie, and Shirley Richardson adorned in a beautiful but simple dress were sealed in holy matrimony in the young preacher's house. Still in love, the wedding clothes have been hanging in the committed couple's closet for 44 years now.

The ceremony was very simple. I don't think there was any singing or music. There was a homemade cake though. A few family members were on hand and the kids of the house who were either oblivious to the event or just didn't care were jumping up and down on the furniture making all kinds of noise. The pictures I've seen of the occasion reveal a humble but happy day.

Forty four years is not a record. But it's certainly an admirable testament to a remarkable commitment that was made in very different, even uncertain times. Lots of marriages don't last. Mine didn't. Our reasons for giving up are mostly selfish. Sometimes the conditions leave no choice, but there are those couples that see current circumstances as reasons to bond and trust each other even more. They hang on, consider their partner more than themselves and make people like me so very, very proud to have their name.

Happy anniversary Mom and Dad!


shirley has no middle name

I guess it's because I have a middle name that I thought everyone did. Back in the stylish days of the 1980s most everyone who wanted to be somewhat preppy was wearing one of those sweaters with their initials embroidered on the chest. The first letter was smaller and to the left. The middle initial was smaller to the right, and the last initial was bigger in the middle. I don't know who made the embroidered-on-your-chest-initial rules, but we all followed. It never occurred to me that it could be an issue if someone didn't have three names to pull from.

Sometimes the most obvious is the least or last noticed.

Today is my mom's birthday. I was in the mall the other day, and I passed one of those stores that engraves whatever you want on a piece of glass or silver or wood or pewter or wood or something. I don't ever remember seeing my mom's initials on anything around the house, so I thought something from this fine establishment would be a nice gift for such a beautiful person. That's when I first noticed the obvious. My mom has no middle name. Her name is Shirley Bishop. That's it.

Our family is very traditional in a lot of ways. When women in our part of the world get married most of them completely take their husband's last name. It sounds old-fashioned and maybe even a little sexist, but that is still a big tradition where we live. So using Mom's maiden name as her middle name is not kosher. (Now that's funny. I don't care who you are.) Besides, it wouldn't be fair to Dad. He doesn't have a middle name either.

Even if she doesn't have three initials she's not in the least bit incomplete. There's more to that woman's spirit and heart than a lot of people will get to know. I hope this is her best birthday yet.

Happy birthday Mom!!