I was recently asked by America’s Best Racing if I would be interested in writing a blog for the website about the things I am currently pursuing in my life.
I always considered myself a professional stall mucker and pretty good on the end of a shank, but a blogger? The only conclusion that I could draw after some personal musing was that I absolutely am in love with Kentucky and with Thoroughbred racing, so if my ramblings could in any way attract people to the lifestyle I have been so blessed to experience, how could I not give it a try?
It is my hope that I can share with y’all some of the great things I see happening and bridge the gap between the world of racing and the music I love.
So here goes…
My name is Arthur Hancock IV and I am a native of Paris, Ky. — bred and raised on Stone Farm in Bourbon County. My entire life I have done nothing but dream about raising a great racehorse. I spent a lot more time with my finger on the throttle of a weedeater then I did playing video games, so I would hope my perspective on life in the Bluegrass might defy my generation.
Two years ago, I took leave from Stone Farm where I was helping my father breed and raise horses. At 25 years old, I had a burning desire to get off the farm and explore the one other love of my life: music.
My story so far isn’t all that different than my father’s in many ways. He played on the radio when he was 12 and often spent more time learning songs than studying pedigrees. In his 20s, he was torn between music and horses. Lucky enough, he settled on horses because I doubt I would exist if he had followed the road of a hard-knocking country singer.
His accomplishments in music alone are pretty incredible, and his passion for horses and music has been burned into me in a way only befitting a father-son relationship.
Fourteen years ago, Dad decided that he wanted to cut a record of the Bluegrass tunes he had written over the years. With the help of his old friend Peter Rowan, he rallied some of my musical heroes and recorded “Sunday Silence.” The making of this record was and remains so important to me because I got to sit cross-legged on the floor of Master Link Studios in Nashville, Tenn., and watch guys like Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Bryan Sutton, Stuart Duncan and, most importantly, the great Kentuckian J.D. Crowe rip through the songs I had grown up hearing in my living room.
After seeing J.D. Crowe in the studio I felt like Stewie Griffin on that episode of “Family Guy” when the family is put in the witness protection program. I had to learn how to play the banjo.
By chance, there was a violin teacher at my school who also played banjo. I signed up and things have all gone downhill from there.
In case you aren’t familiar, Banjo players get a lot of jokes thrown at them and I am not afraid to make fun of myself.
I have always been very lucky. I graduated from high school and got to attend college in Nashville, where there is not exactly a shortage of musical experiences to be had. During college, my heart was still firmly set on getting out of school as soon as possible and getting home to learn as much as I could about Thoroughbreds and to help my family in the business. Let me just state the obvious: life doesn’t ever go the way we plan it.
Right now, my life seems to be lived a bit more on the road than back at the farm, waking up to feed horses each day. Writing these posts will become increasingly entertaining as I have some big plans for the summer.
In August, I am embarking on an 8,000-mile road trip with Mumford & Sons, Old Crowe Medicine Show, and Alabama Shakes (www.gentlemenoftheroad.com). If you have any real interest in music, you will reasonably understand that I almost spontaneously combusted when I learned that I was going to go on this trip, and more importantly that I was going to get paid to do so. I will also be playing my first real festival at Appalachian Uprising and going to a number of other great musical events.
The horse business is no different in that everyone involved is incredibly lucky to work at something that is exciting and rewarding. I always claimed that owning a Thoroughbred racehorse was one of the only things an out-of-shape, unathletic person could do to get on ESPN.
I would encourage each of you as fans of racing to work to promote our sport, not unlike what you do when you find a new band that you like.
Tell your friends, invite them to the races and teach them things you’ve been so lucky to absorb simply by being around the sport.
Training a horse is nothing short of an art. I will share the history of music and racing as I go forward with this blogging experiment. Horse racing is incredibly complex and absolutely fascinating.
If you are looking for a way to blend music and racing together then you don’t have to wait long or work too hard. The Festival of The Bluegrass, which is one of the oldest bluegrass festivals in the nation, is held in Lexington each year.
This year the festival is June 6-9 at The Kentucky Horse Park.
I will let y’all know a lot more about it as the weekend approaches, but coming up on April 13 and April 20, you can catch some live, free Bluegrass music at Keeneland from 5-7 p.m. America’s Best Racing will have their tailgate on “The Hill” next to the Keene Barn, and you can leave the coat and tie at home, bet and watch racing on a big screen, and hear some great Bluegrass music. April 13 will feature Laurel River Line from London, Ky. and April 20 will feature Town Mountain from Asheville, N.C. These shows are for free and presented by The Festival of the Bluegrass, so if you feel like hanging out after the races head up to the hill and enjoy some good food and music.
I would love to hear from you, so look me up and let me know if you want to share songs or stories.
With each post, I will share five songs that I think you’ll enjoy so get on your iTunes and see what you think: “Beaver Creek Mansion” by Sam Bush; “Run Secretariat Run” by Dale Pyatt, “Molly and Tenbrooks” the Bill Monroe version, “My Old Kentucky Home” the John Prine version, and “Run Junior Run” by Town Mountain.
Hope to see you at a show or at the races. Keep on Keepin’ on.