Heard on the Hill: Own a Piece of Byrd History

Posted June 30, 2010 at 6:23pm

As Congress says goodbye today to Sen. Robert Byrd, a Virginia record label is remembering the West Virginia Democrat’s music career by rereleasing his 1978 bluegrass album, “Mountain Fiddler.”

Rebel Records’ Mark Freeman tells HOH that plans have been in the works to release the album for about a year and a half. Freeman’s company had even produced CDs of the album and was in negotiations with Byrd’s office to pick a release date.

Immediately after Byrd died, officials were hesitant to release the album — “We didn’t want people to think we were just cashing in,” Freeman says — but they decided to do so after getting calls from people wanting to buy it.

“A lot of our customers had the original album on vinyl, and … we started getting bombarded with calls,” Freeman adds.

Byrd recorded “Mountain Fiddler” with famed bluegrass producer Barry Poss, who at the time was working for Freeman’s father. The album was a huge success and even led to Byrd making a guest appearance on “Grand Ole Opry.”

“I was just a young kid then, but I know they did a release party at a record store right there on Dupont Circle,” Freeman says. “A lot of media were there, and it was picked up by a lot of the news networks. It was a great response, and in turn, it sold a lot of copies.”

Joe Barton’s Jeering Section

At first glance, it seemed Rep. Joe Barton had a lot of fans in the stands during Tuesday’s Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, as dozens of folks wore yellow T-shirts with his name printed on the back.

But then again, HOH guesses the Texas Republican didn’t want to be named “BP’s MVP,” which was emblazoned on the front of the shirts.

Environmental coalition group Clean Energy Works designed the T-shirts to bash Barton for his infamous apology to BP.

But Barton wasn’t the only target — the group also jeered Members who have taken campaign contributions from oil companies or voted for legislation that the group says favors Big Oil. CEW even handed out rosters giving each Member a “Big Oil Average,” and protesters cheered for Members with low averages and heckled those with high ones.

For his part, Barton told HOH that he’s “honored that they spelled my name right” on the T-shirts.

“I’m just glad that they came to the game and had a good time,” he said. “I don’t have any problem with any of that.”

Who Wasn’t at Acqua Al 2?

While many Members of Congress flocked to Nationals Park on Tuesday night for the annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, other political VIPs were spotted dining at what is quickly becoming Capitol Hill’s most popular hot spot.

Several Members and top White House officials stopped by Eastern Market Italian restaurant Acqua Al 2 on Tuesday, HOH hears. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and John Mica (R-Fla.) all came by the restaurant, chef and owner Ari Gejdenson says.

HOH notes that Emanuel often dines at Acqua Al 2 — he even signed one of the plates that decorate the eatery’s walls.

Reg Reform, the Musical

The House Rules Committee hearing Wednesday on the financial regulatory reform bill might have been an intense affair, but the session ended with some levity.

Rules ranking member David Dreier (R-Calif.) observed toward the end of the meeting that the entire hearing had been “great theater.”

“Wait until you see the musical,” quipped Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the bill’s chief sponsor (and a noted comedian).

Riffing on the theatrical possibilities of the proceedings, Dreier replied that he felt like he was already watching a musical, what with all the ringing of cell phones in the audience.

“We’re opening in L.A. next week,” Frank deadpanned.

HOH can see the potential: A musical version would certainly have high drama and colorful characters. But is it better than “Cats”?

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