I get worked up when I hear people who have lived in Williamsport all their lives slamming the area because there is nothing to do.
I'm from Pennsylvania's rust belt, a depressed area where most of the culture is growing on leftovers in the back of refrigerators. Coming here was like going to heaven without dying.
We have terrific restaurants, awesome theater and music venues, a growing art scene - all of which translates into a very vibrant downtown - some of the prettiest country in the northeast and much, much more.
Goodtime Charlie is shown in the broadcast booth, where he records his “Sunday Morning Blues Brunch.”?
I'm proud to call this area my home.
One big influence over the area's quality of life is the Billtown Blues Association.
My wife and I feel blessed that, of all the places we could have moved to eight years ago, we came to a place with a vibrant, active blues organization. We had no idea.
The association hosts a first-class blues festival, publishes a high-quality newsletter, the "Billtown Blue Notes" and hosts several other seasonal concerts, including the Billtown Blues Challenge, which determines who will represent the area at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis each year.
The Billtown Blues Festival, held the second Sunday in June at the Lycoming County Fairgrounds, is the highlight of my summer before the summer officially begins. It is one reason why the blues association was honored in Memphis with the Blues Foundation's 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Award.
When I think of "keeping the blues alive," I also think of radio personality Goodtime Charlie Lockard and his "Sunday Morning Blues Brunch." The Memphis-based Blues Foundation agrees, having presented Charlie with the 2007 Keeping the Blues Alive Award for commercial radio.
For the last 20-plus years, Lockard, a Hughesville businessman, has been filling the local airwaves with his and his listeners' favorite blues songs. You can hear him from 9 to 11 a.m. each Sunday on 99.3 FM WZXR.
When his show is over, he packs his CDs and drives to Susquehanna University, where he broadcasts another show from noon to 2 p.m. on 88.9 WQSU.
Goodtime Charlie is approachable and humble. He's like a cool uncle or (in my case) older brother with the best music collection on the planet and a willingness to share that collection to anyone who will listen.
The man is dependable. Since his radio career first began in 1990, he has yet to miss a single broadcast regardless of the weather or personal circumstances. On the rare occasion when he has had to be out of town (usually to attend a blues event), he pre-records his shows.
Charlie is old school, too. He takes requests. He has no play list, but plays music based on feel - his own or his listeners'.
During the course of the "Blues Brunch," you're liable to hear the very broad musical spectrum that is the blues, from Robert Johnson to Johnny Winter and everything in between. You'll hear old, you'll hear new.
You'll hear Maria Muldaur, Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women, EG Kight, Marcia Ball, Candye Kane, Ana Popovic and Etta James; Albert King, Paul Butterfield, Johnny Copeland, Charlie Musselwhite, Victor Wainwright and Tab Benoit.
He supports local artists by playing recordings of the Blind Chitlin Kahunas, John "JT Blues" Thompson, and Miz Ida and the All-Nightas.
When I moved to Williamsport in 2004, I thought I had a pretty thorough knowledge of the blues.
Listening to Goodtime Charlie has added layers to that knowledge. As a result, much of the music I listen to and treasure today was first heard on Charlie's show.
It was on the Blues Brunch that I first heard Moreland and Arbuckle, a duo from Kansas that formed in 2002 and since then has been laying down a raw and gritty hybrid of garage rock, country and blues.
I first heard them when Charlie played the duo's "The Legend of John Henry," a fierce harmonica and slide guitar driven ode to the "steel-drivin' man" who died proving that nuts and bolts were no match for muscle and bone.
The song is on the band's aptly named (for this area) album, "Flood."
Another of my favorite albums is the Cash Box King's "Cuttin' Heads at the Cuda Cafe." I bought the CD after Charlie played the song "She Wants to Sell My Monkey" from that album, which is strong from start to finish.
Although "She Wants to Sell My Monkey" piqued my interest in the album, I'm more likely to listen to other cuts, like "All the Girls I've Loved (Have Moved Off to NYC)" and, my favorite, the "King's" version of Son House's "Preachin' Blues."
It is abundantly evident that Charlie loves what he is doing. He has told me on several occasions that he is blessed to be able to share the blues each week with whomever will listen.