December 2020

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The Tradition

Notes & Queries – December

NOTES In the September 2020 column, there was a discussion of legendary fiddler John Ashby of Warrenton, Va., and the Ashby clan of Fauquier County. One member of the clan is J. Ashby Rollins, a singer and mandolin picker who worked with Charlie Smith’s Potomac Valley Boys. This writer saw the band a number of… Read the full article

The Birth of Bluegrass Music

Peter Rowan has said, “When you are standing next to the fire that is Bill Monroe, you will ignite.”1  From the first time Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys stepped on the Grand Ole Opry stage on October 28th, 1939, and played Jimmie Rodgers’ “Muleskinner Blues” so fast that it astounded the Opry regulars… Read the full article

Bluegrass Funnyman

In the formative days of bluegrass, bands sought to offer a well-rounded entertainment package. Music, naturally, was the core of the programs but comedy was always an important component. Ralph Stanley, in speaking of the early days of the Stanley Brothers, recalled that “we used a comedian all the time; somebody would dress up and… Read the full article

A “Hidden Legend” Steps into the Spotlight

The Arnold Shultz Fund is launched in honor of influential western Kentucky musician In July 2020, the IBMA Foundation established the Arnold Shultz Fund to support activities increasing participation of people of color in bluegrass music. Arnold Shultz (1886–1931) was an African American musician from western Kentucky who had a profound influence on Bill Monroe’s… Read the full article

Hall of Famers Unveiled

Jimmy Martin As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the bluegrass genre, Bluegrass Unlimited magazine will look deep into what made those first-generation bluegrass artists tick.  At the magnificent and sprawling Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum in Owensboro, KY, the venue seeks to tell the story of bluegrass music by going… Read the full article

Old-Time Music and Bluegrass: Separate But Intertwining Branches

There are certain questions that anyone who plays bluegrass has encountered more than once from well-intentioned (mostly) listeners.  “Is that a ukulele?” to the mandolinist.  “What’s the difference between a fiddle and a violin?” (Generally, about $50,000 a year). “Do you know ‘Wagon Wheel?’” (No!!!) Right up there amongst them is, “What’s the difference between… Read the full article

The Artists

The Sound

The Legendary Tex Logan Jam Sessions

I first met the double-genius, Dr. Benjamin “Tex” Logan, in the mid ’60’s. My long-time friend and guitar player, Bernie Coveney, and I had recently discovered bluegrass music (in New Jersey of all places!) as we searched for a radio station in the car and ended up on WWVA and the Wheeling, WV Saturday Night… Read the full article

Ben Mason

Bluegrass Builders Photos By Kristen Ellis Photographer Not only is Kentucky home to legendary bluegrass musicians like Rosine’s Bill Monroe, Lexington’s J.D. Crowe and Cordell’s Ricky Skaggs, but many lavish luthiers as well, whether it be Russell Springs’ Frank Neat, who’s built custom banjos for the likes of Earl Scruggs to the aforementioned Crowe and… Read the full article

The Venu

Bluegrass Country Soul

Taking Us Back to 1971 For those in the bluegrass community who have been unable to attend live festivals since February  because of COVID-19, a trip back to Carlton Haney’s Blue Grass Park in Camp Springs, North Carolina on Labor Day weekend, 1971, might be just the ticket.  The remastered, boxed set version of the… Read the full article

Uncle Pen’s Fiddle

Photos By Jamie Alexander So says the song that Bill Monroe wrote about his fiddle playing Uncle Pendleton Vandiver, brother to his mother, Malissa.  Speaking of his Uncle Pen in a 1966 radio interview, Monroe said, “He played for a lot of square dances in Kentucky….There wasn’t many musicians around and back in the early… Read the full article

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