This article needs additional citations for verification . (May 2011) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Cultural origins||c. 1945, United States|
|Musicians – Hall of Honor|
Bluegrass music is a genre of American roots music that developed in the 1940s in the United States Appalachian region. The genre derives its name from the band Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. Bluegrass has roots in traditional English, Irish, and Scottish ballads and dance tunes, and by traditional African-American blues and jazz.The Blue Grass Boys played a Mountain Music style that Bill learned in Asheville, North Carolina from bands like Wade Mainer's and other popular acts on radio station WWNC. It was further developed by musicians who played with him, including 5-string banjo player Earl Scruggs and guitarist Lester Flatt. Bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe characterized the genre as: "Scottish bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin'. It's Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It's blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound."
William Smith Monroe was an American mandolinist, singer, and songwriter, who helped to create the style of music known as bluegrass. Because of this, he is commonly referred to as the "Father of Bluegrass".
Asheville is a city and the county seat of Buncombe County, North Carolina, United States. It is the largest city in Western North Carolina, and the 12th-most populous city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. The city's population was 89,121 according to 2016 estimates. It is the principal city in the five-county Asheville metropolitan area, with a population of 424,858 in 2010.
Wade Echard Mainer was an American country singer and banjoist. With his band, the Sons of the Mountaineers, he is credited with bridging the gap between old-time mountain music and Bluegrass and is sometimes called the "Grandfather of Bluegrass." In addition, he innovated a two-finger banjo fingerpicking style, which was a precursor to modern three-finger bluegrass styles.
Bluegrass features acoustic string instruments and emphasizes the offbeat. Notes are anticipated in contrast to laid back blues where notes are behind the beat, which creates the higher energy characteristic of bluegrass.In bluegrass, as in some forms of jazz, one or more instruments each takes its turn playing the melody and improvising around it, while the others perform accompaniment; this is especially typified in tunes called breakdowns. This is in contrast to old-time music, in which all instruments play the melody together or one instrument carries the lead throughout while the others provide accompaniment. Breakdowns are often characterized by rapid tempos and unusual instrumental dexterity and sometimes by complex chord changes.
Accompaniment is the musical part which provides the rhythmic and/or harmonic support for the melody or main themes of a song or instrumental piece. There are many different styles and types of accompaniment in different genres and styles of music. In homophonic music, the main accompaniment approach used in popular music, a clear vocal melody is supported by subordinate chords. In popular music and traditional music, the accompaniment parts typically provide the "beat" for the music and outline the chord progression of the song or instrumental piece.
Old-time music is a genre of North American folk music. It developed along with various North American folk dances, such as square dancing, clogging, and buck dancing. It is played on acoustic instruments, generally centering on a combination of fiddle and plucked string instruments, as well as the mandolin.
In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. In classical music, tempo is typically indicated with an instruction at the start of a piece and is usually measured in beats per minute. In modern classical compositions, a "metronome mark" in beats per minute may supplement or replace the normal tempo marking, while in modern genres like electronic dance music, tempo will typically simply be stated in bpm.
There are three major subgenres of bluegrass. Traditional bluegrass has musicians playing folk songs, tunes with traditional chord progressions, and using only acoustic instruments, with an example being Bill Monroe. Progressive bluegrass groups may use electric instruments and import songs from other genres, particularly rock & roll. Examples include Punch Brothers, Cadillac Sky and Bearfoot. Another subgenre, bluegrass gospel, uses Christian lyrics, soulful three- or four-part harmony singing, and sometimes the playing of instrumentals. A newer development in the bluegrass world is Neo-traditional bluegrass; exemplified by bands such as The Grascals and Mountain Heart; bands from this subgenre typically have more than one lead singer. Bluegrass music has attracted a diverse following worldwide.
Traditional bluegrass, as the name implies, emphasizes the traditional elements of bluegrass music, and stands in contrast to progressive bluegrass. Traditional bluegrass musicians play folk songs, tunes with simple traditional chord progressions, and on acoustic instruments of a type that were played by bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys band in the late 1940s. Traditional bands may use their instruments in slightly different ways, for example by using multiple guitars or fiddles in a band.
Punch Brothers is an American band consisting of Chris Thile (mandolin), Gabe Witcher (fiddle/violin), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Eldridge (guitar), and Paul Kowert (bass). Their style has been described as "bluegrass instrumentation and spontaneity in the structures of modern classical" as well as "American country-classical chamber music."
Cadillac Sky is a Progressive Bluegrass group based in Nashville, Tennessee. The band is currently on an "indefinite hiatus".
Unlike mainstream country music, bluegrass is traditionally played on acoustic stringed instruments. The fiddle, five-string banjo, guitar, mandolin, and upright bass (string bass) are often joined by the resonator guitar (also referred to as a Dobro) and (occasionally) harmonica or Jew's harp. This instrumentation originated in rural dance bands and is the basis on which the earliest bluegrass bands were formed.
Country music, also known as country and western, and hillbilly music, is a genre of popular music that originated in the southern United States in the early 1920s. It takes its roots from genres such as folk music and blues.
A fiddle is a bowed string musical instrument, most often a violin. It is a colloquial term for the violin, used by players in all genres including classical music. Although violins and fiddles are essentially synonymous, the style of the music played may determine specific construction differences between fiddles and classical violins. For example, fiddles may optionally be set up with a bridge with a flatter arch to reduce the range of bow-arm motion needed for techniques such as the double shuffle, a form of bariolage involving rapid alternation between pairs of adjacent strings. To produce a "brighter" tone, compared to the deeper tones of gut or synthetic core strings, fiddlers often use steel strings. The fiddle is part of many traditional (folk) styles, which are typically aural traditions—taught 'by ear' rather than via written music.
An acoustic guitar is a guitar that produces sound acoustically by transmitting the vibration of the strings to the air—as opposed to relying on electronic amplification (see electric guitar). The sound waves from the strings of an acoustic guitar resonate through the guitar's body, creating sound. This typically involves the use of a sound board and a sound box to strengthen the vibrations of the strings. In standard tuning the guitar's six strings are tuned (low to high) E2 A2 D3 G3 B3 E4.
The guitar is now most commonly played with a style referred to as flatpicking, unlike the style of early bluegrass guitarists such as Lester Flatt, who used a thumb pick and finger pick. Banjo players often use the three-finger picking style made popular by banjoists such as Earl Scruggs. Fiddlers frequently play in thirds and fifths, producing a sound that is characteristic to the bluegrass style. Bassists almost always play pizzicato, occasionally adopting the "slap-style" to accentuate the beat. A bluegrass bass line is generally a rhythmic alternation between the root and fifth of each chord, with occasional walking bass excursions.
Flatpicking is the technique of striking the strings of a guitar with a pick held between the thumb and one or two fingers. It can be contrasted to fingerstyle guitar, which is playing with individual fingers, with or without wearing fingerpicks. While the use of a plectrum is common in many musical traditions, the exact term "flatpicking" is most commonly associated with Appalachian music of the American southeastern highlands, especially bluegrass music, where string bands often feature musicians playing a variety of styles, both fingerpicking and flatpicking. Musicians who use a flat pick in other genres such as rock and jazz are not commonly described as flatpickers or even plectrum guitarists. As the use of a pick in those traditions is commonplace, generally only guitarists who play without a pick are noted by the term "fingerpicking" or "fingerstyle".
Lester Raymond Flatt was an American bluegrass guitarist and mandolinist, best known for his collaboration with banjo picker Earl Scruggs in The Foggy Mountain Boys.
Scruggs style is the most common style of playing the banjo in bluegrass music. It is a fingerpicking method, also known as three-finger style. It is named after Earl Scruggs, whose innovative approach and technical mastery of the instrument have influenced generations of bluegrass banjoists ever since he was first recorded in 1946. It contrasts with earlier styles such as minstrel, classic or parlor style, clawhammer/frailing/two-finger style, jazz styles played with a plectrum, and more modern styles such as Keith/melodic/chromatic/arpa style, and single-string/Reno style. The influence of Scruggs is so pervasive that even bluegrass players such as Bill Keith and Don Reno, who are credited with developing these latter styles, typically work out of the Scruggs style much of the time.
Instrumentation has been a continuing topic of debate. Traditional bluegrass performers believe the "correct" instrumentation is that used by Bill Monroe's band, the Blue Grass Boys (guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo and bass). Departures from the traditional instrumentation have included dobro, accordion, harmonica, piano, autoharp, drums, electric guitar, and electric versions of other common bluegrass instruments, resulting in what has been referred to as "newgrass."
Accordions are a family of box-shaped musical instruments of the bellows-driven free-reed aerophone type, colloquially referred to as a squeezebox. A person who plays the accordion is called an accordionist. The concertina and bandoneón are related; the harmonium and American reed organ are in the same family.
The piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700, in which the strings are struck by hammers. It is played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands to cause the hammers to strike the strings.
The autoharp is a musical instrument in the chorded zither family. It features a series of chord bars attached to dampers, which, when pressed, mute all of the strings other than those that form the desired chord. Although the word autoharp was originally a trademark of the Oscar Schmidt company, the term has colloquially come to be used for any hand-held, chorded zither, regardless of manufacturer.
Apart from specific instrumentation, a distinguishing characteristic of bluegrass is vocal harmony featuring two, three, or four parts, often with a dissonant or modal sound in the highest voice (see modal frame), a style described as the "high, lonesome sound."Commonly, the ordering and layering of vocal harmony is called the "stack". A standard stack has a baritone voice at the bottom, the lead in the middle (singing the main melody) and a tenor at the top; although stacks can be altered, especially where a female voice is included. Alison Krauss and Union Station provide a good example of a different harmony stack with a baritone and tenor with a high lead, an octave above the standard melody line, sung by the female vocalist. However, by employing variants to the standard trio vocal arrangement, they were simply following a pattern existing since the early days of the genre. The Stanley Brothers utilized a high baritone part on several of their trios recorded for Columbia records during their time with that label (1950–1953). Mandolin player Pee Wee Lambert sang the high baritone above Ralph Stanley's tenor, both parts above Carter's lead vocal. This trio vocal arrangement was variously used by other groups as well. In the 1960s Flatt and Scruggs often added a fifth part to the traditional quartet parts on gospel songs, the extra part being a high baritone (doubling the baritone part sung in the normal range of that voice; E.P. Tullock [aka Cousin Jake] providing the part). The use of a high lead with the tenor and baritone below it was most famously employed by the Osborne Brothers who first employed it during their time with MGM records in the latter half of the 1950s. This vocal arrangement would be the home aspect of the Osbornes' sound with Bobby's high, clear voice at the top of the vocal stack.
Bluegrass tunes can largely be described as narratives on the everyday lives of the people whence the music came. Aside from laments about loves lost, interpersonal tensions and unwanted changes to the region (e.g., the visible effects of mountaintop coal mining), bluegrass vocals frequently reference the hard-scrabble existence of living in Appalachia and other rural areas with modest financial resources. Some protest music has been composed in the bluegrass style, especially concerning the vicissitudes of the Appalachian coal mining industry. Railroading has also been a popular theme, with ballads such as "Wreck of the Old 97" and "Nine Pound Hammer" (from the legend of John Henry) being exemplary.
Bluegrass, as a distinct musical form, developed from elements of old-time music and traditional music of the Appalachian region of the United States. The Appalachian region was where many English and Ulster-Scots immigrants settled, bringing with them the musical traditions of their homelands. Hence the sounds of jigs and reels, especially as played on the fiddle, were innate to the developing style. Black musicians, meanwhile, brought the iconic banjo to Appalachia. Much later, in 1945, Earl Scruggs would develop a three finger roll on the instrument which allowed a rapid fire cascade of notes that could keep up with the driving tempo of the new bluegrass sound.
Settlers from Britain and Ireland arrived in Appalachia during the 18th century, and brought with them the musical traditions of their homelands.These traditions consisted primarily of English and Scottish ballads—which were essentially unaccompanied narrative—and dance music, such as reels, which were accompanied by a fiddle. Many older bluegrass songs come directly from the British Isles. Several Appalachian bluegrass ballads, such as "Pretty Saro", "Cuckoo Bird" and "House Carpenter", come from England and preserve the English ballad tradition both melodically and lyrically. Others, such as "The Two Sisters", also come from England; however, the lyrics are about Ireland. Some bluegrass fiddle songs popular in Appalachia, such as "Leather Britches", and "Pretty Polly", have Scottish roots. The dance tune "Cumberland Gap" may be derived from the tune that accompanies the Scottish ballad "Bonnie George Campbell".
The music now known as bluegrass was frequently used to accompany a rural dancing style known as buckdancing, flatfooting or clogging. As the bluegrass sound spread to urban areas, listening to it for its own sake increased, especially after the advent of audio recording. In 1948, what would come to be known as bluegrass emerged as a genre within the post-war country/western-music industry, a period of time characterized now as the golden era or wellspring of "traditional bluegrass." From its earliest days, bluegrass has been recorded and performed by professional and amateur musicians alike. Although amateur bluegrass musicians and trends such as "parking-lot picking" are too important to be ignored, it is touring musicians who have set the direction of the style. Radio stations dedicated to bluegrass have also proved influential in advancing the evolution of the style into distinctive subgenres.
Bluegrass was initially included in the category of folk music and later changed to hillbilly. In 1948, bluegrass was placed under the country/western heading for radio airplay charting. All four of the seminal bluegrass authors - Artis, Price, Cantwell and Rosenberg - described bluegrass music in detail as originating in style and form, in one form or another, between the 1930s and mid-1940s. However, the term "bluegrass" did not appear formally to describe the music until the late 1950s, and did not appear in Music Index until 1965 (Kretzschmar, 1970). The first entry in Music Index mentioning "bluegrass music" directed the reader to "see Country Music; Hillbilly Music" (Kretzschmar, 1970, p. 91). Music Index maintained this listing for bluegrass music until 1986. The first time bluegrass music had its own entries in Music Index was 1987 (Stratelak, 1988).
The topical and narrative themes of many bluegrass songs are highly reminiscent of folk music. Many songs that are widely considered to be bluegrass are in reality older works legitimately classified as folk or old-time music that are performed in the bluegrass style. The interplay between bluegrass and folk forms has been academically studied. Folklorist Dr. Neil Rosenberg, for example, shows that most devoted bluegrass fans and musicians are familiar with traditional folk songs and old-time music and that these songs are often played at shows, festivals and jams (Rosenberg, 1985).
"Bluegrass" is a common name given in America for grass of the Poa genus, the most famous being Kentucky bluegrass. A large region in central Kentucky is sometimes called the Bluegrass region (although this region is west of the hills of Kentucky).
Exactly when the word "bluegrass" itself was adopted to label this form of music is not certain, but is believed to be in the late 1950s.It was derived from the name of the seminal Blue Grass Boys band, formed in 1939 with Bill Monroe as its leader. Due to this lineage, Bill Monroe is frequently referred to as the "father of bluegrass".
Monroe's 1946 to 1948 band, which featured guitarist Lester Flatt, banjoist Earl Scruggs, fiddler Chubby Wise and bassist Howard Watts (also known as "Cedric Rainwater")—sometimes called "the original bluegrass band"—created the definitive sound and instrumental configuration that remains a model to this day. By some arguments, while the Blue Grass Boys were the only band playing this music, it was just their unique sound; it could not be considered a musical style until other bands began performing in similar fashion. In 1948, the Stanley Brothers recorded the traditional song "Molly and Tenbrooks" in the Blue Grass Boys' style, arguably the point in time that bluegrass emerged as a distinct musical form.As Ralph Stanley himself said about the origins of the genre and its name:
Oh, (Monroe) was the first. But it wasn't called bluegrass back then. It was just called old time mountain hillbilly music. When they started doing the bluegrass festivals in 1965, everybody got together and wanted to know what to call the show, y'know. It was decided that since Bill was the oldest man, and was from the bluegrass state of Kentucky and he had the Blue Grass Boys, it would be called 'bluegrass.'
First generation bluegrass musicians dominated the genre from its beginnings in the mid-1940s through the mid-1960s. This group generally consists of those who were playing during the "Golden Age" in the 1950s, including Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys, the Stanley Brothers, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs with the Foggy Mountain Boys, Hylo Brown and The Timberliners, Reno and Smiley, Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, Jim and Jesse, Jimmy Martin and the Osborne Brothers, Red Allen (who also recorded with the Osborne Brothers for MGM in the mid-fifties), Mac Wiseman, Mac Martin and the Dixie Travelers, Carl Story and his Rambling Mountaineers, Buzz Busby, The Lilly Brothers, Bill Clifton and Jim Eanes, and the Country Gentlemen - one of the first bands to include material from outside the usual corpus of bluegrass music.
A second generation of bluegrass musicians began performing, composing and recording in the mid-to late-1960s, although many had played in first–generation bands from a young age. Some bluegrass musicians in this group are Jimmy Martin, Doc Watson, J. D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, John Hartford, Jerry Douglas, Norman Blake, Frank Wakefield, Bill Keith, Del McCoury, Tony Rice, and the pioneering female duo Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard. As they refined their craft, the New Grass Revival, Seldom Scene, The Kentucky Colonels, and The Dillards developed progressive bluegrass. In one collaboration, first-generation bluegrass fiddler Vassar Clements, progressive mandolin player David Grisman, Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia (on banjo), and Peter Rowan on lead vocals played in the band called Old & In the Way . Garcia, Chris Hillman, Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers Band and others in the 1960s and 1970s helped introduce rock music listeners to progressive and traditional bluegrass. Bush, Grisman, and Clements developed strong jazz elements in most of their playing—Clements liked to refer to his music as "hillbilly jazz"—but each owes much to traditional bluegrass.
Third generation bluegrass developed in the mid-1980s. Bluegrass grew, matured and broadened from the music played in previous years. This generation redefined "mainstream bluegrass". High-quality sound equipment allowed each band member to be miked independently, exemplified by Tony Rice Unit and The Bluegrass Album Band. Tony Rice showcased elaborate lead guitar solos, and other bands followed. The electric bass became a general, but not universal, alternative to the traditional acoustic bass, though electrification of other instruments continued to meet resistance outside progressive circles. Nontraditional chord progressions also became more widely accepted. On the other hand, this generation saw a renaissance of more traditional songs, played in the newer style. The Johnson Mountain Boys were one of the decade's most popular touring groups, and played strictly traditional bluegrass.
In recent decades bluegrass music has reached a broader audience. Major mainstream country music performers have recorded bluegrass albums, including Dolly Parton and Patty Loveless, who each released several bluegrass albums. Many bluegrass artists/bands went on to do more mainstream country music, including the Dixie Chicks.In the late 1990s, Ricky Skaggs, who began as a bluegrass musician and crossed over to mainstream country in the 1980s, returned to bluegrass with his band Kentucky Thunder. The Coen Brothers' film O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) has a country and bluegrass soundtrack which won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 2002. The documentary and concert film Down from the Mountain (2000) featured a live performance by the music artists who participated in the recording of the soundtrack recording.
Contemporary artists such as Chris Thile are continuing the spread of bluegrass music. Famous for playing in the band Nickel Creek when he was young, Thile is now collaborating with varying diverse artists, and continues to play music in the genre. His latest band, Punch Brothers, has progressed contemporary bluegrass music through fusion with other forms and genres.
Meanwhile, festivals such as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and RockyGrass in Lyons, Colorado, and bands such as the Nederland, Colorado-based Yonder Mountain String Band and Druhá Tráva in the Czech Republic attract large audiences while expanding the range of progressive bluegrass in college jam-band atmospheres, often called "jamgrass." Bluegrass fused with jazz is found in the music of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Railroad Earth, Tony Rice, Andy Statman, Sam Bush, Doc Watson, and others.
Earl Eugene Scruggs was an American musician noted for popularizing a three-finger banjo picking style, now called "Scruggs style," which is a defining characteristic of bluegrass music. His three-finger style of playing was radically different from the traditional way the five-string banjo had previously been played. This new style of playing became popular and elevated the banjo from its previous role as a background rhythm instrument to featured solo status. He popularized the instrument across several genres of music.
The Stanley Brothers were an American bluegrass duo of singer-songwriters and musicians made up of brothers Carter Stanley (1925–1966) and Ralph Stanley (1927–2016). Ralph and Carter performed as The Stanley Brothers with their band, The Clinch Mountain Boys, from 1946 to 1966. Ralph kept the band name when he continued as a solo artist after Carter's death, from 1967 until his own death in 2016.
Benny Edward Martin, was an American bluegrass fiddler who invented the 8-string fiddle. Throughout his musical career he performed with artists such as the Bluegrass Boys, Don Reno, the Smoky Mountain Boys and Flatt and Scruggs, and later performed and recorded with the Stanley Brothers, Jimmy Martin, Johnnie and Jack, and the Stonemans, among others.
James Henry Martin was an American bluegrass musician, known as the "King of Bluegrass".
The Foggy Mountain Boys were an American bluegrass band. The band was founded by guitarist Lester Flatt and banjo player Earl Scruggs and is viewed by music historians as one of the premier bluegrass groups in the history of the genre. The band was originally formed in 1948 by Flatt, who had been a member of Bill Monroe's bluegrass band. Flatt brought Scruggs with him shortly after leaving Monroe.
Peter Rowan is an American bluegrass musician and composer. Rowan plays guitar and mandolin, yodels and sings.
Appalachian music is the music of the region of Appalachia in the Eastern United States. It is derived from various European and African influences, including English ballads, Irish and Scottish traditional music, hymns, and African-American blues. First recorded in the 1920s, Appalachian musicians were a key influence on the early development of Old-time music, country music, and bluegrass, and were an important part of the American folk music revival of the 1960s. Instruments typically used to perform Appalachian music include the banjo, American fiddle, fretted dulcimer, and guitar.
Czech Bluegrass is Czech interpretations of bluegrass music that emerged during the middle of the twentieth century in the southeastern United States.
Josh Graves, born Burkett Howard Graves, was an American bluegrass musician. Also known by the nicknames "Buck," and "Uncle Josh," he is credited with introducing the resonator guitar into bluegrass music shortly after joining Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1955. He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1997.
William Bradford "Bill" Keith was a five-string banjoist who made a significant contribution to the stylistic development of the instrument. In the 1960s he introduced a variation on the popular "Scruggs style" of banjo playing which would soon become known as melodic style, or "Keith style".
Early Dawg is the debut solo studio album by American mandolinist David Grisman. With Del McCoury on guitar and vocals, Jerry McCoury on bass, Bill Keith on banjo plus other well-known musicians, Grisman offers a mix of traditional songs, compositions by Bill Monroe and his own contributions, mainly of bluegrass and progressive bluegrass style.
Benjamin Horace Williams was an American bluegrass musician. A multi-instrumentalist, he sang and played fiddle, guitar, banjo, autoharp, and mandolin.
John Ray Sechler, known as Curly Seckler, was an American bluegrass musician. He played with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in their band the Foggy Mountain Boys from 1949 to 1962, among other major bluegrass acts during his lengthy career in music.
Jim Shumate was a fiddler that played with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys from 1943–1945. Shumate's main influences were Fiddlin' Arthur Smith, Curly Fox, and his uncle who played the fiddle while he was growing up. Shumate joined the band after Bill Monroe heard him playing on the radio station WHKY from downtown Hickory, North Carolina, and asked him to join the Blue Grass Boys. Howdy Forrester, who was Bill Monroe's fiddle player at the time, gave his notice and was going into the Navy. At age 20, Shumate became the fiddler for the Blue Grass Boys, and he sang bass on gospel songs. During this time, the Blue Grass Boys were also a baseball team, so they would arrive early to towns they were playing at and challenge the local baseball team. Unfortunately, there were no recordings made while Shumate was in the Blue Grass Boys.
Bluegrass mandolin is a style of mandolin playing most commonly heard in bluegrass bands.