The History of Bluegrass Music – Part 2

The concluding part of our discovery in the history of bluegrass music carries on with the importance of Earl Scruggs in its future development. We have already seen how Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys started to make bluegrass popular and now we continue from there.

Uncle Josh

Whilst the Foggy Mountain Boys were playing one night, a certain Burkett H Graves (Uncle Josh) heard the distinctive three fingered banjo’s playing of Earl Scruggs. Uncle Josh took the idea and invented an obscure slide bar type instrument which Flatt & Scruggs admired greatly and accepted it into their band. Graves’ new style was introduced on the Dobro which was invented in Slovakia by the Dopyera Brothers.

TV & Radio

It was Flatt & Scruggs that took bluegrass to the masses, they introduced it to the whole of the United States with appearances on radio and at major universities, schools, coliseums and with the new media format – television. The blockbuster film Bonnie & Clyde even featured a Scruggs’ penned instrumental, Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Bluegrass music was well and truly established as a major music genre in America and was getting more popular.

Earl Scruggs

Earl Scruggs was the driving force of the bluegrass revolution that was taking the nation by storm. In 1969 Scruggs parted with Lester Flatt and formed a new solo career and entitled it The Earl Scruggs Revue, the revue often featured his three sons, especially Gary, on stand-up bass and Randy on guitar. While Earl Scruggs went his own way, Lester Flatt was successful with his own band, The Nashville Grass. They performed continually up to 1979.

It was in 1950 that bluegrass was finally accepted as a genuine music genre in its own right, bands all over the country started to copy Bill Monroe’s style and musical set-up. Bill Monroe today is widely accepted as the father of bluegrass music.

The Bluegrass Festival

It was in the 1960s, when Woodstock was perceived as pioneering the music festival, that the concept of the bluegrass festival had already been thought of. It would feature bands on the same lineup that had previously thought to have been in competition with each other. The founder of the bluegrass festival was Carlton Haney, he developed the concept of a two-day weekend-long celebration of bluegrass music which was held in 1965 in Fincastle, Virginia. A good four years before Woodstock.

Since then, bluegrass music has featured in mainstream American culture, in film with Bonnie & Clyde and Deliverance; on TV with the Beverly Hillbillies show and in 2001 with the triple-platinum selling soundtrack of the Coen Brothers’ movie O Brother, Where Art Thou starring George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson and John Turturro.

Sadly, in 1996 Bill Monroe passed away just days before his 85th birthday, he was enrolled into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and also the coveted Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor. Bill’s legacy has seen bluegrass music being played all over the world and the IBMA states that they have members in every state of the USA as well as thirty different countries.

Whether you prefer traditional, newgrass or progressive bluegrass, this unique form of music is still being played all over the world and nowhere more so than its home in America.