Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Bluegrass Lesson #2

The Roots of Bluegrass Music

Even though bluegrass music was named after Bill Monroe’s band, the Blue Grass Boys, the music itself owes more to North Carolina than to Kentucky, which is known as the “Bluegrass State.”

In looking for evidence of the vibrancy of old-time music in North Carolina, the path always leads to the door of Bascom Lamar Lunsford, who whimsically called himself “The Squire of South Turkey Creek.”

Lunsford was a passionate and tireless advocate, promoter, collector and performer of Appalachian music and dance. As a musician, he has the distinction of being the first person to record old-time banjo music on 78 records. On March 15, 1924, he traveled to Atlanta, Georgia and recorded “Jesse James” and “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground” for the Okeh record label.

Though a lawyer by trade, Lunsford’s days were often spent visiting and playing old-time music with countless musicians and singers throughout the mountain region. His nights were frequently spent calling or being in the center of an old-fashioned square dance or swapping songs and stories with friends and neighbors.

So convinced was Lunsford of the value and appeal of old-time music and dance, that in 1928 he started the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, which drew scores of musicians from the surrounding area to perform for appreciative audiences.

**Rural Roots of Bluegrass

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