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Rex Hart
Oct-08-2017, 1:19pm
So for years I have listened to people proclaiming the death of Bluegrass due to the age of people at festivals, etc. I have a theory. When I was in my 20's (back in the 80's), the average of festival goers was probably 60 plus. Now it still is years later. My theory is the older we get, the more we are looking for real music and we naturally gravitate towards roots based music. I was raised on Beatles, Dylan, Jackson Browne and the like. Now it's Bluegrass and some Americana(Jason Isbell). To quote Frampton, do you feel like I do?

grassrootphilosopher
Oct-08-2017, 1:41pm
So for years I have listened to people proclaiming the death of Bluegrass due to the age of people at festivals, etc. I have a theory. When I was in my 20's (back in the 80's), the average of festival goers was probably 60 plus. Now it still is years later. My theory is the older we get, the more we are looking for real music and we naturally gravitate towards roots based music. I was raised on Beatles, Dylan, Jackson Browne and the like. Now it's Bluegrass and some Americana(Jason Isbell). To quote Frampton, do you feel like I do?

Bluegrass is for the savvy.

Bluegrass is for those that have a heart for the music.

Bluegrass is for the technically masterful.

Bluegrass is for those who have ears.

Bluegrass is for naturals.

All of the aforementioned statements fall short of an explanation of course.

My experience is that rock, pop folk, jazz etc. musicians will (grudgingly I have found out ) admit that bluegrass is a genre that has to be played with great knowledge, dexterity, technique, speed etc. I have also found out that musicians from other genres will - after trying to dabble in bluegrass - find out that they bit off more than they were able to swallow (folkmusicians, classical musicians, rock musicians for sure - jazz musicians ... well they donīt like the cometition).

It makes me happy to see the amount of younger musicians in the US leaning to a genre that is acoustic, that shows a liveliness that deals with liveīs topics and that is easily accessible (namely: all acoustic = inexpenive for the beginner etc.).

I hope that weīll see this kind of aproach over here also.

Denny Gies
Oct-08-2017, 2:21pm
Yep and Jason Isbell is just an incredible songwriter. And I'm old.

allenhopkins
Oct-08-2017, 5:03pm
I just hope we continue to find younger musicians to play bluegrass, regardless of the age of their audiences.

One reason for the continuing "senioritis" of BG audiences may be the festival format; it attracts the RV crowd, and they lean toward retirees. Younger families with kids may feel that there's not much for 10-year-olds to do -- if they're not already pickin' themselves.

I find folk music audiences also getting significantly grayer. And so am I...

Timbofood
Oct-08-2017, 6:01pm
My band played at a saloon when a charming couple celebrated their 20th anniversary, several months ago we had the honor to play for their 60th anniversary! Age is relative, and some relatives get older faster (or even younger) than others.
Olaf touches on some strong points and I agree, let's hope the torch does not go out on the old styles and kids enjoy and preserve some of the old roots as it grows new branches

Willie Poole
Oct-08-2017, 7:12pm
My belief is that with a lot of the electronic gizmos that can be purchased at any music store will grab the young kids attention faster than trying to work a fiddle bow or learn how to cross pick a mandolin so I just don`t see bluegrass getting any more popular than it is right now and in the past 20 years in my neck of the woods it has declined a whole lot, my band did play at a Pumpkin festival yesterday where most of the people are youngsters that are there with there parents of course and not many of them came and sat down in front of the stage, then we played a song that I hate, "Wagon Wheels" and that song they recognized and started dancing and singing along...I have no idea what it will take to get them to do that to a bluegrass song, a few of the older folks do sing along with some of the old bluegrass standards, but I am afraid bluegrass will go the way country music did, and its gone in my opinion, nothing but bad rock and roll now days...No one playing anything that sounds like the melody if there is a melody...

Please don`t get me started...Sorry I went this far...

Willie

MikeEdgerton
Oct-08-2017, 7:15pm
The actual song name is Wagon Wheel (no s) and I love hearing musicians say how much they hate it. Audiences love it. If you're playing music for yourself don't play it. If you want to get a group of people singing along fire it up.

Timbofood
Oct-08-2017, 7:46pm
Never played it, don't care if I ever do. My band has had to play some tunes we'd prefer not to have int he repertoire but, when you are paid to play sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. If you play only for your self, that's not,an issue but when you get paid you can pass on some but, not on everything. So far, we've never been asked for that particular tooth jarring bit of pop swill. Sometimes life is good!

MikeEdgerton
Oct-08-2017, 7:58pm
Freebird. Foggy Mountain breakdown. Dueling banjos. Some songs get old real quick but the audiences still love them.

doublestoptremolo
Oct-08-2017, 10:21pm
One reason for the continuing "senioritis" of BG audiences may be the festival format; it attracts the RV crowd, and they lean toward retirees. Younger families with kids may feel that there's not much for 10-year-olds to do -- if they're not already pickin' themselves.

That's a good point. Two things that are kind of related:

1) Bluegrass can be kind of expensive if you go at it a certain way. RVs, old Martins, American made F-style mandolins, post and prewar Gibson banjos. Of course none of those things is mandatory but there's subtle peer pressure that might discourage an economically challenged and sensitive 20 or 30-something from joining in.

2) At a certain point some people have more time to pursue their hobbies. It seems like several of the 60+ year old people I play with were really into bluegrass at an earlier point in their life but then let it lapse for several years due to family and work obligations. When the kids went to college, or when they retired, they could start playing more.

HonketyHank
Oct-08-2017, 11:49pm
... I am afraid bluegrass will go the way country music did, and its gone in my opinion ...



Well, I'm no bluegrass expert, but bluegrass now is not the same as bluegrass 50 years ago. I kinda think it is already well on its way down that path. Don't let me stand in the way of progress and evolution and all that, but I do like it when I hear what used to be called bluegrass.

allenhopkins
Oct-09-2017, 12:32am
There are some young bluegrass bands here in Rochester -- String Theory, (https://www.facebook.com/String-Theory-61980292384/) Crooked North, (https://www.thecrookednorth.com) Rebecca Colleen & the Chore Lads, (https://www.facebook.com/rebeccacolleenandthechorelads/) and Brothers Blue (https://www.thebrothersblue.com) come to mind -- and they play clubs for mostly younger audiences, as well as regional festivals where the crowd tends to be older.

Much more eclectic than what we would consider "traditional bluegrass," but real respect for their "elders" in the field. The couple of more traditional bluegrass bands in the area, are made up of musicians in their sixties and seventies.

Nothing new about younger musicians developing their own "take" on bluegrass. I played the grooves off Beatle Country by the Charles River Valley Boys, 50 years ago.



Please excuse Bob Siggins' non-bluegrass clawhammer banjo. That is, of course, Joe Val on (F-2) mandolin.

Ivan Kelsall
Oct-09-2017, 4:34am
I've found it to be true,that as some folk diverge from the 'real' music,others go back to the roots. Leave the 'old style' alone for long enough, & it becomes 'new' all over again.

IMHO - 'Trad' Bluegrass will always attract followers,so will the new stuff,but then folk go back & re-discover the 'roots' of the music.

Allen - I've had that LP for 50 years or so. I was playing with a band at a Folk club decades ago & they had a charity raffle - i bought a ticket & won the LP - i also have the CD. ''Yeller Submarine'' is terrific,as are the rest of the tunes,
Ivan;)

jesserules
Oct-09-2017, 1:00pm
https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?135289-El-Cumbanchero

Mandoplumb
Oct-09-2017, 1:59pm
Willie you are up there where years ago there was a very active club and radio playing BG. Down here near Roanoke you couldn't throw a rock in a residential neighborhood without hitting 2or3 BG or pre BG pickers of varying abilities. We heard very little on the radio or in the clubs, mainly because "Mr. Country" of Roanoke King Edward the 4th thought country could never mount to nothing if we didn't eliminate BG and the rest of that hick sounding stuff, so he preceded to push " pop country" which became "pop" and country disappeared. In a way he was right, in the 60's no one was getting rich playing C&W but several were making a living and play good music. We still have a lot of BG being played of varying ability on back porches here, lots of jams, very few paying jobs.

Timbofood
Oct-09-2017, 2:40pm
https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?135289-El-Cumbanchero

I just wonder what Tito Puente or Xavier Cugat might think of this interpretation. I'll never forget the first time a saw Jesse McReynolds play it, I dropped a whole handful of mashed potatoes and gravy!

Charlieshafer
Oct-09-2017, 3:01pm
What I'm finding is that if you loosen your definition of bluegrass, then things are in good shape. But here's the rub, and I know it always turns into an argument, but it does need to be said. If we keep in mind that the hardcore high lonesome sound of Bill Monroe is just a snapshot in time, part old-time, part early country, part Delta blues, and part jazz, then we're good. Because then we don't get upset when we say that the younger people don't play bluegrass, they play acoustic music that might use the same instruments, but isn't bluegrass. To the uninitiated, it may sound like bluegrass, but to the hard core fan, it isn't. I remember everyone howling at Grey Fox when Crooked Still first took the stage. I remember the old-time fanatics all pissed off at the Mammals when Chris Merenda joined as a drummer. But guess what? I the early 2000's, they were the ones getting all the press in the New York Times and other non-music publications, precisely because they were tweaking the elder's noses.

If you take the new acoustic music, then the tradition is very alive, very well, and very much growing. It's nothing more than the younger set not wanting to be pegged down, tied to something that has a rigid boundary. The young kids in Mile 12 who were at Berklee, and just won the IBMA Momentum award, were taking improvisation courses from Darol Anger, jazz and composition from Sara Caswell and Maeve Gilchrist. They may sound very traditional, but they can play pretty much anything they want, and in time, probably will.

Look at Sierra Hull, who was straight bluegrass just a couple of years ago, and as she starts playing with the likes of Ethan Jodziewicz and others, is morphing into something different.

Anyway, I'm finding I get far more of demos, press kits, the likes, from this sort of music than I ever got from straight traditional bluegrass or old-time. And, they like to pick just like the RV old set. If there's a difference right now, it's that they're hanging out in cities like Boston, Brooklyn, Nashville and the like so they can just wander around locally to a jam.

The future of acoustic stringed-instrument music is very bright, just don't look for the hard-core traditional styles to be anything more than niches. Kids will play them in a jam setting, just because they're common touchstones, but when getting serious, it'll be a different animal.

For the hard-core fans, I don't see bluegrass dying, just like there will always be an old-time bunch to carry the flag, same with the blues. But it will be a niche, and nothing more. Bluegrass wasn't the beginning of spring band music, and it's not the end; it's just a stop along the way.

Kris N
Oct-09-2017, 3:38pm
My experience is that rock, pop folk, jazz etc. musicians will (grudgingly I have found out ) admit that bluegrass is a genre that has to be played with great knowledge, dexterity, technique, speed etc.

Completely agree, though most I know aren't grudging about it (we must have different circles :) ), but do so with an appreciation of the music. At some point the challenge of rock just doesn't cut it and you need something more. Coming from a rock/hardcore/punk background, during my travels I played with guys/gals who will scream into a mic onstage and beat the hell out of their instruments. When you ask what they're currently listening to/learning, they'd reply bluegrass.

I don't see bluegrass ever truly dying, but evolving, like other genres have.

Rush Burkhardt
Oct-09-2017, 3:40pm
My early memories of bluegrass were at the Stonewall Inn in East Baltimore, listening to a group called Marvin Howell and the Franklin County Boys (mid-60's). It was pretty raw, but captured my spirit. Most of those guys are gone now, as are most of the 1st generation musicians. Like many of you, I have worried about "the music"! And then, I went to the IBMA conventions in 2010 and 2014. One couldn't take a turn without running into jams, predominantly young pickers, in every hall and lobby in the hotel and convention halls. (And some amazing pickers and singers, at that.) The environment encouraged acoustics and got 'em! I think "the music" is in good hands. Like the tide in the ocean the music will take different pathways. But I believe it'll be OK!
:popcorn:

Charlieshafer
Oct-09-2017, 4:35pm
Bluegrass is for the savvy.

Bluegrass is for those that have a heart for the music.

Bluegrass is for the technically masterful.

Bluegrass is for those who have ears.

Bluegrass is for naturals.

All of the aforementioned statements fall short of an explanation of course.

My experience is that rock, pop folk, jazz etc. musicians will (grudgingly I have found out ) admit that bluegrass is a genre that has to be played with great knowledge, dexterity, technique, speed etc. I have also found out that musicians from other genres will - after trying to dabble in bluegrass - find out that they bit off more than they were able to swallow (folkmusicians, classical musicians, rock musicians for sure - jazz musicians ... well they donīt like the cometition).

Well, on this all I can say is that this is why younger folks turn away from tradition. The statement about other genres "dabbling" and failing is particularly troublesome. Remember that when Stuart Duncan started in on the Goat Rodeo Sessions, he was the first to say he was in way over his head. If you have years of training in one genre only, it's going to take a while to catch on to something new.

All of those statements about what bluegrass is are equally true about classical, jazz, the blues, whatever. Jazzers, at least here, were among the most competitive, with cutting sessions going for days on end.

The younger generation realizes that everything is good, and to play ANYTHING well requires skill, effort and an ear. When jamming with younger musicians, and someone goes wonky, there's never a sideways glance, usually a smile or a laugh. The youngers are who will save acoustic music, those that think their genre is "special" are the ones who will assure it's untimely death.

Rex Hart
Oct-09-2017, 4:50pm
" Bluegrass can be kind of expensive if you go at it a certain way. RVs, old Martins, American made F-style mandolins, post and prewar Gibson banjos. Of course none of those things is mandatory but there's subtle peer pressure that might discourage an economically challenged and sensitive 20 or 30-something from joining in"

I have seen this phenomenon from the above quote in action. I call it Bluegrass snobbery. If you are playing a cheap or inexpensive instrument, you are already dismissed by some. This is particularly troublesome for young pickers who don't have the coin to purchase what they want. I have seen the looks of disdain at a jam when a young picker used a capo on his mandolin even though he was just chording. Bluegrass police aside, I still think it will always flourish.

CES
Oct-09-2017, 6:56pm
Crazy to consider Stuart Duncan being over his head at anything musical...

My kids are into alt rock and pop, heck, they’re kids, and i’ll admit there’s some really good alt rock out there right now. But, I’ve heard my son humming Red Haired Boy, Jerusalem Ridge, and other songs I like, completely unconsciously and without thinking about it, and I hope he eventually discovers on his own how cool trad music can be. I was in my late twenties before I discovered it. Nickel Creek and O’ Brother led me on a journey to the roots, and I’m a more diverse musician and listener as a result. Had I come from a family steeped in the tradition, I’d have come to it sooner, but that wasn’t the case. I’m encouraged by the acoustic music and how it’s evolving, even if Wheel Hoss isn’t high on the younglings’ list of songs they want to record. I totally get where Willie is coming from, and support him in his curmudgeonary, 100%. But the music has to evolve to survive...

Timbofood
Oct-10-2017, 7:48am
"Kids don't know what they don't know"
My exposure to BG music was when I was a teenager, a local band (trio until adding a mandolin player) playing at campus coffee house, another bunch including my personal hook into mandolinning, Bill Halsey, playing with "The Rimfire Ramblers" (great name) at the first "Stringbean" festival in Charlotte.
My buddy and I were mid teens, other than children with parents I would have to say we were probably the youngest kids there. It was fun, we were fourteen and fifteen, felt perfectly safe, welcomed by everyone. It was 1974 maybe? My buddy and I actually were asked to play a tune onstage, this was prior to my mandolin enlightenment so, I played old timey banjo then. One tune was what we played (Old Joe Clark) and then real bands started.
When you're a young kid and full of juice, you just dive in, you learn as you go. This is what the youth of today is doing except they have a MUCH larger music pool to swim in. I had record albums and a few live bands around (very few) but, that was about it, there was no internet, none of most of the new information sharing tools available today. The music will ebb and flow with traditional stylists and more progressives, that's just life.

Willie Poole
Oct-10-2017, 11:33am
In the late 60`s early `70`s in the area around DC, northern Va. and Maryland there was bluegrass just about every night of the week and it was easy to get to places because traffic wasn`t too bad. now a person is lucky if he/she can find one place that plays bluegrass regularly more than twice a month and with traffic just terrible a person doesn`t feel like sitting in traffic for two hours just to get to a place that does play it, even once or twice a month....That may be why it is less popular...

I have found that the younger listeners don`t really care what music is called as long as it has a beat that they can "dance" to and clap their hands and beat their foot on the floor like they are doing a clogging dance...I have listened to bluegrass most of my 81 years and when I first started I never heard a minor chord installed in any of the tunes until I heard Earl play The Foggy Mountain Breakdown, now about 9 out of 10 new songs have to have at least one minor chord thrown in, that's just the way the newbies like it and I will admit that some of it sounds great but `taint bluegrass, not by my definition anyway...

And Mike I know the correct title is "Wagon Wheel" but it just didn`t seem like correct English to not add the S...I`ve never seen a wagon with only one wheel, not one that was working anyway...

Willie

MikeEdgerton
Oct-10-2017, 2:37pm
Somebody needs to tell Bob and Ketch they got it wrong.

Russ Donahue
Oct-11-2017, 9:29am
Reminds me of the phrase "beware cultural imperialism"...

William Smith
Oct-11-2017, 10:04am
I think Bluegrass will flourish into the future and with all hope there will be bands that play true-grass and others that do that newish speed pickin acoustic music "some I like" But it isn't what it once was just like Country Music, for me its the old stuff that's Country like Buck Owens etc.. Most Country is pretty much pop now with repetition, Rock music sure isn't like it was, no more Elvis, Hendrix etc....Everything evolves into something but the Grass should remain some "traditional"
I've been to many fests and there is usually old and young alike that are there enjoying some part of something! I have been to some fests and it seemed there was only a handful of pre 30ish pickers...
Bluegrass "Police" should never discourage any young player if their instrument isn't that great or if they use a capo on their mandolin etc... WE ALL started off on cheapies, if your family didn't have $ or if you were fortunate to inherit granddads Loar or Herringbone! Encouragement to youngsters will always lead to the future of music! Would you make fun of a 5 year old who is learning to read and write!??? I would hope not!

Timbofood
Oct-11-2017, 10:12am
The real problem for some I see is, often adults can't read or write. They sure don't teach how in school very attentively nowadays. Kids all learn on tablets or computers with spell check so, they don't need to really understand how.
Music is so much different.
I agree that not everyone does not have a fancy, expensive, collectible instrument. I have managed to have a semi professional career for forty years using nothing more expensive than my Alvarez. It does get some "looks" but, it speaks just fine, turns heads from time to time. I hope youth find this music as much fun as I have. It's a heck of a lot more fun that Facebook!

catmandu2
Oct-11-2017, 11:10am
The *modes* of communication/transaction certainly change. Our "old school" analog forms of expression (literally, musically) are of a time, and these of course change. Music, and literal/graphic expression, is still relevant, but modes du jour see things like beats, ableton, two turntables and a microphone...supplanting a box with strings :)

Me, I'll take the strings and reeds, and bicycles. Tech mostly bores me. My kids are 12 and we don't have TV or remotes or computer games. So far they still like playing instruments, but I expect this will change someday.

jesserules
Oct-11-2017, 12:38pm
And Mike I know the correct title is "Wagon Wheel" but it just didn`t seem like correct English to not add the S...I`ve never seen a wagon with only one wheel, not one that was working anyway...

Willie

?

"Rock me mama like a wagon wheel"

It's right there in the lyrics.

Timbofood
Oct-11-2017, 1:00pm
But the words are "silly" whether they are correct grammatically or not.
The thing seems to drone on waaay too long for me. Glad I have not wasted the attic space to learn it.
Boy Howdy, this thread has spiraled out of any semblance of its original theme!
I need a nap.

MikeEdgerton
Oct-11-2017, 1:37pm
I don't see this as being any sillier than any other song. I do like the idea of "Rocks mes mammas likes a wagons wheels, rocks mes mammas anyways yous feels."

The yous is pretty comfortable for a guy from Jersey.

Mandoplumb
Oct-11-2017, 1:42pm
Timbofood says adults can't read or write due to electronical helps, I agree that is part of the problem maybe most in reading but we have become too lazy to learn anything fully. We want the Readers Digest version of every thing. Who setting up a PA now has a clue about the chain the signal follows and where potential problems can be and how to correct them. If your equipment allows any adjustment. Hook up a feedback destroyer with no idea what it is doing good or bad because you have no idea about Ringing out a system. Modern cameras of high end amateur quality have pictures of the sun to set F stops and shutter speeds by which most people don't even know what these are, nor how taking pictures is a study in light. There is nothing wrong with having tools to do the work or major thinking for us but we have let the tools become our boss. I've even been told by people in the service field that the computer won't let them do what I had asked for.

Timbofood
Oct-11-2017, 2:11pm
Literacy, as in having the ability to read and write, seems to be fleeting. I find errors in print, grammar, speech, spewed by news media constantly and they get paid for it! I find that disturbing to say the least.
I was taught how to ready and write by teachers without the electronic aids seemingly everywhere now. Technology is fine but, learning roots is still one of the best places to find out "why" language works in the unusual manner that it does.
None of this has to do very much with older people being the greater percentage of the audience and players of BG music. I may have sent this thread down a foolish rabbit hole so far removed its origin I'm not so sure it will ever return to the OPs point.
As to becoming electronic slaves? Mandoplumb, you are exactly correct in the world closing in on not knowing where reality stops and fantasy begins. But, mandolin playing is a pretty good way to get back to an analog life.
End rant.

catmandu2
Oct-11-2017, 2:46pm
None of this has to do very much with older people being the greater percentage of the audience and players of BG music..

I'm making associations and relevance with the (OP) remark. But that just may be me - studied it in school and everything (extrapolate, project, model data, or at the very least offering ethnographic perspective/observation). I think social and cultural behavior, particularly as pertains these aspects as above, do help us to understand (these) particular trends.

Timbofood
Oct-11-2017, 3:39pm
Well then, I guess it's not such a stretch at all, is it?
I just took the shortened electronic spellchecked route and erroneously felt that I had wandered far afield.

Charlieshafer
Oct-11-2017, 4:21pm
Man, it sounds like everyone responding here is over the age of 147. No, kids still learn to read and write in school using real books. And many people know how to ring out a sound system, same percentage as before. View cameras are back in style, just like vinyl. All this is doing is proving the old truism that every generation thinks the one after has brains of Spam. Nothing is happening with bluegrass that doesn't happen with any music. Rock is a perfect example. First, it was all blues-based, then pop, then new-wave, big hair, power ballads (geez, don't forget disco).

Young pickers are out there in droves, they just don't hang at bluegrass festivals to pick, as the old pickers have pretty strong ideas about how a picking jam should go down. Young pickers don't want to do that any more than any poems wanted to do what our fathers were doing. I'll have about 20 high school kids (so far) coming, independent of one another, to see Mike Marshall and Darol Anger this weekend, just so they can see who started "their" version of what they like to play. If I had a traditional bluegrass group of the same age, I'd get none. A bluegrass-centric friend who has a series tells me he got no teenagers for Rhonda Vincent last time she was around. With Molly Tuttle, I've got about 30 so far.

The kids are just fine. They just don't want to listen to us. That's also fine.

9lbShellhamer
Oct-11-2017, 4:32pm
The scene in Louisville seems to be thriving...

doublestoptremolo
Oct-12-2017, 3:56am
To return to the OP's point, which not many people (including me) actually addressed, I have to say I don't know. I feel like I listen to roots music a little more than I did when I was younger (granted, I'm not 40 yet), but I also listen more to stuff that might fall under the OP's classification of not-"real" music--later Steely Dan, Donna Summer, Frank Sinatra, ABBA, soft rock.

But when I listen to bluegrass, I gravitate to the older, rougher stuff. 1950's Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers, Ralph Stanley, Vern Williams, Jimmy Martin.

doublestoptremolo
Oct-12-2017, 4:03am
I have seen this phenomenon from the above quote in action. I call it Bluegrass snobbery. If you are playing a cheap or inexpensive instrument, you are already dismissed by some. This is particularly troublesome for young pickers who don't have the coin to purchase what they want. I have seen the looks of disdain at a jam when a young picker used a capo on his mandolin even though he was just chording. Bluegrass police aside, I still think it will always flourish.

I have to say I've never had an in-person encounter with bluegrass snobbery or the bluegrass police. I haven't played with anyone who cares what brand you play or whether you use a capo on the mandolin. Most everybody I've met at jams is as friendly as can be.

Ted Lehmann
Oct-12-2017, 5:02am
There's so much in this interesting thread to unpack, I'm not quite sure to know where to start. Much of my response will seem like a repeat of material I've long been writing on my blog and in No Depression. Bluegrass, like all musical formats and genres, has and will continue to evolve. The questing spirit of young innovators clashes with the desire to hear familiar material from decade to decade. The roots of bluegrass are clear and well-established. It's even given a birth-date, December 8, 1946, when Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs joined Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys at the Grand Ole Opry. However, the world surrounding this iconic moment has changed and so, inevitably, has the music.

The neuro-psychologist (and musician) Daniel Levitin in his seminal book "This Is Your Brain on Music (http://http://tedlehmann.blogspot.com/2007/09/this-is-your-brain-on-music-by-daniel.html)" writes about two very interesting phenomenon. He notes that the music you listened to during the period you were going through puberty is the music you will love for life. This suggests that sex in ineluctably linked to sex. His second major idea is that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become excellent at any area of endeavor. This suggests that kids who are hot pickers or who have a great, and satisfying time, playing in jams or garage bands have a long way to go.

I believe that no matter where you start in what is loosely called bluegrass, serious adherents will always be drawn to the roots of the music, which will enrich and inform, but NOT govern, where they go. Thus, in bluegrass, the founders will never be ignored nor forgotten, but will not rule where the music, which will continue to be called "bluegrass" will head. There are plenty of musicians playing these forms, and going further back to old time, honky tonk, string band, brass band, and more to keep tradition alive and informing the newest practitioners.

Finally, those of us reaching a certain age (I had my 76th birthday in July) have passed the stage where we want to chemically enhance our musical experience, stand and sway, jump, or gyrate in front of the stage, or have beer thrown on us. We prefer to sit, watch, and listen. Some of us even read, knit, do crossword puzzles, or even sleep in front of the music. More nuanced and quiet forms probably please us more. In the end, bluegrass music will continue to attract a wide and varied audience, members of which will happily recall the form they first encountered and many of whom will take joy in moving backward and forward through the music.

Ivan Kelsall
Oct-12-2017, 5:29am
From charlieshaffer - "Look at Sierra Hull, who was straight bluegrass just a couple of years ago, and as she starts playing with the likes of Ethan Jodziewicz and others, is morphing into something different" And she still gets nominated for 'Bluegrass' mandolin player of the year by the IMBA - that's was PO's most of us off. If she's now ''something different'' - give here an award in that category & leave Bluegrass alone - PLEASE !!.

Back in the early 1970,s the first Bluegrass UK festivals were attended by players - mostly as young as myself at that time. Mainly here in the UK,they still are ,but with a sprinkling of older folk who've come to like the music. Bleugrass festivals in the UK are such a rarity,that pickers like myself who play with nobody for years on end,go there just to pick. How sad then,that about 6 years back,i went to the North Wales Bluegrass Festival in Conwy,North Wales,only to find that there were folks carrying around instruments in their case,but not one person was playing. The organiser,a good friend of mine, had organised an 'open mic' stage for folk to play on,& that totally robbed the musicians of any desire to 'jam'. I never attended that festival again.

Going by what i've experienced at the UK festivals that i've attended,Bluegrass is still alive & well - but - newer,progressive elements are going on as well,which for me,as long as they don't take over completely,is fine.

Robert Plant was on a regular UK TV prog.last night, & he was talking about the music that he's done outside Led Zeppelin. He said that if he hadn't done it, ''Led Zeppelin would have been all he had'',& he didn't want that. That's the reason that despite being a 100% Bluegrasser - i also like the ''differences'' that bands like The Infamous Stringdusters / Greensky Bluegrass & 'new to me' - ''Railroad Earth'' bring to what i term 'Bluegrass off-shoots'. In my listening to music,i listen to many genres of music,some of which i've said to myself - ''if i'd heard that before i heard Bluegrass music,that's what i'd be playing''. Hearing Bluegrass for the first time was purely circumstantial - i'd never even ''heard of it'' at the time.

IMHO - ALL music is for everyone,& we who aspire to play,choose whichever genre to perform - as it should be, & IMHO (again !) ,age shouldn't come into it - we like what we like - end of !!. If Joe Walsh (Eagles) can still perform at age 70 - i simply wish i was good enough to play with him - at age 72 !. It's certainly not age that prevents me from performing,it's opportunity ( & a lack of talent),:grin:
Ivan;)

Willie Poole
Oct-12-2017, 12:26pm
I have seen a few shows on TV that show what is being taught at East Tennessee State University with regards to teaching younger folk about bluegrass and what they are learning is not close to what bluegrass WAS....They seem to learning music more closely related to being between folk and Rock and Roll...I know that these pickers are young and just starting out but in my opinion (which all of us have) it would be much easier to teach them the simple songs and let the students master that before they go onto more complicated music...I also assume that these students are from different classes, some with more musical knowledge than others, sort of like mixing second graders in with fourth graders in school....At a festival in Florida last year I found a jam that was going on with four mandolin youngsters about ages from 18 to 25 were just trying to out pick each other with no regards to how they really sounded with out any drive or feeling in their music, that also could have been because they didn`t have a full compliment of other instruments that make up bluegrass bands...there was four mandolins and three guitars...that's it...

I do believe bluegrass is going in a direction that will make it hard to put a correct title on it in the next few years...Remember the song, "Someone murdered country music down on Music Row"...Well that will be bluegrass also in a few years...

Charlieshafer
Oct-12-2017, 3:23pm
From charlieshaffer - "Look at Sierra Hull, who was straight bluegrass just a couple of years ago, and as she starts playing with the likes of Ethan Jodziewicz and others, is morphing into something different" And she still gets nominated for 'Bluegrass' mandolin player of the year by the IMBA - that's was PO's most of us off. If she's now ''something different'' - give here an award in that category & leave Bluegrass alone - PLEASE !!.

I hear what you're saying, it's just that IBMA awards would become a dead end. If you kept it only to hard-core trad bluegrass mandolin players (or any other instrument), you'd simply be rotating it among 2-3 players at the most. You might get an occasional newcomer, but for the most part, the younger players want to branch out. Chris Thile wouldn't be in the running at all. Molly Tuttle wins the guitar award, but on her new E.P., there's a (gasp!) electric guitar! OH no! Hey, Doc Watson played electric in his younger days...

It gets tedious when year after year, you see the same old guys winning. I am of the camp (and I know I'm not alone) that think a number of the players have fallen into the "hot lick" category, and their best creative days were long ago, and they live off flashy licks from their catalogue. It's o.k. to move on with the awards, too.

jesserules
Oct-12-2017, 7:26pm
I hear what you're saying, it's just that IBMA awards would become a dead end. If you kept it only to hard-core trad bluegrass mandolin players (or any other instrument), you'd simply be rotating it among 2-3 players at the most. You might get an occasional newcomer, but for the most part, the younger players want to branch out. Chris Thile wouldn't be in the running at all. Molly Tuttle wins the guitar award, but on her new E.P., there's a (gasp!) electric guitar! OH no! Hey, Doc Watson played electric in his younger days...

It gets tedious when year after year, you see the same old guys winning. I am of the camp (and I know I'm not alone) that think a number of the players have fallen into the "hot lick" category, and their best creative days were long ago, and they live off flashy licks from their catalogue. It's o.k. to move on with the awards, too.

Agreed. And the sensible way to move on is to rename the award. "Bluegrass and Americana", "Bluegrass and Acoustic". whatever. Heck, "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass" would be better than just expanding the meaning of "Bluegrass" until it becomes meaningless.

And hey, I think Molly Tuttle is a fine guitar player ... but if you're going to go electric, then you should be in the same awards category as Rascal Flatts, Lady Antebellum ...

PS - You people who are upset by the suggestion that not all acoustic music should be called "bluegrass" - how do you feel about the word "bluegrass" itself? Are you upset that Bill Monroe coined that term to describe his music, which was different from older country styles? Do you think Molly Tuttle's award should have been called the "Hillbilly Guitar" award? If the term "hillbilly" was good enough for the Skillet Lickers ...

doublestoptremolo
Oct-12-2017, 8:24pm
Do you think Molly Tuttle's award should have been called the "Hillbilly Guitar" award? If the term "hillbilly" was good enough for the Skillet Lickers ...

I would much prefer that term, and I think it would open up competition to flatpickers, fingerstyle country-blues players, and Telecaster wizards. I like hillbilly music in all its forms.

Bluegrass music as music is very nice but people who take it too seriously and fret about every new song's deviation from the Platonic ideal of The Tradition Circa 1946 wear me out. Look, it's 2017 and people are still playing Monroe's songs from the 1940s and 50s. No one's gathering together to play Eddy Arnold or Webb Pierce songs. It's been a good run. Let's appreciate Monroe/Scruggs music for what it is but not be too caught up in replicating until the world ends.

CarlM
Oct-12-2017, 9:56pm
I hear what you're saying, it's just that IBMA awards would become a dead end. If you kept it only to hard-core trad bluegrass mandolin players

Take a look at the SPGMA organization and awards to see what it would look like if you tightened the boundaries to keep it strictly to the "That Not Bluegrass!!" players. Not exactly a living breathing group though it has not completely died yet.

The toughest bluegrass police seem to be kinda intermediate to mediocre players trying to tamp down competition. However, the sorry example of country today shows what happens when no lines are drawn. Then again do you kick Doc Watson out because he plugged in or played jazz or played Nights in White Satin and Tutti Fruity? When it comes to genre police it seem like bluegrass has too many and country too few.

Ivan Kelsall
Oct-13-2017, 3:32am
Charlie - I tend to agree with you - but if that really is the case,simply stop calling them 'Bluegrass'' awards. You could call them ''Acoustic Musician of The Year'' awards with various sections ie Banjo/Mandolin etc..... That would cover all acoustic musicians in all genres of acoustic music - except Classical music which has various awards of it's own. For me,it's better than attributing a music style to somebody who no longer plays in that style.

My point - ''Bluegrass'' music is a very specific music,played in a very specific way - let's keep Bluegrass to itself & the guys/gals that still play it. Why 'water it down' with acoustic musicians who no longer play in that style ?. Would you include Bluegrass fiddlers in the ''Gramophone Classical Music Awards'',simply because they play the Violin ?.

I'm not being 'precious' about Bluegrass music,simply stating a claim to it being a very 'specific' genre of acoustic music,which IMHO,should be kept that way. At least the guys/gals who still play the real stuff wouldn't be poked in the eye every time the IBMA awards come up. Simply put - musicians who no longer play Bluegrass music,shouldn't be given a ''Bluegrass'' music award.

Maybe just as well Bill Monroe isn't around to see/hear 'his' music diluted in such a way - i think that it's disrespectful of the 'music' itself - & i am NOT putting any of the fine musicians down by saying this. I wish to hell that i could play like Sierra Hull,but, if i was playing what she plays right now,i wouldn't be calling it ''Bluegrass'',
Purely my personal point of view - Ivan;)

Timbofood
Oct-13-2017, 5:20am
Ivan, we stand on the same mountain,:)

Rex Hart
Oct-13-2017, 8:28am
Well... a little off topic but I'll bite. What is Bluegrass? Were the Country Gentleman bluegrass according to Bill's standards? If it has a minor chord in the song is it bluegrass? What about Hot Rize, Seldom Scene,Reno and Smiley? The Osborne Brothers? The list goes on and on and the problem starts because it is all subjective. Some would consider some or all or none of the above bands listed as bluegrass. It's kind of like debating the color aqua.Is it more green or blue? (No pun intended). How about having categories for mandolin (i.e best traditional mandolin, best contemporay mandolin, etc). To me the best it got with Mr Monroe was when he was playing with Jimmy Martin. What! not Lester and Earl!!:)

Timbofood
Oct-13-2017, 8:36am
I'm surprised it took 50 posts to get back the "What is" discussion, I think I will go make coffee and maybe clean the garage? I will sit out on that one, there are plenty of threads bashing about on that subject.

doublestoptremolo
Oct-13-2017, 9:50am
I think one bad thing about bluegrass culture, among so many good things, is it has the tendency, for some people, to foreclose interest in other great types of hillbilly music because they "ain't bluegrass." The old guard--Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Osbornes, Jim and Jesse, Jimmy Martin, Stanleys--were trying to be successful country and western/hillbilly singers. They weren't trying to win bluegrass awards. Bluegrass is a part of a much larger picture, one snapshot in time of hillbilly music. Too many BG fans have absorbed Bill Monroe's press kit into their way of thinking. I'm very grateful for Ralph Rinzler, et. al, because otherwise Monroe might have faded into oblivion, but seeing bluegrass as its own distinct genre has a downside.

allenhopkins
Oct-13-2017, 10:07am
Good point in the post above. At some of the "bluegrass jams" I have attended in my western NY area, the older musicians don't draw a hard line between bluegrass and old-style country -- Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff stuff. They sing these songs with bluegrass instrumentation, no electric instruments or drums, but without any "that's not bluegrass!" reaction from fellow jammers or listeners.

They tended to view Monroe and other early bluegrass artists as a sub-set of country music in general. IMHO it was the 1960's effort to put bluegrass into the "folk music" category, partially to take advantage of folk music's popularity among non-Southern, younger listeners, that made many people see bluegrass as a largely distinct separate genre from Nashville-style country music. The fact that country was at the time trying to reach a more "pop" audience with the "country-politan" sound -- orchestral strings, choral backup singing, crooner-style vocals -- made the distinction between country and bluegrass even stronger.

You could make the case that Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff were closer akin, than Monroe and, say, Bela Fleck or David Grisman, who played what they called "bluegrass" for years, but with a much more eclectic -- and "non-country" -- vibe. Looking at bluegrass as a sub-genre of overall country music may be a more useful perspective, than seeing it as sui generis.

FLATROCK HILL
Oct-13-2017, 10:45am
I just wonder what Tito Puente or Xavier Cugat might think of this interpretation.

They might love it. On the other hand they might say "Eso no es no parte de nada".?.

Willie Poole
Oct-13-2017, 11:38am
An argument (subject) that will never be settled as long as we live is "What is Bluegrass?" I know it when I hear it and that is what matters to me, I also like other kinds of music and do play songs by Eddy Arnold and Webb Peirce, those were the Old country music that has long gone by the wayside and if we don`t wake up bluegrass will be down there with country....I really liked it when on the radio it was termed "Hillbilly Music" and you could hear a mixture of country and bluegrass on the same station by a "GOOD" disc jockey....Tom Cat Reeder and Ray Davis are gone now and no one to take up the slack...

I am plus one with what Ivan said, I guess Myself, Ivan and Tim will just have to keep real bluegrass alive, anyone else want to join the fold?

Willie

Timbofood
Oct-13-2017, 12:53pm
The guys in "Great Lakes Grass" stand "High on a Mountain top" with you and Ivan! Slipping in some newer songs but, maintaining the sound is still fine with me, it's all about the sound and, "feel" for me, not always so much the subject matter. I was impressed when the "Virginia Squires" did The Rolling Stones "Honky Tonk Woman" even though they changed woman to women but, that's small potatoes.
Nashville Bluegrass Band did a cover of Jim Ringer's "Waiting for the Hard Times to go" they left out one line in the chorus which didn't sit too well with me but, it "sounded right". I was lucky enough to have known Jim a little and, I think he would be happy to have heard such a fine example of his song. Strictly Bluegrass? Maybe not but, certainly in the right church, just a different pew.

Ivan Kelsall
Oct-14-2017, 2:53am
I think that maybe i could carry my argument on to a further point - the ''is it Bluegrass without a banjo ?''. Take any full Bluegrass band ie. banjo/mandolin/guitar/fiddle & bass & in the middle of your chosen Bluegrass 'song' - remove the banjo player.(believe me,i'd like to have done that a few times when the guy hogs it !!). Is what you hear still 'Bluegrass' ??.

How could you say it's NOT ?. But - is the 'sound' the 'sound of Bluegrass' ?. For me,it's not. The 'sound' of a Bluegrass band has to include the banjo. However,saying even that has required a change of my own ideas as to what constitutes ''Bluegrass''. There's the genre ie. the song / instrumental & there's the sound. So for me - Bluegrass can still retain it's identity as Bluegrass without a banjo,but without it,it looses it's essential flavour,a bit like ice cream with no flavouring that could still be called ice cream - but would you want it ?,:(
Ivan;)

PS - The one thing that shines out above all things in these discussions - is the passion that we still have for Bluegrass Music. If we weren't so passionate about it - would we even bother ??.

Mandoplumb
Oct-14-2017, 8:04am
Willie can put me in the group keeping BG real grass as long as the lyrics don't all have to contain reference to a cabin. Don't get me wrong I love all Monroes and F&S songs about cabins and know the lyrics to most, sing them often but while BG roots are firmly planted in the Appalachian mountains the soul of BG is the drive, I didn't say speed. Country Gentlemen, Jimmy Martian, Flatt & Scruggs as well as others drove the music right thru you whether fast or slow. That is the part of BG that makes it BG in my opinion and I'll die saying that there is a lot of good music (most of it acoustic) but it ain't Grass if it don't drive. And Ivan, while it's not impossible to have that drive without a banjo one sure makes it easier, I think that's why we all make jokes about banjos. We know we really need them an to a certain extent we resent that.

Charlieshafer
Oct-14-2017, 8:21am
A banjo and those high lonesome vocals. No high and lonesome, no BG.

FLATROCK HILL
Oct-14-2017, 9:06am
Another quotable quote:


I think that's why we all make jokes about banjos. We know we really need them an to a certain extent we resent that.

You probably think I'm pulling your leg Mandoplumb, but I assure you I'm not. Lately, you've been the Mark Twain of this forum!

Timbofood
Oct-14-2017, 9:44am
It's because banjos are funny! Some banjo players are pretty funny too!
And I agree 100% about "DRIVE" it's not speed, it's force, it's attack, it has absolutely nothing to do with speed!

Rex Hart
Oct-14-2017, 4:55pm
This is getting fun! Blue Railroad Train off of Tony Rice's Manzanita album has no banjo but yet more drive than most songs I hear today with banjo

Willie Poole
Oct-14-2017, 6:54pm
I find that some of the good bluegrass players do change over to other forms of music because it is their sole way of making a living and they usually have a booking agent that digs up gigs for them so they play what the audience wants to hear and sometimes they do this without all of the normal bluegrass instruments and then when they get booked on these jobs a lot of people think what they are playing is bluegrass. that is what I also have seen at the last three "Bluegrass festivals" that I have attended, on one I left after three hours, 50 dollars shot to hell...One band had a fellow sitting on a wooden box and beating on it to keep time with the music.UGH I guess next will be a tambourine or a triangle like in the TV commercial...Maybe the older people would like that though come to think of it...

Willie

Ivan Kelsall
Oct-15-2017, 2:42am
From mandoplumb - "....while it's not impossible to have that drive without a banjo...".It certainly isn't. I went to see Doyle Lawson & Quicksliver when they played over here back in 1988. My favourite banjo player,Scott Vestal was with him at the time,so there definitely wasn't any lack of drive. However,on one song Doyle kicked off on mandolin at such a lick,that the audience simply gasped - & he kept it going throughout the song. That was 'mandolin drive' at it's most awesome !!!.

The banjo does add 'drive'' to a band,but so can a fiddle or a mandolin -IMHO. It's not so much the 'drive' as the 'sound' that makes me say that the banjo is a 100% requirement in Bluegrass if you want to 'sound' like a Bluegrass band.

I've seen many Bluegrass musicians over here in the UK over time,some of whom were playing solo ie. Peter Rowan,whom i've seen a few times, also Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum,who came over without a band. Was what they played Bluegrass because they had no banjo player ??. I'd have to say yes,but it would have sounded far better & more 'like' Bluegrass with a banjo - IMHO (again). I accepted what they played for what it was - good music,played & sung well,but it didn't 'sound' like Bluegrass to me,
Ivan;)

Beanzy
Oct-15-2017, 4:09am
I have to admit I’m definitely one who needs a banjo if I’m to call it Bluegrass, otherwise it’s another style of stringband music. I probably listen to less new Bluegrass bands than old recordings, and listen to more OldTime and other new forms of stringband music than Bluegrass. Doing old stuff for new is hard to sell if you aren’t doing it better than it’s already been done. I mean I’m not so fussy about the flashy picking but it’s hard to better some of those vocal harmonies.
I tend to look on these “Is it Bluegrass?” diversions as a bit of a nuisance intrusion into what are often pretty good premises for a thread & they can spoil the lines of discussion that were developing prior to the intrusion of the old chestnut that’s been rolled around plenty of times before.

As to the original premise; it seems a bit like the world of ‘classical’ music (including all the ‘what is’ and ‘actually that’s not really’ discussions and the cooption the name of a later development as an overarching genre title ) where there are plenty of people who like or hate it, care don’t care about it etc. It’s another niche in the music world where people can learn to develop their musicianship and technical abilities. Unlike baroque music it hasn’t yet been eclipsed by subsequent developments and thanks to our recordings and literature we have very good technical resources to fall back on if the live music scene ever falters or transmogrifies into something else as happened with the Classical and Romantic movements.

How much does it matter if it is music listened to by mainly older people or where younger people start there and branch out?
I know many people are like me where they heard and liked it in their youth, but never really followed up on it until much later. Then, because there was a healthy, welcoming and civil local picking scene, backed up by some great camps and festivals, it was one of the most accessible ways for me to develop quickly as a mandolinist. It didn’t feel nearly as intimidating or fuddy-duddy as many other situations, but coming from a background with a large chunk of classical playing that wouldn’t have bothered me too much. What was important was being able to turn up and join in while being pretty rubbish for a while.
What mattered was that there were people there week in week out getting together to enjoy playing BG & OT, supporting those singing & playing with back up, harmonies etc in one another’s company. Basically they were trying to make each other sound as good as possible, going off to learn newly introduced tunes so the next time it was even better. Many of them get together as bands to really pursue things down a particular line like BG or OT Jug-band etc, but when they get together to jam it’s more flexible as long as it’s in the right ballpark. If people want a more constrained structure then they can form a new jam & see if enough likeminded people turn up.

Is that kind of close support, inter-dependent, location based community structure something widely valued by younger people? While there are some (many when you look nationally here in the UK) I’m kind of glad it’s not a huge thing. Youth is meant for striking out, leaving home & striving for independence, however illusory it may be. It seems important to us be able to strive for the new while we invent our own life story. As long as there are enough of us “keeping on keeping on going” then there’s a welcoming place & connection for those independent folks to come back to.

So I wouldn’t worry too much about the grey hair & no hair around the circle; as long as we’re turning up there’ll be an older someone new turning up to fill the chairs as they fall empty. There’ll also be a set of younger folk attracted to that. The only thing that’ll stop them is if they’re not made welcome.

AlanN
Oct-15-2017, 8:09am
This is getting fun! Blue Railroad Train off of Tony Rice's Manzanita album has no banjo but yet more drive than most songs I hear today with banjo

Love Sam's solo on this.

MikeEdgerton
Oct-15-2017, 8:47am
My favorite quote about my old band:

"…I guess you could consider them a Bluegrass band… they are going to do a lot of real neat songs in the Bluegrass style…"

Randy Bailey
WBJB FM 90.5 Radio Personality
and Albert Hall Host

I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have passed the test here :cool:

jesserules
Oct-15-2017, 12:01pm
"All right, and welcome back to Bluegrass Sunday Morning here on WWWW FM, that was the great old Bluegrass classic 'Nuages' by Django Reinhardt and the Seine River Valley Boys ..."


Hey D.R. started out playing banjo-guitar, that makes his music totally bluegrass, n'est-ce pas?

Timbofood
Oct-15-2017, 3:52pm
Go take a look at Don Greiser's Marty Stuart post, no banjo, still BG sez I even with the snare drum!

J.Albert
Oct-15-2017, 5:02pm
There are plenty of bluegrass songs without a banjo.

There are very very few bluegrass bands without a banjo player...

ralph johansson
Oct-17-2017, 10:44am
Good point in the post above. At some of the "bluegrass jams" I have attended in my western NY area, the older musicians don't draw a hard line between bluegrass and old-style country -- Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff stuff. They sing these songs with bluegrass instrumentation, no electric instruments or drums, but without any "that's not bluegrass!" reaction from fellow jammers or listeners.

They tended to view Monroe and other early bluegrass artists as a sub-set of country music in general. IMHO it was the 1960's effort to put bluegrass into the "folk music" category, partially to take advantage of folk music's popularity among non-Southern, younger listeners, that made many people see bluegrass as a largely distinct separate genre from Nashville-style country music. The fact that country was at the time trying to reach a more "pop" audience with the "country-politan" sound -- orchestral strings, choral backup singing, crooner-style vocals -- made the distinction between country and bluegrass even stronger.

You could make the case that Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff were closer akin, than Monroe and, say, Bela Fleck or David Grisman, who played what they called "bluegrass" for years, but with a much more eclectic -- and "non-country" -- vibe. Looking at bluegrass as a sub-genre of overall country music may be a more useful perspective, than seeing it as sui generis.


I belive we are about the same generation (I was born in 1944); this is almost exactly the way I experienced the whole matter, although in another country. A couple of years ago I wrote an article for a small publication devoted to American folk music. I later translated that article to English. Here's a quote:

"When jam culture in the US (as related to me) defines Oldtime by negating certain traits in
Bluegrass it therefore often becomes an excuse for amateurism and rigid purism. There were other
trends in string band music that could easily have been brought to the same level of professionalism.
I would really like to see Bluegrass as just part of
contemporary American string band music. No kind of music thrives on isolation.

Bluegrass has certainly had its share of definition quarrels. When citybillies like Mike Seeger and Ralph Rinzler became aware of its folk roots, drawing the line against commercial
country music - "the Nashville treacle" to quote Seeger - became important,
marginalizing the Bluegrass-Oldtime dichotomy.
The darlings of the citybillies were the Stanley Brothers, the first prominent Bluegrass group
to tour Europe, typically as part of a folk music package.

The Country Gentlemen, based in the DC area, seemed to divide the folkniks.
Seeger produced them for Folkways records, Rinzler purely hated them. I believe the
Gentlemen simply
saw Bluegrass as an art form. They were equally capable of handling traditional songs from the archives of the Library of Congress as material by contemporary artists like Bob Dylan and Tom Rush,
not to mention show and pop tunes like Heartaches and (The World is Waiting for the) Sunrise.
Typically, their name derived (at least indirectly) from a tune by Chet Atkins, a very unprejudiced and ecelectic musician.

By the 70's Bluegrass appeared to have painted itself into a corner of stylistic expectations, to the extent that any step out was a step into something else - already existing. Frankly, most of the "experimentation"
was driven by survival rather than curiosity. When the commercial potential of these changes had been exhausted, and the situation for Bluegrass had brightened, many artists went back to their roots."

ralph johansson
Oct-17-2017, 11:02am
There's so much in this interesting thread to unpack, I'm not quite sure to know where to start. Much of my response will seem like a repeat of material I've long been writing on my blog and in No Depression. Bluegrass, like all musical formats and genres, has and will continue to evolve. The questing spirit of young innovators clashes with the desire to hear familiar material from decade to decade. The roots of bluegrass are clear and well-established. It's even given a birth-date, December 8, 1946, when Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs joined Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys at the Grand Ole Opry. However, the world surrounding this iconic moment has changed and so, inevitably, has the music.




That would be almost three months after their recording debut for Columbia. The Opry debut was in late 1945.

The exact birth date of BG is open to argument, if at all meaningful. Earl Scruggs and Don Reno played in other bands before joining Monroe. Scruggs liked to say that the Morris Brothers was the first Bluegrass band. And Monroe, of course, claimed that BG began with the first Victor Session in Atlanta 1940, or his Opry debut in 1939. To him, what distinguished BG from most contemporary string band music was the groove. I would say that BG, as a genre, began about the time Flatt and Scruggs left the Blue Grass Boys. Monroe is considered the "father" because F&S, Reno&Smiley, the Stanley Brothers, and others, took off from this edition of the BG Boys, but there really is no genre before others introduce their own twist on the original concept.

Mandoplumb
Oct-17-2017, 11:11am
I don’t see how you could call Stanley Brothers citybillies. Have you ever listened to Carter, folks from the big cities can’t even understand him he’s so country. I’ll agree a lot of what they sang was old country or Old Time but was done with a pretty good drive, if you want to say it wasn’t BG I disagree but can see where you are coming from but they would have to be hillbilly.

allenhopkins
Oct-17-2017, 11:29am
Good points in the posts above, though I have a hard time understanding just what "contemporary American string band music" might be. Most of the old-timey performers I know don't necessarily reject bluegrass music; some have a foot in both camps, and there are bands that will play an old-time fiddle tune with clawhammer banjo, then shift to play a bluegrass vocal with finger-picked banjo, mandolin "chop," etc. One of the things that defines "contemporary American string band music" to me is a recognition, if not a total acceptance or incorporation, of a variety of styles and influences. A band like the Carolina Chocolate Drops, consciously and skillfully reaching into the long-neglected heritage of African-American string band music, can share the "contemporary American" stage with Crooked Still, Old Crow Medicine Show, Rhonda Vincent and the Horseflies.

There are old-timey musicians, for sure, who just don't like bluegrass. They draw on the "dance band" heritage of American fiddle music -- extended length of tunes, de-emphasis of vocals and instrumental soloing, fairly strictly defined instrumental roles, social music rather than performance music. And there are surely many bluegrass fans -- perhaps more than bluegrass musicians -- who jealously defend what they consider to be the true canon of the genre, and express their discomfort with innovations that violate "purity." We frequently quote Bill Monroe's dismissive "no part of nothin'" comment on certain changes he didn't like, forgetting the experiments and innovations that marked Monroe's own musical career. In opposition, we could list the many musicians who've played bluegrass and other styles, from Marty Stuart, David Grisman, Tony Rice, Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Chris Hillman, Jerry Garcia...the roster would extend through dozens of more famous names, and doubtless many more of whom we're not aware.

I do agree that some of the motivation for these musicians to expand outside of bluegrass -- or, alternatively, to expand what they called "bluegrass" beyond traditional definitions -- was survival, trying to make a living, playing music that had a broader appeal, both stylistically and geographically, than "trad" bluegrass. The Country Gentlemen, whom Ralph J cites, were to some extent a product of the "folk revival" of the late 1950's and early 1960's; they went after a college-based, "folk music" audience, rather than playing the rural schools and tent shows that Bill Monroe had played. And as a group with varied influences in their backgrounds -- John Duffey came from a family that sang opera -- they felt less need to stick to the Monroe template. But I do think that "curiosity," or rather comfort with experimentation, and more eclectic backgrounds -- outside the rural South -- played important roles.

Bluegrass seems in little danger of going the way of, say, Dixieland jazz, which is definitely seen as "preserved nostalgia" rather than a vital, growing musical genre. There are quite a few young musicians playing bluegrass or bluegrass-influenced music, sometimes blended with rock, folk, old-timey, country and other styles. But, to bring the discussion back to the title of the thread, it is the audiences rather than the performers, that seem to want to be the arbiters of what's traditional, acceptable, and worthy of being called "bluegrass." Not entirely due to their age ("elderly"), but due to their immersal in the music over nearly 75 years, and their view of it as something unique and special -- under siege from the outside, the property of an in-group that alone truly understands and appreciates it.

Bluegrass will survive its fans, I believe -- or rather, there'll be a large enough component of the genre (trying to avoid using the word "residue") to keep the "trad" audience at least interested and active, while continuing to add new audiences who enjoy the energy, virtuosity, and non-mainstream "vibe" of the music.

Willie Poole
Oct-17-2017, 12:02pm
Some good points Allen,

Last summer my band played for a Seniors Home and about 20 of the people that lived there came up to me after we took a break and said we love your music, we haven`t heard true bluegrass for a long time, most of them said that they always listened to WAMU every day when they played bluegrass and now that they don't they sure miss it...These seniors all seemed to be "city folks" and not from the country but no one can really tell....My dad always called the music "String music" because he grew up before the name "bluegrass" was invented, he owned a guitar and a banjo but couldn`t play a lick on either one, he did tear up a harmonica though...right, no strings on a harmonica....

It did my heart good to know that those seniors enjoyed our music and that it could bring back some good memories for them...a lot of them sang along with some of the songs too.....

Willie

Rex Hart
Oct-17-2017, 4:34pm
Allen you made a good point. It does seem to be the listeners as opposed to the actual performers who tend to want to say what is or isn't Bluegrass. Most performers play what they want and let the people decide. Ricky Skaggs has numerous projects which can be described as Bluegrass and others that hardly qualify. He had a record out a few years back called Mosaic which is as good or better than anything he has ever done, but even he will tell you it wasn't Bluegrass. As long as there is "roots" based music around, whether you call it Bluegrass or not, there will always be players and an audience. There will always be people looking for something authentic when it comes to music. It's universal.

Charlieshafer
Oct-17-2017, 6:13pm
By the 70's Bluegrass appeared to have painted itself into a corner of stylistic expectations, to the extent that any step out was a step into something else - already existing. Frankly, most of the "experimentation"
was driven by survival rather than curiosity. When the commercial potential of these changes had been exhausted, and the situation for Bluegrass had brightened, many artists went back to their roots."

I think everything Ralph said made sense, but I'll offer a different perspective on this part of his article. A different sort of energy came from up north, the New York City area, and down into Galax, and East Tennessee State's Bluegrass course refers to this exodus as "Jewgrass" which is a perfectly accurate representation (even Jay Ungar refers to himself as a "Jewish kid from the Bronx"). A look at all the early hippie bands that formed and competed at Galax will show that many are still quite active and influential. There's Brad Leftwich, John Specker from Queens, an early teacher to Bruce Molsky, all the Horseflies, some of the Highwoods gang, etc.

Why this matters is that they were interested far more in experimentation than commercial success. The first record that's sort of accorded "the birth of Newgrass" status was John Hartford's Steam Powered Aereoplain from 1971, a loose jam-based experimental album if there ever was one. 1975 marks the David Grisman Quintet's birth, and that powerhouse band was much more of an intellectual experiment than simple a commercial enterprise. Those guys could have chosen to play anything, but went a quite different route.

Richard Greene's Duets record, Darol Anger's Fiddlistics, Vassar Clements country jazz records, all were a labor of love and a decided step away from what could make them the most money. Those that wanted to make some cash went more Nashville mainstream, like Ricky Scagg's brief foray into country music. At least in Ricky's case, the tunes were good (at least liked them...) Anyway, it's during that time period that things really started to split from the genre-specific norm, and stuff was flying everywhere. Most of it was purely experimental; if you wanted to make money you were in Nashville, L.A., or NYC, and you were doing country or pop.

FLATROCK HILL
Oct-17-2017, 8:54pm
I don’t see how you could call Stanley Brothers citybillies. Have you ever listened to Carter, folks from the big cities can’t even understand him he’s so country. I’ll agree a lot of what they sang was old country or Old Time but was done with a pretty good drive, if you want to say it wasn’t BG I disagree but can see where you are coming from but they would have to be hillbilly.

I don't think Ralph's (Johansson) intent was to categorize the Stanley Brothers as citybillies. I believe he meant that they (Ralph and Carter) were idolized by citybillies. That's what I got out of it anyway.

Timbofood
Oct-18-2017, 5:50am
28 posts after the " What is..." gauntlet was dropped and no one has made many comments about age and the music since.
As for the original BG for the elderly comment,
The fans have simply aged, just like the performers, some have aged and died like the performers. Go look at the average age at a Bob Seeger show, it's the same kind of thing. We only think we are unique! (Well, we are but we know it!)
I think I will barbecue today.

Charlieshafer
Oct-18-2017, 5:55am
Well, Tim is right, so I'll agree: bluegrass fans are dying off. There, you have it. And the kids want to do different stuff. Here's a very telling video about what kids with bluegrass instruments want to do. Can't get much clearer than this.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOPxHFiMrUM

Timbofood
Oct-18-2017, 7:58am
I see snare drum!
Reference to the Marty Stuart goes to the moon thread in video forum.

Interesting, but then, so is haggis (I'm told)
To my corner.

JL277z
Oct-18-2017, 8:16am
Well, Tim is right, so I'll agree: bluegrass fans are dying off. There, you have it. And the kids want to do different stuff. Here's a very telling video about what kids with bluegrass instruments want to do. Can't get much clearer than this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOPxHFiMrUM

Well that was some different music! I actually didn't mind it at all, it was kinda interesting.

It looks like that same band also is capable of playing 'normal' stuff too, they certainly have the rhythm down in the following video "Angeline The Baker", don't know if it's "bluegrass" (there is a 3-finger banjo style, but no mandolin) ... good toe-tapping dance music IMO:


(or direct link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMrOmFCoyMY))

Mandoplumb
Oct-18-2017, 1:40pm
Ya’ll are looking at the “now” music, just as in my youth there was an acoustic rock that most of my generation were going to, and the old folks said they hated it but BG as we have known it is dead. Now I’m the old folks and the tendency is to think BG as we know it is dead. When I really think about it I’m convinced that it will never die and equally convinced that very few (read none) will get rich playing it as those who play commercial music. I’m old enough to remember Bonnie and Clyde and the interest in BG that the movie made, not long after music for the masses was commercial, then came Deliverance, ditto. A few years later came Old Brother Where Art Thou. I read articles telling how people were coming to their roots and wanted their music simpler and this music ( which by the way was pre-bluegrass) was here to stay. I took that as so much B## Sh##. The problem is that real musicians play music for music sake, in any genre, commercial music is played to sell and the powers that be tell you what that is. Hardcore musicians of any kind don’t listen so good so record labels, promoters, etc can’t control them so the shun them, always have been that way, always will. Real BG will never be commercial but it will never die out.

Timbofood
Oct-19-2017, 7:40am
Nothing is constant but change.
Well put Mandoplumb! I remember all three of the “Great movie impacts” you mention. All of them did spark a little interest but mostly failed in providing much more than a smattering of exposure. It was a sound track, not any more broadscoped educational tool than watching a WWII action in the north Atlantic movie will tell your u anything about real experience in those waters. If you want to learn about the music, what North Atlantic squall survival or anything is like, you can’t expect to know it all from the movies, you need to get wet, get calluses, get first hand exposure.
Sorry, that changed course yet again! I need more coffee.

jesserules
Oct-19-2017, 11:10am
Finding myself simultaneously amused and baffled by the posters who believe "That isn't bluegrass" means "That isn't good music".

I like the MC5.

I do not consider the MC5 to be a bluegrass band.

But WAIT! Can BOTH of those statements possibly be true?

Yes.


Signed,

Just somebody who doesn't see the upside to using the term "bluegrass" for "any music played on acoustic instruments".

Timbofood
Oct-19-2017, 11:54am
Good music is good music within any genre (that I like at the moment, I suppose) poorly executed music is excrement and something I avoid, I do not force what I enjoy on others and expect mutual adoration for the genre. The opposite of that is often true, I will listen to what someone wants to share with me and either accept or discard it.
Taste cannot be dictated, merely offered.

Willie Poole
Oct-19-2017, 12:39pm
I`ll also be honest about this subject....I don`t like all bluegrass music, and I do like other kinds of music, but only if it is played with taste and played where instruments are well balanced and vocals the same...I like to do the mixing on CD`s when my band makes them, but that comes with being the leader of the band and not everyone will like what I like...I have listened to some older bluegrass recordings that I couldn`t stand and the same songs being recorded by folks like Skaggs and Cliff Waldron make them sound a lot better mainly because of the attention being paid to the mixing and of course much better sound equipment.....That being said I also hear that some of the older folks like to listen to old records as opposed to listening to CD`s, I guess it is because that is what they had when they were growing up, I know I have a lot of LP`s and I love that sound myself...I guess I am older than most of you...Enjoy what you like but don`t give up on traditional bluegrass, it is truly American music...

Willie

ralph johansson
Oct-22-2017, 7:15am
I don't think Ralph's (Johansson) intent was to categorize the Stanley Brothers as citybillies. I believe he meant that they (Ralph and Carter) were idolized by citybillies. That's what I got out of it anyway.


You got it right. The Stanley Brothers also appeared at the first Newport Folk Festival.


I forget who arranged the European tour in 1966, but it was centered on the New Lost City Ramblers, with John Cohen doing much of the talking (or, you might say, lecturing). The other participants were Cousin Emmy, Roscoe Holcomb, and Cyp Landreneau's cajon trio.

ralph johansson
Oct-22-2017, 7:25am
I think everything Ralph said made sense, but I'll offer a different perspective on this part of his article. A different sort of energy came from up north, the New York City area, and down into Galax, and East Tennessee State's Bluegrass course refers to this exodus as "Jewgrass" which is a perfectly accurate representation (even Jay Ungar refers to himself as a "Jewish kid from the Bronx"). A look at all the early hippie bands that formed and competed at Galax will show that many are still quite active and influential. There's Brad Leftwich, John Specker from Queens, an early teacher to Bruce Molsky, all the Horseflies, some of the Highwoods gang, etc.

Why this matters is that they were interested far more in experimentation than commercial success. The first record that's sort of accorded "the birth of Newgrass" status was John Hartford's Steam Powered Aereoplain from 1971, a loose jam-based experimental album if there ever was one. 1975 marks the David Grisman Quintet's birth, and that powerhouse band was much more of an intellectual experiment than simple a commercial enterprise. Those guys could have chosen to play anything, but went a quite different route.

Richard Greene's Duets record, Darol Anger's Fiddlistics, Vassar Clements country jazz records, all were a labor of love and a decided step away from what could make them the most money. Those that wanted to make some cash went more Nashville mainstream, like Ricky Scagg's brief foray into country music. At least in Ricky's case, the tunes were good (at least liked them...) Anyway, it's during that time period that things really started to split from the genre-specific norm, and stuff was flying everywhere. Most of it was purely experimental; if you wanted to make money you were in Nashville, L.A., or NYC, and you were doing country or pop.

To this list one might add Roger Sprung's progressive Bluegrass albums for Folkways, perhaps the most serious attempt to include drums in a BG band, among other things.


But I was mainly thinking of the bands that played full time and had already made a name for themselves in the genre; mainly Jim&Jesse, the Osborne Brothers, and Flatt&Scruggs -- that is, 3/4 of the BG bands appearing on the Grand Ole Opry.

And, frankly, I think of Grisman's Dawg Music as a complete departure from the BG canon.

ralph johansson
Oct-22-2017, 7:38am
Good points in the posts above, though I have a hard time understanding just what "contemporary American string band music" might be. Most of the old-timey performers I know don't necessarily reject bluegrass music; some have a foot in both camps, and there are bands that will play an old-time fiddle tune with clawhammer banjo, then shift to play a bluegrass vocal with finger-picked banjo, mandolin "chop," etc. One of the things that defines "contemporary American string band music" to me is a recognition, if not a total acceptance or incorporation, of a variety of styles and influences. A band like the Carolina Chocolate Drops, consciously and skillfully reaching into the long-neglected heritage of African-American string band music, can share the "contemporary American" stage with Crooked Still, Old Crow Medicine Show, Rhonda Vincent and the Horseflies.

....

I do agree that some of the motivation for these musicians to expand outside of bluegrass -- or, alternatively, to expand what they called "bluegrass" beyond traditional definitions -- was survival, trying to make a living, playing music that had a broader appeal, both stylistically and geographically, than "trad" bluegrass. The Country Gentlemen, whom Ralph J cites, were to some extent a product of the "folk revival" of the late 1950's and early 1960's; they went after a college-based, "folk music" audience, rather than playing the rural schools and tent shows that Bill Monroe had played. And as a group with varied influences in their backgrounds -- John Duffey came from a family that sang opera -- they felt less need to stick to the Monroe template. But I do think that "curiosity," or rather comfort with experimentation, and more eclectic backgrounds -- outside the rural South -- played important roles.

Bluegrass seems in little danger of going the way of, say, Dixieland jazz, which is definitely seen as "preserved nostalgia" rather than a vital, growing musical genre. There are quite a few young musicians playing bluegrass or bluegrass-influenced music, sometimes blended with rock, folk, old-timey, country and other styles. But, to bring the discussion back to the title of the thread, it is the audiences rather than the performers, that seem to want to be the arbiters of what's traditional, acceptable, and worthy of being called "bluegrass." Not entirely due to their age ("elderly"), but due to their immersal in the music over nearly 75 years, and their view of it as something unique and special -- under siege from the outside, the property of an in-group that alone truly understands and appreciates it.

Bluegrass will survive its fans, I believe -- or rather, there'll be a large enough component of the genre (trying to avoid using the word "residue") to keep the "trad" audience at least interested and active, while continuing to add new audiences who enjoy the energy, virtuosity, and non-mainstream "vibe" of the music.

Very good points. Allow me to quote again from my artice. In the last part I dwell on the perceived harmonic limitations of Bluegrass, turing to the scarcity of tunes in minor keys, at least in the early years:

"Gene Lowinger was the first Yankee to fiddle with Bill Monroe, in 1965. In his book "I Hear a Voice Calling" he relates how Monroe once accompanied him to a synagogue in Nashville.
Monroe was immensely fascinated with the minor dominated music. Afterwards he thanked the rabbi and
expressed his hope of incorporating some of these sounds in his own music.

I've looked into Wolfe-Rosenberg's Monroe discography. Up to this time I find only one minor tune (bordering on the Dorian), Kentucky Mandolin, a live performance with Doc Watson. The Lonesome Moonlight Waltz (also performed live with Watson) progresses from d minor to its relative major, F. The bridge of Cheyenne is in g minor, the relative minor to Bb flat. And that appears to be all.

Later in his career we find, e.g., Land of Lincoln, Jerusalem Ridge (which Kenny Baker more than helped write), Crossing the Cumberlands, My Last Days on Earth, Southern Flavor, and My Love is Gone.
The last song (never recorded by Monroe) has found interpreters far outside the Bluegrass tradition, most notably Katy Melua.

I cite Monroe mainly because the myth portrays him as jealously guarding his creation against
blasphemy, unwilling to develop after his sound was established. But then many people forget
that he recorded a Rockabilly number, Sally Jo, in 1957, and a Dixieland number, Milenburg Joy,
in 1976, which he learned in Chicago more than 40 years earlier. Why wasn't there more of that?
I believe the angriest purists are among the fans and festival promoters (recall Cadillac Sky being
run off the stage at a festival a couple of years ago). Musicians as a rule are more curious and often
frustrated by the expectations of the audience, real or imagined.

As for myself I did not grow up with this music and have always approached it without prejudice. If I play a Bluegrass standard I care only about my fellow musicians, the melody, the groove I feel and the way I hear the changes. Listening to others I am often drawn to mischief and impurity. I rejoice when Dailey&Vincent record with strings, when Rhonda Vincent and Claire Lynch do swing type numbers,
when Sam Bush and David Grisman race through Daybreak in Dixie with flute and drums, when Cadillac Sky contribute a novel virtuosity as arrangers and players, when IIIrd Tyme Out do Only You a cappella,
or Chris Stapleton lends his gravelly voice to some of the most musical lyrics in the whole genre.

Drawing lines and quarreling about definitions therefore is not my bag. But I wouldn't mind a speed limit."

Charlieshafer
Oct-22-2017, 7:50am
You got it right. The Stanley Brothers also appeared at the first Newport Folk Festival.


I forget who arranged the European tour in 1966, but it was centered on the New Lost City Ramblers, with John Cohen doing much of the talking (or, you might say, lecturing). The other participants were Cousin Emmy, Roscoe Holcomb, and Cyp Landreneau's cajon trio.

Ah, back in the day when Newport Folk was actually all folk. And then came the Dylan electric show... Newport does represent an evolution of popular musical taste, though, and is an interesting petri dish of what it takes to stay alive in the music industry. If Newport were still 100% "folk", as in singer-songwriters, would it even draw flies? Who would be there performers? True folk music (whatever that is, but let's assume for this purpose it's the vision of the old folkie singing songs of lost love or labor disputes or some transgression by The Man) around here draws maybe 40 people a show.

This past summer's festival was a lot of alt-hipster-pop, some southern blues-type rock and so forth. My daughter went, brought back a highlight playlist for me, and it was all really well done music, but not folk anymore. This transformation into a different kind of festival doesn't bother me in the least, I wouldn't go to a true folk festival either. I'd rather see Newport continue, even if in a tradition that supports different sounds, that have to be "folk influenced" as opposed to the real thing.

The one constant in music is change, and when genres stay "pure," they tend to lose audience. Take Delta blues in it's pure, solo form. There are still some practitioners who are superb, but their audience is tiny. The blues morphed into Chicago blues and into rock. Or, was it New Orleans piano funk, with Professor Longhair and Little Richard that influenced Chuck Berry that morphed into rock? New Orleans parade music founded jazz, and that same jazz, combined with rock became funk. Old Time merged with early country and blues, with a little gospel, to make Bluegrass. The new string band stuff? Classical, old-time, bluegrass, blues, folk, all mix together. There's not an end-point to music, and those that try to pick a specific spot and extoll it's virtues over all others are perfectly welcome to do so, but the vast majority won't be listening.

Mandoplumb
Oct-22-2017, 8:42am
Finding myself simultaneously amused and baffled by the posters who believe "That isn't bluegrass" means "That isn't good music" I like the MC5.I do not consider the MC5 to be a bluegrass band.But WAIT! Can BOTH of those statements possibly be true?
Yes.
Signed,
Just somebody who doesn't see the upside to using the term "bluegrass" for "any music played on acoustic instruments".

I agree there is no upside to calling any acoustic music bluegrass, I see the reverse of your first statement and that also baffles me. There are people that seem to think if they like it it's bluegrass. Early rock and roll though not acoustic is closer to BG than a lot of acoustic music today. Think about it,there was a featured "break" electric guitar or sax, high close harmony, a deffinate drive. Really both came from the same roots and are about the same age, don't tell the Bluegrass Police.

jesserules
Oct-22-2017, 1:19pm
... Early rock and roll though not acoustic is closer to BG than a lot of acoustic music today. Think about it,there was a featured "break" electric guitar or sax, high close harmony, a deffinate drive. Really both came from the same roots and are about the same age, don't tell the Bluegrass Police.

The Bluegrass Police already have an outstanding warrant for Bill "Member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame" Monroe.

allenhopkins
Oct-22-2017, 1:44pm
...If Newport were still 100% "folk", as in singer-songwriters, would it even draw flies? Who would be there performers? True folk music (whatever that is, but let's assume for this purpose it's the vision of the old folkie singing songs of lost love or labor disputes or some transgression by The Man) around here draws maybe 40 people a show.....

Well, I'd go, to be part of the dozens in the audience. There are festivals -- Philadelphia Folk Festival, e.g. (https://pfs.org/56thlineup/) that seem to mix in quite a few singer-songwriters, and even traditional folk acts, with the other genres. I do agree that it's hard to find a festival that's "100% folk," though the Old Songs Festival near Albany comes close; (http://festival.oldsongs.org/performers/) they've been going 38 years, no signs of stopping, must be drawing more than 40 people...

catmandu2
Oct-22-2017, 2:23pm
My observation is that, congruous with broad societal demographics, trends in folk festivals are more diverse than just a variety of Appalachian-style, country, western, and "alt"-acoustic jazz stuff. Typically there's one or possibly two acts representing the various dominant folk forms and traditions in North Anerica. So there's one trad bluegrass act, and many others including blues, cajun, zydeco, new orleans brass, gospel, swing, tejano, native american, irish, scand, etc.

agirlandheryarn
Oct-22-2017, 7:04pm
I, for one, never thought I liked Bluegrass. That is until I started learning the mandolin... Now when I hear a bluegrass song or see a show, I'm mesmerized by the skill it takes. It sounds beautiful to me. Not sure how it happened. I think it's because I'd love to play that fast someday and I know how much I practice and where I'm at currently. Many younger people today don't take the time to learn an instrument, they want instantaneous gratification. They want to go on YouTube and quickly learn a song. When they realize how much practice and how long it takes, most quit. I struggled with the instantaneous gratification desire in the beginning, but luckily I have a teacher that helped me push through it and I'm finely starting to see results. The more results, the more addicted I get. I just saw a bluegrass trio at a festival today and I was in awe of the mandolinist' skill. I told my hubby, "one day"..:)

I agree with most of the comments on this thread except, "Wagon Wheel" is a dang good song, and people are crazy if they don't like it. Darius Rucker could sing the phone book and I'd like it, though.:grin: Lori

grassrootphilosopher
Oct-23-2017, 5:22am
Well, on this all I can say is that this is why younger folks turn away from tradition. The statement about other genres "dabbling" and failing is particularly troublesome. Remember that when Stuart Duncan started in on the Goat Rodeo Sessions, he was the first to say he was in way over his head. If you have years of training in one genre only, it's going to take a while to catch on to something new.

All of those statements about what bluegrass is are equally true about classical, jazz, the blues, whatever. Jazzers, at least here, were among the most competitive, with cutting sessions going for days on end.

The younger generation realizes that everything is good, and to play ANYTHING well requires skill, effort and an ear. When jamming with younger musicians, and someone goes wonky, there's never a sideways glance, usually a smile or a laugh. The youngers are who will save acoustic music, those that think their genre is "special" are the ones who will assure it's untimely death.

I donīt think that the statement itself is troublesome. I stated what I have found out is true (where I live). Let me exemplify.

There was a jazz jamsession where I lived. It was shortlived for various reasons. I went there to throw my 2ct in. I was prepaired, able and willing. I received the first strange looks when I came to the stage with my mandolin. The second strange looks came when my mandolin was not to be amplified by a direct transducer system. Thatīs when the guy responsible for the sound and member of the house band (bass) asked me why I didnīt have "a real instrument". I had to tell him that if he knows how to make the sound work, Iīll show him what a real istrument is. I played a couple of pieces (Autumn Leaves, Take Five, Caravan) and blew the auditorium sky high.

I was at an open session where I was told by some "pop music" dude that they wouldnīt play country and western. I had to tell him that I didnīt see any chicken wire (referrence to the Blues Brothers movie), and if he would keep the rythm I could keep up with anything he would play. After finishing his think he grudgingly acepted my musicianship.

I thought that Iīd try to lure my sonīs guitar teacher (pro musician by the way) into a project. Therefore I had to convince him that my music is "good enough". He looked down on bluegrass as music with "kitchen chords"... So in one of my sonīs lessons I unpacked my old guitar and played some. That was when the guitar teacher at least acknowledged my playing. With a little coaxing I convinced him of jaming some with me. I found out that it was simply to complicated for him. While I played the baroque pieces he suggested with ease (and probably with a little grassy spice) he simply didnīt cut the (fairly simple) fiddletunes like Soldierīs Joy, Red Haired Boy, Gold Rush etc. Finally he let go, claiming the simplicity of the music and that it was not his thing.

This said I do think that when you have hunger for the music, for any kind of music, you are willing to accept a challenge. You will be interested in the musical language. You will also accept unorthodox approaches (see the thread about bluegrass saxophone - very nice!).

I just see the danger that people will oversimplify the word bluegrass. I see the danger that they think itīs just about pounding out 3 chords and hollering Wagon Wheel at the top of their lungs. Iīve seen it done. But that ainīt part of nuthing.

Opening the eyes, embracing music and musicianship, accepting technical challenges is the key. I see bluegrass musicians do it all the time. I donīt see musicians from other genres beeing that open minded (in Germany that is).

Charlieshafer
Oct-23-2017, 5:52am
Hey Olaf, this will be hard to explain, but in essence I was agreeing with your statement, and saying the general effect of the purists dissing dabblers was troubling. We're thrilled that Berklee, for example, has more applications than ever. The younger generation is losing the concept of "I play jazz mandolin" or "I play Bluegrass mandolin." You leave saying, "I play mandolin" or "I play violin." You learn all of music, and what you play is music. You're technique is top-flight, you've learned to improvise, you've learned all the theory, so now you just play. Sitting in on a jam or two with kids who started with us years ago, and went on to a Berklee or Ithaca, is great fun. You have no idea what gets called next, and everyone joins in, and any improvisational break, successful or a failure, is met with laughs and cheers. One tune is bluegrass, the next is Monk.

The old guys, well, not so much. Many would like to try, but just haven't had the opportunity to be as flexible as they'd like, and of course, there are the "purists." It's getting to the point now that being a "purist" simply means you can't play as well. It sounds rough, but in a way, it's true. The trad folks will say that they don't have the nuance to play "their" music correctly. And then they hear them play, and it's over. They don't realize the young players at the more progressive programs get as much training in listening and ear training as they do playing.

You're comment on that effect in Germany was pretty timely. We had Mike Marshall and Darol Anger last week, and after the show Mike was talking about his frustrations with German audiences, not relaxing and not accepting the genre-less music. It needed to be easily identifiable as Irish, bluegrass, classical, or jazz. None of this in-between stuff.

Rex Hart
Oct-23-2017, 10:08am
I think there always needs to be "purists" in any genre of music. If there weren't the so called purists, then the original intent or form of the music would be forgotton as time passes. However, both can co exist at the same time. I have no problem with people like Willie who like to keep the music as close to possible as our Bluegrass forefathers did it.The main issue the trads have with anyone who doesn't play the music "pure", is that it needs to simply identify it as something else. ( i.e, progressive, comtemporay, etc) I see both sides. I have been misled in the past as something that is advertised as a type of music and then you find out it is no where close. I love all music that has technicality and first and foremost soul.

grassrootphilosopher
Oct-23-2017, 11:12am
Hey Olaf, this will be hard to explain, but in essence I was agreeing with your statement, and saying the general effect of the purists dissing dabblers was troubling. We're thrilled that Berklee, for example, has more applications than ever. The younger generation is losing the concept of "I play jazz mandolin" or "I play Bluegrass mandolin." You leave saying, "I play mandolin" or "I play violin." You learn all of music, and what you play is music. You're technique is top-flight, you've learned to improvise, you've learned all the theory, so now you just play. Sitting in on a jam or two with kids who started with us years ago, and went on to a Berklee or Ithaca, is great fun. You have no idea what gets called next, and everyone joins in, and any improvisational break, successful or a failure, is met with laughs and cheers. One tune is bluegrass, the next is Monk.

The old guys, well, not so much. Many would like to try, but just haven't had the opportunity to be as flexible as they'd like, and of course, there are the "purists." It's getting to the point now that being a "purist" simply means you can't play as well. It sounds rough, but in a way, it's true. The trad folks will say that they don't have the nuance to play "their" music correctly. And then they hear them play, and it's over. They don't realize the young players at the more progressive programs get as much training in listening and ear training as they do playing.

You're comment on that effect in Germany was pretty timely. We had Mike Marshall and Darol Anger last week, and after the show Mike was talking about his frustrations with German audiences, not relaxing and not accepting the genre-less music. It needed to be easily identifiable as Irish, bluegrass, classical, or jazz. None of this in-between stuff.

I think you made your point clear. I agree. Young players (in the US) have the chance to hit the road running. They have the access to learning materials that enable them to come up with their ideas. That means that they are not limited to the same old same old. This is essentially the first generation bluegrasser approach. They came up with something new also.

I am absolutely in favor of people that can (and do) embrace new ideas and that break down musical barriers. What I would like to see the younger generation to do is to keep their music "human", "true", "soulful". To me that means that music should not be played to show off technique. It should also encorporate a (personal) meaning.

I think that the "old school" people criticize the "new bluegrass generation" because of the fear that soul is being sacrificed for technique. I sometimes feel that way too. On the other hand I would have a hard time to dislike bands like "The Lonely Heartstring Band".

In the field of Bluegrass I do not see any problem. I see the problem with musicians (anywhere) that belittle a style of music out of their own ignorance. Otherwise I see the problem with musicians that think the world of their own limited proficiency and disregard (and maybe ignore) other peopleīs abilities (donīt get me into storytelling here).

German audience... is not relaxed (in general). In a Taj Mahal concert in Kiel the audience had a blast (according to the northern German`s temprament). Taj Mahalīs perception of the audienceīs mood was that of infinite restraint (and he made himself clear).

If you do not have a pop music audience in Germany you will mostly have an extremely well behaved audience that behaves as if it sits through a Händel Messe.

The problem that I see is that in Germany you are fighting against diecast stereotypes. You have to get into locations that are open to a general public like local theatre houses, culture centers, music halls etc to be able to reach an audience with potential (and without prejudices). In order to play there, you have to convince the local organizer (mostly someone from the local administration) that the music you want to present is equally "valuable" as their hobbyhorse. That means you have to fight diehard classical music lovers, jazz lovers (who had to overcome diehard classical music lovers 40 years ago, trying to bring jazz to the public), irish music freaks (who still try to establish an irish music scene over here) etc.

I lived in a place where - when you finally were accepted by the administration - you had your (diverse and receptive) audience. More so where I live now.

Willie Poole
Oct-23-2017, 1:10pm
One thing I would like to add is that the older folks listened to country and bluegrass music when there wasn`t any electronic gizmos to make a sound that a picker couldn`t get from a guitar. fiddle or mandolin...One place where my band plays regularly is filled to the brim with this type of people, they don`t want to hear amplified loud instruments, they want to hear it acoustically and songs that are done with feeling because they say that is what they grew up listening to and it is hard to find that type of music anywhere now days and that really makes me feel good at what I am doing, just bringing some joy to folks no matter what it takes, we do some of the newer songs but when each song is finished we can really tell what they love because of the applause they offer and after a show a lot of them come up to the stage area and shake hands and ask for a business card so they can contact me to see where we are playing the next show....I know this also happens at other places with other types of music but since this thread was entitled "Bluegrass for the Elderly" I just thought I would say what I have found from the older folks in some places where my band plays...

One day I met a fellow and we got to talking about music and he said he played a violin and I told him that I played mandolin and had a bluegrass band and asked him if he would like to sit in at one of our practice sessions and he said he didn`t really know any bluegrass songs but he would come and listen and see what it was all about, well he showed up, tuned his violin and using all of his skills that he had learned from playing classical violin he didn`t miss a beat when we played the "simple" traditional bluegrass songs and he said he loved it and even though bluegrass sounds simple there is some songs that are right complicated...I haven`t kept up with what he is doing now days but his parents spent a lot of money for his classical violin lessons so just maybe he is playing in some big name band now...No, he isn`t elderly but it goes to show that bluegrass can be liked by all music lovers if they just go out and listen to some of the bands...

Sorry to be so long....Willie

Charlieshafer
Oct-23-2017, 4:34pm
Band".

German audience... is not relaxed (in general). In a Taj Mahal concert in Kiel the audience had a blast (according to the northern German`s temprament). Taj Mahalīs perception of the audienceīs mood was that of infinite restraint (and he made himself clear).

If you do not have a pop music audience in Germany you will mostly have an extremely well behaved audience that behaves as if it sits through a Händel Messe.

The problem that I see is that in Germany you are fighting against diecast stereotypes. You have to get into locations that are open to a general public like local theatre houses, culture centers, music halls etc to be able to reach an audience with potential (and without prejudices). In order to play there, you have to convince the local organizer (mostly someone from the local administration) that the music you want to present is equally "valuable" as their hobbyhorse. That means you have to fight diehard classical music lovers, jazz lovers (who had to overcome diehard classical music lovers 40 years ago, trying to bring jazz to the public), irish music freaks (who still try to establish an irish music scene over here) etc.

I lived in a place where - when you finally were accepted by the administration - you had your (diverse and receptive) audience. More so where I live now.

Well, Mike would love to talk to you, as he would love to try to get performance spaces that are much looser and more relaxed, where he could play all sorts of things. The audience would listen quietly, but during the breaks and after the show, be far more open to having a great time hanging around. He asked me if there was one thing that helped make a difference in getting people to stay after the show, talk, relax, and come to see the performance space as a place to hear all sort of different music in a respectful but relaxed atmosphere, and open to all sorts of acoustic music. My answer was that at least as far as my series goes, it was ice cream after the show. People hung out, it was appealing to all ages, it was free (we don't charge for anything other than the admission, not even water, so there's no fear of costs running up) and after a few shows, we got known as a really relaxed place to hear great music. Shortly after that we added workshops, then the fiddle club so it became a community thing. The fiddle club plays in nursing homes, random pumpkin patches, wherever we can make noise and have fun. It's all ages, all abilities. This way, we became a comment fixture that's about more than just the music. People have made contacts that lead to marriages, jobs, and college admissions. Now, no matter what I put on, as long as it's good, people will come and have a great time.

So Olaf, maybe you need to become a presenter! Start with a relatively small space, maybe a room that's lively enough sone-wise that you don't even need any sound system. Mix up the genres; classical, jazz, Irish, whatever is popular, and as people grow accustomed to the atmosphere, you can start mixing it up.

grassrootphilosopher
Oct-24-2017, 7:46am
Well Charlie,

I found out that to present music takes a lot of time and energy. I recently relocated and while I am still trying to connect to the locals (and the local scene) I would like to play as much as present. This too takes quite some effort. Not trying to sound whiney, you need to get the priorities straight.

I found out that in Scandinavia the acoustic music scene (Bluegrass f.ex.) presents itself in church venues. I find that great because of the acoustics (same thing in NYC and Andy Statmanīs steady gig in the Synagogue).

Enough derailment of the thread from my side now.

Side note: When my son was a toddler, I used to rehearse the banjo on the playground. The kids loved it; donīt know about the parents present.

Ivan Kelsall
Oct-26-2017, 2:38am
I've attended many UK Bluegrass & Folk music festivals over the years,& i've found that people enjoy what's on offer regardless of age. I've stood next to folk in almost all age groups almost bouncing up & down in the enjoyment of a music form that they hadn't heard before. I remember one experience very well from many years ago - there was a Bluegrass band on stage (can't remember their name) & they'd been playing 'Trad' Bluegrass. Then they announced that they were going to play a medly of 'Rock 'n Roll' songs. It was amazing !!!. Lots of Bluegrass die-hards like myself hadn't ever heard R 'n R done like that,& i'm sure that lots of the younger folk more attuned to R 'n R,were equally amazed.

There's no harm in including 'something for everyone' in a gig (IMHO),even if you happen to be a normally 100% 'Trad.' Bluegrass band,
Ivan

allenhopkins
Oct-26-2017, 10:30am
...they'd been playing 'Trad' Bluegrass. Then they announced that they were going to play a medly of 'Rock 'n Roll' songs. It was amazing !!!. Lots of Bluegrass die-hards like myself hadn't ever heard R 'n R done like that,& i'm sure that lots of the younger folk more attuned to R 'n R,were equally amazed. There's no harm in including 'something for everyone' in a gig (IMHO),even if you happen to be a normally 100% 'Trad.' Bluegrass band...

As Don Reno might say:

Timbofood
Oct-26-2017, 11:25am
I just love Bill Harrell’s voice, everything just flows out of him!

Willie Poole
Oct-26-2017, 11:44am
I knew Bill for many years and my opinion of him is that he was a great entertainer, he knew how to hold an audience, I have heard a lot of singers that were better but none that could entertain like he could...You are correct Tim, he did everything with out much effort...He also wrote a few great songs that never seem to get played much

Timbofood
Oct-26-2017, 2:23pm
You said a mouthful Willie!