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Thread: Bluegrass for the elderly

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    Registered User Rex Hart's Avatar
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    Default Bluegrass for the elderly

    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?
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    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Hart View Post
    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 don´t 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 live´s topics and that is easily accessible (namely: all acoustic = inexpenive for the beginner etc.).

    I hope that we´ll see this kind of aproach over here also.
    Olaf

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Yep and Jason Isbell is just an incredible songwriter. And I'm old.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    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...
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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    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
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    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

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    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.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    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!
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Freebird. Foggy Mountain breakdown. Dueling banjos. Some songs get old real quick but the audiences still love them.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Oct-08-2017 at 8:38pm.
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    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.

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie Poole View Post
    ... 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.
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    There are some young bluegrass bands here in Rochester -- String Theory, Crooked North, Rebecca Colleen & the Chore Lads, and Brothers Blue 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.
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    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,
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    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.

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    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!
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    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.

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by grassrootphilosopher View Post
    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.
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    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!
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    poor excuse for anything Charlieshafer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Quote Originally Posted by grassrootphilosopher View Post
    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 don´t 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.

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    Registered User Rex Hart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    " 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.
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    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...
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    "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.
    Timothy F. Lewis
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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    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

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    Default Re: Bluegrass for the elderly

    Somebody needs to tell Bob and Ketch they got it wrong.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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