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> Where Did It All Start., Blugrass music and it's roots.
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SCShamrock 
Posted: 30-May-2004, 02:52 PM
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I have always wondered about the history of Bluegrass music. Coming from a small town in Virginia called Fancy Gap, I was raised on this type of music and was taught to play it on the guitar and mandolin from a very young age, so you'd think I would know this, but I don't. I have always thought Bluegrass had it's roots in Irish music, and suspect that it was imported by Irish imigrants and slowly evolved into what it is now. Does anyone have a handle on this? Also, what about the instruments? There is traditionally guitar, fiddle, banjo, upright bass, dobro, mandolin, and the occasional juice harp. Are all these instruments imported as well? I find this very interesting and if I'm right on my suspicions I would be interested in the discovering the music that existed in the transformation stage, you know Irish/Bluegrass mix with Americana as it's theme and Ireland as it's influence. Or am I imagining all this?


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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 30-May-2004, 03:09 PM
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I have read and heard all of my life that Bluegrass is a direct descendant of Celtic music. Even the name "bluegrass" itself is a reference to the fact that in the Celtic view of things, the color of grass is a shade of blue, not green!


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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 30-May-2004, 03:10 PM
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And by the way, SC, I live in Wytheville, VA! Just up the road from your old stompin' grounds!
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AShruleEgan 
Posted: 30-May-2004, 03:20 PM
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Here's some info for you.





Bluegrass Music: The Roots

The street balladry of the people who began migrating to America in the early 1600s is considered to be the roots of traditional American music. As the early Jamestown settlers began to spread out into the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky and the Virginias, they composed new songs about day-to-day life experiences in the new land. Since most of these people lived in rural areas, the songs reflected life on the farm or in the hills and this type of music was called "mountain music" or "country music."


The invention of the phonograph and the onset of the radio in the early 1900s brought this old-time music out of the rural Southern mountains to people all over the United States. Good singing became a more important part of country music. Singing stars like Jimmie Rodgers, family bands like the Carter family from Virginia and duet teams like the Monroe Brothers from Kentucky contributed greatly to the advancement of traditional country music.

The Monroe Brothers were one of the most popular duet teams of the 1920s and into the 1930s. Charlie played the guitar, Bill played the mandolin and they sang duets in harmony. When the brothers split up as a team in 1938, both went on to form their own bands. Since Bill was a native of Kentucky, the Bluegrass State, he decided to call his band "Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys," and this band sound birthed a new form of country music.

"Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys" first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry in 1939 and soon became one of the most popular touring bands out of Nashville's WSM studios. Bill's new band was different from other traditional country music bands of the time because of its hard driving and powerful sound, utilizing traditional acoustic instruments and featuring highly distinctive vocal harmonies. This music incorporated songs and rhythms from string band, gospel (black and white), work songs and "shouts" of black laborers, country and blues music repertoires. Vocal selections included duet, trio and quartet harmony singing in addition to Bill's powerful "high lonesome" solo lead singing. After experimenting with various instrumental combinations, Bill settled on mandolin, banjo, fiddle, guitar and bass as the format for his band.

While many fans of bluegrass music date the genre back to 1939, when Monroe formed his first Blue Grass Boys band, most believe that the classic bluegrass sound jelled in 1946, shortly after Earl Scruggs, a 21 year old banjo player from North Carolina, joined the band. Scruggs played an innovative three-finger picking style on the banjo that energized enthusiastic audiences, and has since come to be called simply, "Scruggs style" banjo. Equally influential in the classic 1946 line-up of the Blue Grass Boys were Lester Flatt, from Sparta, Tenn. on guitar and lead vocals against Monroe's tenor; Chubby Wise, from Florida, on fiddle; and Howard Watts, also known by his comedian name, "Cedric Rainwater," on acoustic bass.

When first Earl Scruggs, and then Lester Flatt left Monroe's band and eventually formed their own group, The Foggy Mountain Boys, they decided to include the resophonic guitar, or Dobro into their band format. The Dobro is often included in bluegrass band formats today as a result. Burkett H. "Uncle Josh" Graves, from Tellico Plains, Tenn., heard Scruggs' three-finger style of picking in 1949 and adapted it to the then, almost obscure slide bar instrument. With Flatt & Scruggs from 1955-1969, Graves introduced his widely emulated, driving, bluesy style on the Dobro.

From 1948-1969, Flatt & Scruggs were a major force in introducing bluegrass music to America through national television, at major universities and coliseums, and at schoolhouse appearances in numerous towns. Scruggs wrote and recorded one of bluegrass music's most famous instrumentals, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," which was used in the soundtrack for the film, Bonnie & Clyde. In 1969 he established an innovative solo career with his three sons as "The Earl Scruggs Revue." Scruggs still records and performs selected dates in groups that usually include his son, Randy on guitar, and his son, Gary on bass.

After parting with Scruggs in 1969, Lester Flatt continued successfully with his own group, "The Nashville Grass," performing steadily until shortly before his death in 1979.

By the 1950s, people began referring to this style of music as "bluegrass music." Bluegrass bands began forming all over the country and Bill Monroe became the acknowledged "Father of Bluegrass Music."

In the 1960s, the concept of the "bluegrass festival" was first introduced, featuring bands that had seemed to be in competition with each other for a relatively limited audience on the same bill at weekend festivals across the country. Carlton Haney, from Reidsville, N.C., is credited with envisioning and producing the first weekend-long bluegrass music festival, held at Fincastle, Va. in 1965.

The increased availability of traditional music recordings, nationwide indoor and outdoor bluegrass festivals and movie, television and commercial soundtracks featuring bluegrass music have aided in bringing this music out of modern day obscurity. "Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys" achieved national prominence with tour sponsorship by Martha White Flour and for playing the soundtrack for previously mentioned film, Bonnie and Clyde, as well as on a television show called The Beverly Hillbillies. The Deliverance movie soundtrack also featured bluegrass music-in particular, "Dueling Banjos," performed by Eric Weissberg on banjo and Steve Mandel on guitar. In 2001, the multi-million selling soundtrack for the Coen Brothers movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou? attracted wider audiences for bluegrass and traditional country music.

Bill Monroe passed away on September 9, 1996, four days before his 85th birthday. In May 1997, Bill Monroe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because of the profound influence of his music on the popular music of this country.

Bluegrass music is now performed and enjoyed around the world--the IBMA alone claims members in all 50 states and 30 countries. In addition to the to the classic style born in 1946 that is still performed widely, bluegrass bands today reflect influences from a variety of sources including traditional and fusion jazz, contemporary country music, Celtic music, rock & roll ("newgrass" or progressive bluegrass), old-time music and Southern gospel music--in addition to lyrics translated to various languages.

For more information on the history of bluegrass music, visit:
International Bluegrass Music Museum
207 East Second Street
Owensboro, KY 42303
(270) 926-7891
http://www.bluegrass-museum.org
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faolin 
Posted: 30-May-2004, 09:30 PM
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Just as a casual listener to both types of music, I have felt that there does seem to be some kind of connection between the two. I have been listening to celtic music since I was wee thing, and in the past year I have picked up the guitar and am doing a lot of blues improv. Thanks for posting that info A Shrule Egan!


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Sea Dog 
Posted: 31-May-2004, 12:20 AM
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Here's a link that adds a little more dimension to the possibilities. Proposes that the terms, Hillbilly, Redneck and Cracker had Scots andScots/Ulster/Irish roots.

Redneck History

Since the hill folk kept other original ways in language, habits, etc, it follows that music may have also followed the same paths.


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SCShamrock 
Posted: 31-May-2004, 04:06 AM
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Wow, Shrule! That was a very informative answer to be sure. Was that something you copy/posted from an article somewhere? I appreciate the answer, thank you. But I was hoping someone would have some insight into the Celtic flavour in so much of the Bluegrass music. I was raised on the stuff, and have heard many hundreds of songs. The Bill Monroe stuff is not really the type I was referring to, although there are some of his songs, especially the later ones that have that too. I suppose to be more accurate would be to say that the Celtic influence in Bluegrass is more evident in the music that never really made it to the mainstream. The more obscure of the groups seem to have more of what I'm talking about.


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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 31-May-2004, 07:31 AM
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Good Morning SC!

the connection between the two styles of music does exist. Do you get a Public Radio station where you live? Up here in VA I listen to 89.1 out of VA Tech. Anyway, every Sunday at 3:00 pm, they play a program called Thistle and Shamrock. The presenter, Fionna Ritchie, a Scotswoman, lived in the area for a while. Every week she does themed programs, and occasionally she'll do a show that explores the connection between the two. Some of the (VERY) old bluegrass songs can be traced either wholly or partially to Irealnd or Scotland! Dolly Parton apparently even has an interest in this! She once discovered that a song she loved had Irish roots and so she got a very popular Irish band to play with her on her version of it. (Can't remember which band it was right now, but if it comes to me I will post it for you!)
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Aaediwen 
Posted: 31-May-2004, 07:58 AM
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I've spent some time tracking down this link myself, and have found a direct lineage from the old Celtic music through to the modern contemporary country. It is well known that as people immigrated to the Americas, they brought their music and culture with them. Once they got here, they encountered cultures that were completely foreign to them. Such as from Africa, and parts of what became the Cajun sound for those who landed in the Bayou area. At this point, the magic of the melting pot took effect. In the cities, the Celtic music mixed with other forms from around Europe and the near East to form such things as Jazz.
Then there's the people who moved into the hills, and out of the cities; who although more isolated, mixed with a more African set of cultures. In this environment, the same melodies survived, but more stringed insturments (Such as the banjo) were introduced. In addition, the lyrics changed in some cases to reflect the new environment. (see the commentary on Songcatcher for a lot of detail on what they found during their research) It is this music that became the mountain music of Appalacia, which itself spawned offshoots as people moved West,. such as the trail songs (Represented on Highlander Radio by Connie Dover, "Streets of Loredo/Sailor Cut Down in His Prime" is the most direct example).
See the above posts for what happened with the onset of recording and radio when the Mountain Music came down from the mountain and became Bluegrass. Over the last few years then, the younger Rock, Blues, etc... Have been feeding back into the Bluegrass scene and from that has been born the contemporary country sound. The next step that I intend to take in my studies on this subject is to see just how much of the traditional Celtic sound still lives in the works of say Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill.

Pub songs to Honky Tonk, so far, yet so close


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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 31-May-2004, 08:09 AM
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SC-

The name of the band was Altan. Here is a review of the album I found on the internet:

Dolly Parton
Little Sparrow
(Sugar Hill)

by Charlotte Robinson
PopMatters Music Critic

Dolly Parton exudes such charisma and personality that it is easy to forget just what made her a star in the first place. While Parton has earned a place in the popular conscience through movie roles, variety shows, and a theme park, she was able to do all those things because, very early in her career, she established herself as an amazingly gifted composer with a stunning voice.

Somewhere along the way, Parton got so famous that even she seemed to forget how fantastically talented she is. While she achieved a great deal of success and paved the way for today's crossover country stars by performing pop material, she did so at the expense of her country roots, and by the mid-1980s, it seemed that Parton was concentrating more on glitzy arrangements than the songs themselves.

Having lost much of her audience and relevance, Parton rethought her career in the late 1990s, and returned to composing and singing traditional country on her album Hungry Again. In 1999, Parton went a step further by releasing her first bluegrass album, The Grass Is Blue, which won widespread critical acclaim and reestablished her as a vibrant force in the music world.

Wisely, Parton has decided to keep the same players in tow for the follow-up, Little Sparrow. Steve Buckingham once again produces, while Jerry Douglas, Bryan Sutton, Stuart Duncan, Jim Mills, Barry Bales, and Alison Krauss return as backing musicians. As on her previous effort, Parton mixes original compositions (old and new), country and gospel classics by other composers, and unexpected bluegrass arrangements of pop songs. The big surprise on The Grass Is Blue was a convincing bluegrass rendition of Billy Joel's "Travelin' Prayer". This time, Parton reinvents Collective Soul's alternative rock hit "Shine", complete with a lilting banjo line.

What makes Little Sparrow different from its predecessor, and in some ways more exciting, is that it frequently goes right back to the source of bluegrass -- Celtic music. Not only are there banjos and autoharps on the album, but Northern Irish group Altan contributes whistles, bouzoukis, and haunting Gaelic verse.

The album's traditional flavor is strongest, however, in the deeply poetic and tragic lyrics of the Parton compositions "Little Sparrow", "Mountain Angel", and "Down from Dover". All three are epic tales of love and loss in which Parton creates a landscape littered with the broken hearts of women who have lost everything after loving the wrong men. Anyone who isn't touched by these songs must be brain-dead.

Few would have guessed in the days of "Islands in the Stream" and "9 to 5" that Parton would return to pure country music, and do so with such spectacular results. Little Sparrow contains some of the most beautiful and affecting music Parton has ever made, and the fact that she is doing it in her fifth decade makes it all the more dazzling an achievement.
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AShruleEgan 
Posted: 31-May-2004, 09:36 AM
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QUOTE (SCShamrock @ 31-May-2004, 05:06 AM)
Wow, Shrule! That was a very informative answer to be sure. Was that something you copy/posted from an article somewhere? I appreciate the answer, thank you. But I was hoping someone would have some insight into the Celtic flavour in so much of the Bluegrass music. I was raised on the stuff, and have heard many hundreds of songs. The Bill Monroe stuff is not really the type I was referring to, although there are some of his songs, especially the later ones that have that too. I suppose to be more accurate would be to say that the Celtic influence in Bluegrass is more evident in the music that never really made it to the mainstream. The more obscure of the groups seem to have more of what I'm talking about.

This is where I got the info from. If you look through the archived articles, maybe you can find the answer to what you want.



http://www.ibma.org/about.ibma/index.asp
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peckery 
Posted: 31-May-2004, 10:11 AM
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Bluegrass came from the planet Smool, was taught to whales, who taught it to krill, usually before eating them, who then taught it to the eskimos, who crossed over the land bridge, and settled in appalachia. That is what I have heard, anyway. king.gif
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AShruleEgan 
Posted: 31-May-2004, 10:15 AM
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QUOTE (peckery @ 31-May-2004, 11:11 AM)
Bluegrass came from the planet Smool, was taught to whales, who taught it to krill, usually before eating them, who then taught it to the eskimos, who crossed over the land bridge, and settled in appalachia. That is what I have heard, anyway. king.gif

Ah!!! So, that's why they have no teeth and grunt a lot up there in the hills.
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SCShamrock 
Posted: 31-May-2004, 11:46 AM
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OMG peckery, that was too funny!!! biggrin.gif

And Wizard, thanks for clipping that article for me, that helps a lot, and the info on the Celtic influence in Bluegrass is just what I thought it was. Never did I imagine that in the dark recesses of the Appalachian or Blue Ridge Mountains that Hill folk were into exploring other cultures to incorporate them into their flavor of music. I just knew without really knowing that Irish immigrants brought their style to the states with them and it evolved. Thanks again for sharing.

Shrule, I didn't mean to downplay your answer by any means. Thanks for the posted article. I've only been a member here for a few days and you guys are already teaching me a lot. Thanks again.



BIG P.S.
As a confirmed fancier of the guitar, and having been taught much Bluegrass as a youngster, I've always loved the style. Celtic music, however, is the only style I've ever found (outside of Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream) that literally sings to my soul. I'm not too into the pipes or the organ/accordian styles, but the (funny you mentioned them) Altan type of somewhat contemporary blended with old style (reels and soforth) is what I relate to the most. Altan was my first Celtic purchase, I bought Island Angel and highly recommend it. Shortly after I realized that for many years I had composed many instrumentals on the guitar that have a distict Celtic ring to them. This being BEFORE much exposure to that style. I always wondered if I picked up on the style via osmosis, or is it a natural thing, that somehow, somwhere in my ancestory the essence of the Celtic people was passed down hereditarily, and it's just part of my DNA. I don't know. And that makes it especially strange to comprehend considering I am Irish by adoption, by name. My bio father's last name was Huff, and although I should have by now, I haven't taken the time to discover the geographical roots of my lineage. SO.......what does it matter? I have been told that I'm far too analytical for a truck driver. This post may well be all the evidence anyone needs to prove that! cool.gif
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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 31-May-2004, 04:15 PM
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You're welcome, SC! I've only heard one song from the Dolly album. It was a duet with Altan and was just plain beautiful! I've been thinking about looking for a copy of that album myself! Another artist who does alot of duets with a Country artist is Dougie MacLean. He and Kahy Mattea have had a long-standing friendship and done some wonderful musical collaborations together!
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