The following presentation links 12 of my favorite songs to my home of Clarke County VA. I hope you enjoy what you read here and there are video links to some great songs in the slides.
I have been a Bluegrass fan for many years. For some reason I never new some of the traditional Bluegrass players played there own versions of contemporary songs of the 1960’s. A chapter out of text book “The Bluegrass Reader” discussed this interesting time in Bluegrass.
From what I have read and heard from my father the 1950’s Rock n’ Roll scene really took over the air waves. The young folks in general thought it was the greatest music, much to the dismay of parents and older generations. By the mid 60’s the “British Invasion” was in full spring and the country and Bluegrass artists were struggling to keep record deals and their music popular.
From my experience of growing up in Appalachia I know that mountain folks are some of the most stubborn people; change occurs very very slowly. I am just astonished that bands like Flatt and Scruggs, The Country Gentlemen played versions of rock n’ roll songs. This playing of contemporary songs I believe played a big part of keeping Bluegrass alive during the rock n’ roll era. This stretch away from traditional sounds kept Bluegrassers relevant to their fans. My question is if Bluegrass did not experiment with Rock n’ Roll would the genre have survived through the 1960’s?
“Without return customers you don’t have a business;” this is a saying I have heard from many locals back home and from my experience of working in the machinery repair industry it is very true. From what I have read and understand about the bluegrass music business it has much in common with service industries. I have learned that to be successful you need to please and completely serve your customers. This means that you need to look at their interests; what they are getting out of it and was the service worth their time and money. Also in the repair business you need to be able to adapt to new technologies and modernize or you will be left behind (except for a select group of folks). You may specialize in repairing vehicles or tractors from the 50’s but if you want to have constant clientele that grows you need to be able to work on machines built in this day and age.
I see this in Bluegrass music; the need to progress to gain clientele, but the limiting factors are of views and standards of days gone by. From what I understand the IBMA wants to grow and become more successful as time goes on. With this understanding, I see that newer types and varieties Bluegrass style music need to be accepted. I look at it like a small church, if the congregation is small and made up of only adults it will only last so long before the folks become older and leave the church and the membership gets smaller and smaller. Without children, young folks, getting involved the membership will likely stagnate and the church will only last a short time (this comes from personal experience). I see it that for Bluegrass to grow and move forward through the ages young folks need to be attracted to it, and the music has to match their tastes and energy to do that. This by no means means that the classic sound, and values of Bluegrass needs to take a hike; to me it means that new sounds and ideas need to be added onto the already established norms and for young artists, and listeners to be able to leave their mark, lay claim to Bluegrass. Without young folks being accepted and interested in Bluegrass, I believe the genre of Bluegrass would slowly go away in a generation or two except for in small groups and communities.
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, by golly what a great more contemporary Bluegrass band. I have had the opportunity to see these guys almost every year for the past 7 years, or so, at the Berryville Bluegrass Series in Berryville, VA. I even had the chance to meet and talk with the band after one of their concerts, thanks to some friends from back home. They are the nicest folks to talk to; they interact with audience and are more than gracious to take song requests. For 14 years, if I remember correctly Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out have played in Berryville on Valentine’s Day weekend and I hope to see them up here during the next 14 years, gentlemen y’all are always welcome in Clarke County, VA.
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out is a highly revered band in Bluegrass after their many awards they have worked so hard to achieve (full list of awards can be found at http://iiirdtymeout.com/www/?page_id=6 ) I am going to type out here a brief overview about Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out’s history.
Russell Moore was raised near Houston, TX in a town called Pasadena; which is famous for “Gilley’s.” Russell grew up there during the Urban Cowboy craze, but Bluegrass sparked his interest while he was in his teens. “The bands, the musicians, they were so approachable—and even though we weren’t in the bluegrass mainstream geographically, I was able to see artists like Bill Monroe, Larry Sparks ands the Lewis Family, and you could just be around them. That was intriguing to me” said Russell. By his early 20’s Russell was playing mandolin in a regional band, and Russell and two like minded young folks started a local band called Southern Connection. Not too many years later Russell moved to North Carolina and found himself as a guitar-playing sideman. Russell then joined Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver and was part of their band for six years where they recorded many bluegrass and bluegrass gospel albums. In 1990 the newly established IBMA awarded Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver with song of the year for “The Little Mountain Church House.”
In 1991 Russell Moore along with band mates Mike Hatgrove and Ray Deaton started their own band called IIIrd Tyme Out. They had to prove that they could make music that would be appreciated by Bluegrass fans, and boy they sure did. In 1994 Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out were awarded there first of seven IBMA Vocal Group of the Year awards. In the early 2000’s IIIrd Tyme Out as they were called at the time went though some hard times, and almost disbanded but Russell Moore stepped up and soon the band signed with Rural Rhythm Records in 2007. In 2009 their hit single “Hard Rock Mountain Prison” got Russell another Male Vocalist of the Year award, as well did the bands popular song “Pretty Little Girl from Galax.”
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out has got some of the best Bluegrass talent in my opinion. The band members are Blake Johnson as their bass player and bass vocals, along with Keith McKinnon on banjo, and vocals. Wayne Benson plays the mandolin and has for over 20 years now, Justin Haynes is their fiddler, and finally Russell Moore plays the guitar and is their lead vocalist. Lots of hard work has been put into their music and it shows; from all of the awards, albums, and concerts they do IIIrd Tyme Out is a premiere band in Bluegrass today and will be for decades to come.
For more information you can go to their website: http://iiirdtymeout.com/www/
Bill Yates was born April 30, 1936 in Big Rock, VA. His family and him would sing songs while working around there farm, and would regularly gather around the radio to listen to the Grand Ole Opry . Bill learned to play by the bass by ear while listening to records. Bill from a young age was inspired to partake in Bluegrass music by Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, the Stanley Brothers and Reno & Smiley. Just a short while after Bill learned to play the bass, Bill and his brother Wayne , formed a band called “The Yates Brothers & the Clinch Mountain Ramblers”. “The Clinch Mountain Ramblers” as they were soon called came to be after Red Allen joined the band. Bill relocated to Nashville and worked with many Bluegrass greats including Jimmy Martin and Bill Monroe. In 1969 Bill moved to Northern Virginia area and joined The Country Gentlemen. After a few years Bill became a full time member of The Country Gentlemen along with Charlie Waller, Doyle Lawson and Bill Emerson.
For twenty plus years Bill worked alongside Charlie Waller in The Country Gentlemen. They achieved many awards, accolades, as well as making many friends along the way before finally retiring in 1989. Bill was commonly known as the “Ambassador of Bluegrass Music” to many; he remained active within the Bluegrass community for years. In 2005 Bill assembled some musicians and formed the “Bill Yates & the Country Gentlemen Tribute Band. He formed this band in tribute to the band he had put so much of his musical-soul into; the band received acceptance throughout the Bluegrass community. Bill made his traveling RV his home, but would occasionally visit relatives in Spotsylvania, VA.
I personally knew Bill, and I have to say what a great spirited and true gentleman he was. He sat two rows behind us at the Berryville Bluegrass Series that my father and I attend in Berryville, VA. He was almost always recognized by Frank Jurney as well as by many of the bands that have played in Berryville. Every time we saw Bill he would remember our names and greet us with a big smile. Bill stopped by Camping World in Winchester, VA on occasion to have work done to his RV and for a brief period my father would work on his RV and always said how nice and how genuine a man Bill was; he still talks about the many conversations they had.
Bill is greatly missed by the Bluegrass community as well as by the folks that called the Northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia their home.
Biographical information on Bill Yates was found at http://www.countrygentlementributeband.com/
After reading chapter 2 “Hillbilly Music from Robert Cantwell’s book Bluegrass Breakdown I found some ironic, in my opinion, situations that occurred during the early years of Bluegrass. I think without the Great Depression Bluegrass would have taken longer to have been nationally broadcast. Once Bluegrass became popular with the Barn Dances and was played on the radio, radio stations along with bands began to see the possible advertising opportunities that were available to their listeners. It seems to me that Bluegrass kind of evolved with advertising by staying popular and keeping a radio audience that would have to listen to a few advertisements while enjoying the music. From what I read it seems Bluegrass has helped advertise products that are of a common place in the American household. Even to this day it is still seen. Near my home town in Berryville, VA at one of our concerts put on by the Berryville Bluegrass Series the Grascals played for us and a few times during the concert they put a few words in for Mayberry’s Finest Fish Breading, and everyone that stopped by their table got a pouch. To me I think it is great to see that Bluegrass is still supporting small businesses even in this day and age of large corporations.
There are many biographies that I read that discussed the lives and music of The Carter Family. A biography by David Vinopal, Rovi summed up the groups career well and can be found on CMT.com http://www.cmt.com/artists/the-carter-family-00/biography/ . The following is a synopsis of the article from CMT.
The Carter Family initially consisted of A.P. and Sara Carter. Alvin Pleasant Delaney Carter, more commonly known as A.P. Carter was born in December of 1891. A.P. grew up with old time songs and learned to play the fiddle at a young age. Much of his musical teaching came from his mother. Once A.P. became an adult he sang in a gospel quartet with his older sister and two uncles. Not long after this A.P. moved to Indiana where he worked for the railroad until 1911. In 1911 A.P. moved back to Virginia where he worked traveling and selling fruit trees. While on one of his travels he met his wife to be Sara Dougherty. Sara also grew up in a musical household and had learned to play the autoharp, guitar and banjo. According to legend when A.P. and Sara met she was on her porch playing her autoharp and singing “Engine 143.”
On June 18th, 1915 A.P. and Sara married and settled down in Maces Spring. A.P. worked various jobs and the two of them performed at many local social gatherings for the next 11 years. In 1926 Maybelle Carter, A.P.’s brother Ezra’s wife joined the group. In 1927 the Carters recorded six songs for Ralph Peer of Victor Records. Two of the memorable songs from this session were “The Wandering Boy” and “Single Girl, Married Girl.” These songs were sold as singles and sold well. Victor asked if they would sign a long range contract. After signing on with Victor the Carter Family wrote and played songs for seven years including their better known songs like: “Wabash Cannonball,” I’m Thinking Tonight of my Blue Eyes,” “John Hardy was a Desperate Little Man,” Wildwood Flower” and their signature song “Keep on the Sunny Side.”
By the late 1920’s The Carter Family were nationally known, but the onset of the Great Depression the Carters stopped playing concerts around the US and instead played in school houses around Virginia. As money became very tight A.P. went to Detroit to find work, and Maybelle and Ezra moved to Washington D.C.. In 1932 A.P. and Sara separated and for the next few years The Carter Family would only see each other at recording sessions. In 1935 The Carters left Victor and signed with ARC where they re-recorded many of their more famous songs. In 1936 ARC was dropped and the group signed with Decca.
Also at this time the Carters signed a radio contract with XERF of Del Rio, Texas. The station had the ability to broadcast all around the country; and because of this the Carter Family became very popular which could be seen with their record sales through Decca. In 1939 A.P. and Sara divorced but the band still played together until 1941 when they moved to Charlotte, NC. The band briefly recorded for Columbia Records before resigning with Victor. Around 1943 Sara and here new husband Coy Bayes moved to California. A.P. moved back to Virginia where he ran a country store. Maybelle Carter began recording and touring with her daughters Helen, June and Anita. In 1952 A.P. and Sara reformed The Carter Family with their grown children. Kentucky based Acme signed A.P., Sara, and their daughter Janette to a contract where over the next 4 years nearly 100 songs were recorded. In 1956 The Carter Family disbanded again, and then in 1960 A.P. died at his Maces Spring home.
In 1966 Sara was persuaded by Maybelle to reunite and play a number of folk festivals and record an album for Columbia Records. In 1970 The Carter Family was elected into the Country Hall of Fame. Below are a few links to videos of The Carter Family performing.
I had the opportunity to view the documentary called High Lonesome The Story of Bluegrass Music. First of all what a great documentary, well written and put together, probably one of the best I have seen. I am supposed to define what the term “Bluegrass” is to me. First off when I hear bluegrass music or the word bluegrass I first think Music of the Mountains. To define it I believe Bluegrass is a type of music that reflects the good and bad times of the folks of the Appalachian region by encompassing traditional sounds with the soul and emotion of it’s musicians.
My definition of Bluegrass is short and simple, but holds true to what think about bluegrass. The documentary put faces to names and songs that I have enjoyed for many years. The music’s humble beginnings as traditional songs played to connect with the locals roots and for enjoyment sprouted quite quickly into genre that was heard by many all over this vast country. From the documentary I saw a cycle of Bluegrass Music, a trend I guess, a fad. The music evolved up to the 1960’s but was still Bluegrass very connected to it’s roots. Once the the grand kids of the original Bluegrass audience of the the early 1900’s heard this unusual, soulful music called bluegrass played by the greats of the genre they became interested in it because it was new, and different to what was playing on the air waves. I saw it as a bit funny to see that their was a resurgence of Bluegrass fans in the 60’s and 70’s, and that now in the 2010’s teenage kids who’s grand parents loved Bluegrass in the 60’s now are getting it the genre more and more. It seems bluegrass seems to skip every generation and I think that is pretty interesting.
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