Roscoe Holcomb was born in 1912, just one year after Bill Monroe, in Daisy, Kentucky. He is said to have influenced artists such as Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton and was greatly admired by the Stanley Brothers.
Holcomb is credited as one of the founders of the “High and Lonesome” sound. His voice is echoes the troubles and joys of living the tough life of an Appalachian farmer and coal miner.
Although he was known to be a talented guitar and banjo player and a decent harmonica and fiddle player, some of Holcomb’s most notable songs were recorded acapella. The lack of instruments in some of Holcomb’s recordings reflects a strong influence and root in the Old Regular Baptist Church.
Roscoe is one of the true products of the raw American backwoods playing songs with titles like “Little Birdie” and “Hook and Line,” as seen below.
Although the heart in Holcomb’s music is apparent, he claims to only casually play about once a month. He dresses professionally, as many of the bluegrass musicians of the time did, but carries with him a sense of the dirt that filled his hands in farming, the coal dust that filled his lungs, and all the bumps and bruises that are necessary to receive in order to survive in the backwoods of Ol’ Kentucky.
He truly was one of the “good old boys,” living only several miles away from Hazard County, the setting for the hit TV show Dukes of Hazard.
“I thought there wasn’t nothing but work,” Holcomb says, in an Interview with Mike Seeger. He continues saying, “I’d give anything ever I seen if I could just get to where I could start back to work again.”
Holcomb never intended to become a star. Although he was recorded and even performed for audiences for a short period of time, he would have been just as happy playing to the open air of the mountains.