Looking at a time line, bluegrass started out of Kentucky in the 1930’s and 40’s with Bill Monroe and, the Stanley Brothers, and Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and was found to be quite popular radio entertainment. At that point in time, there wasn’t many other outlets for the music to be presented or promoted outside of a local jam. But in September of 1965, Carlton Haney brought bluegrass out of the local jams and singular concert playing bands, in a festival that went on for three days. People from all over the country camped out and bonded together over the music day and night. All of the artists they had only been able to hear on the radio, were only a football fields length away at any given time. Not only did the festival bring people who were already into the music around but it spread the genre out further across the nation by inspiring others to promote their own festivals all throughout Appalachia and beyond.
You can see all of the excitement in the biography “Bluegrass Country Soul,” and it goes into depth on the festival and Haney’s take on what brought the people together. Unfortunately, he stopped holding the annual festival that generated such a fan base and talent pool, and the Cantrell’s Horse Farm, in Fincastle, Virginia where it was held is now run down and campgrounds are home to none but shrubbery and when you see pictures of it, it is such a nostalgic feeling and it is hard to believe that is where history was made for the music of bluegrass.
As addressed in the article by Owen Gardner entitled “The Portable Community: Mobility and Modernization in Bluegrass Festival Life,” he goes over how the festival impacted the spread of the music, and how it brought people away from their homes and took them from festival to festival. The festival life has grown and it truly is a community of its own in which talent is still brought forth and happiness is shared by all who gather to hear the music, and although Mr. Haney may be gone and his rested land no longer feels the tires of campers or the feet of the many fans or the sweet sound of the mandolin, it is nice to see that it sparked such a movement that will never fade.
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Paul– Just one quick clarification. The image of the stage is from the Camp Springs festival site in North Carolina. Courtney may have images of the Cantrell site today!