The First Bluegrass Festival

I happened to visit the YouTube.com website today and came across a very special film, made by a Virginia TV station of the world’s first multi-day bluegrass festival at a little township named Fincastle Virginia (near Roanoke). It was produced by a bluegrass fan and promoter Carlton Haney and held on the first weekend of September, 1965. My friend Mayne Smith had invited me to drive back East to attend, but I was starting grad school at UCSB and couldn’t make the trip.

But that festival is legendary today. Many of the greats of bluegrass did attend, along with the kids that are considered greats now. Bill Monroe and his band the Blue Grass Boys were there, of course, along with the Stanley Brothers, Don Reno, Mac Wiseman, Benny Martin, and many, many others. It was a wonderful idea for promoting the music, and Monroe, by all accounts, was especially thrilled. The films as shown on YouTube are faded, a little irregular, with dropouts, etc., but to me, they are worth gold. For those of you who may never have had the chance to see these greats in their prime, here they are. And for those of you (like me) who remember, here’s a chance to get a glimpse of the real stuff – with the hair on – as it used to be. Click on the links below to watch bluegrass as it was designed to be played. By the way, all those microphones belonged to people recording the event. There was just one for the PA system. There was never any doubt as to who was singing or taking a solo during the piece.

Starts w/ Benny Martin fiddling (and singing!) Orange Blossom Special.

Notice how much fun Monroe is having with all his musician friends. He was always very responsive to musical “prodding” by fellow performers, and it’s a lot of fun to watch the interchange.

-Peter

About Peter Feldmann

Peter Feldmann has long been a musical mainstay in Santa Barbara and Southern California. Besides actively performing bluegrass and old time music with a variety of groups, Peter is also known as a bluegrass historian, collector, music consultant, teacher, and producer, both of live concerts and radio/tv programs throughout the area. His music has been heard in clubs, concerts, saloons, universities, pre-schools, at weddings, wakes, parties, barn-raisings, calf-ropings, rodeos, auctions, fund raisers, wine tastings and chili cook offs. Peter founded Santa Barbara's Old Time Fiddler's Convention (1972), UCSB's Old Time Music Front (1964), and The Bluebird Cafe (1971). Through these and other outlets, he was the first to bring many prominent folk, blues, and bluegrass artists, including Bill Monroe, Mance Lipscomb, The Stanley Brothers, The New Lost City Ramblers, Fred McDowell, Furry Lewis, Rose Maddox, the Balfa Brothers, and many others to the Santa Barbara area. Peter also helped others access the music by teaching privately, and in group classes for Santa Barbara Continuing Education, UCSB Extension, and McCabes Guitars. He was the first on the West Coast to produce and market instruction Lps - three on How To Play Country Fiddle, and one each on Clawhammer Banjo, and Maybelle Carter Style Guitar. He still presents lectures on country music history at UCSB, Santa Barbara area libraries, and for various interest groups, festival workshops, etc. In 2006, he presented his monograph titled "The Big bang Of Bluegrass Music" (describing the origins of bluegrass 1938 - 1946) to the worlds first International Music Symposium at the University of Kentucky at Bowling Green. He has also been very active in radio, television, and film work, producing weekly shows on country and bluegrass music over a 21 year period on various commercial and public stations. Peter currently maintains three music-related websites, a music blog, and an entertainment service company, "BlueGrass West!", based in the Santa Ynez Valley in Southern California. Peter performs tunes and songs from the heart of America's musical treasure chest. His shows can include fiddle, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Well-known as a historian and teacher, Peter is first and foremost an entertainer, sharing his respect, energy and love for the music with his fellow musicians, friends, and audiences.
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2 Responses to The First Bluegrass Festival

  1. Peter,
    This is Wayne Pollard from
    Carrollton, Ga. I’m a good friend of
    Leon Pollard from Stewart, Va. Here is
    a link to a tune by Bill Monroe 1957,
    “Close By”

  2. Tim Mullins [Visitor] says:

    Niiiiiiice!

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