Pete's Bluegrass Weblog Archive
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From a discussion re. early bluegrass in Southern California:
Randy is right in his post re. the division
Monroe did indeed play Southern California
The folk boom hit in the late 50s, and by the early 60s, some BG bands
began to take advantage of the new "folk" terminology. F&S
recorded "Folk Songs Of Our
5-6 years later, when the folk boom began
Speaking of TV, Southern California also
And six years after that ('71) I founded
For an article I wrote on the Ash Grove and
The bluegrass instruments, and their origins.
Fiddle & upright bass: Both in the viol family, with European ancestors dating back to the Middle Ages; most likely brough to Europe by traders from Asia - where you can find ancestors of most instruments. The design was perfected in N. Italy in the 17th Century.
Banjo: Most say they were brought from Africa via the slave trade.
Well folks - guess what? They didn't have carry-on baggage facilities
on most slave ships. So let's say the _people_ who knew about banjo-like
instruments were brought here (not exactly willingly), and not finding
any banjo stores about, decided to make their own. The first ones were
copies of African instruments, right down to the gourd bowl over which
an animal skin (remember, this is BP "Before Plastic") was stretched.
Someone mentioned they didn't grow gourds here (I suspect he is a city
feller), so they used bent wood. Well, there are plenty of examples of
early American banjos with *gourd* bowls. Seeds, in fact, were brought
from Africa. Ask Mr. Clark Buehling or Mike Seeger about them - fine
Mandolin: Middle Eastern to Greece to Italy to Portugal -- all
from countries bounding or nearby the Mediterranean. Guess what? These
guys sailed ships
Guitar: there are various instruments from the Middle East with
guitar-like elements. One in Persia is even named the "Tar",
but it commonly has a gourd belly like the banjer. Again, travelers from
the Middle East
Once the instruments got here, we went through what we are still recovering
from, The Industrial Revolution. In olden times, each instrument was unique.
Now they are mass produced to patterns followed by computerized routers.
All the early version of the instruments
Yesterday, Peter and the Very Lonesome Boys spent some time in Calabasas, California at the California Traditional Music Society's Solstice Festival. Lots of nice people there, with several stages for music, dance, along with secluded spots under the oaks for music workshops. Peter, David West, and Mike Nadolson gave an introduction to country guitar styles. Mike is a hot flatpicker, while David uses a thumbpick with (and without) fingerpicks to attain his fantastic, melodic runs. Peter has long been a fan of Maybelle Carter's guitar style, which seems a transition to the guitar for country people who started on a banjo.
One problem, it was close to 100 degrees - the stage was
in the sun, and someone had thoughtfully wrapped plastic around three
sides (except where it faced the crowd), thus converting it into a natural
greenhouse - probably 10-15 degrees hotter than outside. Had to pour a
bottle of ice water over my head as soon as I got offstage. The good side:
I must have lost 10 pounds during the set with the Very Lonesome Boys.
I was invited to run off with a belly dance troup, but the rest of the
band chaperoned me away from the lovely temptation... <sigh>
I'm not the most consistant, regular blogger, but I'd rather be pickin' than writing...
Speaking of that, we had a great show last night at the S.Y. Grange to celebrate our escape from the space aliens. Tom Lee brought along a "band virtualizer" machine, which helped us rematerialze out of the ether, while David West played a reworked "Follow The Leader", which we renamed "Take Me To Your Leader".
Thanks to all our fans who showed up en mass to help celebrate. It was a great evening. Watch our show listings for further adventures.
From Paul Wells, MTSU, Murfreesboro:
It is with great sadness that I let everyone know that we lost Charles Wolfe last night. As you all know he had been in poor health for a long time. I paste in below the message that John McDaniel, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts here at MTSU, sent around about Charles. His accomplishments are well-known to all members of TFS and folklorists in general, so I will make no attempt to re-cap them here. He was an institution in and of himself.
All the best,
With sadness I wish to inform you that we lost Charles Wolfe tonight.
Charles passed away at MTMC at approximately 9:00 pm, after an extended
battle with diabetes and attendant complications, with his wife, Mary
Dean, and his daughters Stacey and Cindy and Cindy's husband Mark at his
side. Charles was a gentle giant, a prolific scholar and beloved colleague
whose presence in the English Department and in the University gave new
and unique meaning to the term "professor." Certainly with his
prolific productivity, including nineteen scholarly
Louise Scruggs dies at 78.
In 1996 I was elected to be a member of the Board of the Country Music Hall of Fame Nominating Committee. Some of my hopes and goals were to see the likes of Buck Owens, Ray Price, Roger Miller, the Louvin Brothers, Johnny Horton and the Stanley Brothers inducted into the Hall of Fame during my tenure. Some of my dreams came true. I also learned the reality that some of the most deserving people are often overlooked and will continue to be because they have no one to plead their case.
I've also watched the Bluegrass Hall of Honor Award with great interest. I know what a struggle it must be to include every deserving soul.
I believe that the golden days of the 20th century of bluegrass music are behind us. Although I am optimistic about the future of bluegrass, I think that it is one of America's most valid calling cards as an original American art form with an astounding array of veteran and new talent to keep it alive and well.
In my opinion, to this day the most successful group that we've ever had to represent bluegrass music throughout the world is Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. I truly believe talent is the first and foremost ingredient in the success of any act. However, great talent without proper management is no more than a band with good intentions. There is no doubt in my mind that the genius of Flatt and Scruggs would eventually have found its way into the hearts and minds of the general public. But without the vision, guidance management and direction of Louise Scruggs, Flatt and Scruggs would not have had the power, respect, leverage and profile they enjoy to this day in the world of music. Louise Scruggs was the force behind Flatt and Scruggs. She was to the business what Lester and Earl were to the music.
Mrs. Scruggs commanded the same level of respect at major record labels as Albert Grossman did for Bob Dylan or Joan Baez - or Bill Graham did for his roster of world class rock & roll bands he represented at the time. In the hey day of Flatt and Scruggs on Columbia Records in Nashville, the only other artist that was an equal was Johnny Cash. Louise Scruggs received the same respect for the Foggy Mountain Boys as Cash received. She dealt with Columbia's New York and Nashville's offices, the Hollywood community, a corporate sponsored television and radio show, as well as the day to day dealings of a touring schedule. It should be recognized that Nashville had very few valid managers during this era, and I can think of only one world class woman manager.
While bluegrass music continues to find its place of permanent prominence in this country and beyond, I support the fact that the benchmark for the years to come and the success of bluegrass bands in a global setting beyond the music itself is how its business is conducted. The business of bluegrass has always been one of its weakest links and in truth, perhaps it's held back the success of the art form. If every band on the circuit had a manager like Mrs. Scruggs, perhaps there would be more successful bluegrass music bands and events.
Therefore I nominate Louise Scruggs as a most valid candidate in any capacity of recognition that the IBMA has to offer. If there is anything I can do to help this nomination or induction along, please know that I am at your service.
I traveled East earlier this month to Bowling Green, KY to attend the world's first Bluegrass Symposium, a gathering of scholars, researchers, record execs, and analysts involved with the bluegrass music since its inception some 60+ years ago. That "+" sign is important, since it displays some ambiguity about the exact year the "bluegrass" as a stye of music was born, and it is dealt with in a paper I gave there entitled "The Big Bang of Bluegrass - Applying Cosmology To An Understanding of Bluegrass Music". There were about 40 presenters and 150-200 participants
One very interesting pannel featured the original three founders of Rounder Records, who went into a little Rounder history as well as speaking about possible future bluegrass scenarios. You can click on this photo to see a larger version. The 3 rounders are flanked by another old friend, Saburo Watanabe, of Red Clay Records, Takarazuka, Japan, then Bill Knowlton, Marain Leighton-Levy, Ken Irwin, and myself.The Bluegrass Symposium, Sept 8-11, 2005.
From Barney Brantingham's column in the June 18th edition of the S.B. News Press:
Not a real musician?: Peter Feldmann is a Santa Barbara tradition, playing traditional bluegrass music, fiddles and all. Been around a long time.
"Being a 'legend' has its limitations though," Peter told me. A few years ago, Peter said, he called the Old Spanish Days people and asked to have his group, "Peter Feldmann and his Very Lonesome Boys" booked.
"I tried to explain that the bluegrass, with its fiddles, banjos and guitars, might fit in with the Fiesta spirit at least as well as the heavy metal bands spouting forth nightly at De la Guerra Plaza. The person allowed that she might have a time slot available but then offered me a fee that was below one-fifth of what my bands usually get.
"When I remarked on the paucity of dinero, she matter-of-factly explained: 'Well, we save the good money for the real musicians that come up from L.A.' "
Peter, I think you boys would make a perfect fit at Fiesta's mercado at MacKenzie Park, a real family affair. Maybe the good folks at Fiesta will give you a listen and change their minds. The boys will be performing at the Grange Hall in Los Olivos tonight at 8. Songs will include hits from the Carter Family.
Thanks to all those who showed up at the Santa Ynez Grange Hall Saturday night. We missed Mike Nadolson, who had gotten a booking up in Tehatachapi for 30 days, making license plates for the state, but we dredged up some "new" old songs and tunes, which went fairly well with the atmosphere, and an even larger stage this time. The Grange Hall is turning into a regular show room!
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