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.