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Bluegrass
From the Lonesome Wail of a Mountain Love Song to the Hamerring Drive of the Scruggs-style Banjo - the Story of an American Musical Tradition
By Bob Artis
Hawthorn Books, Inc.
1975
182 Pages
ISBN:  0-8015-0758-8

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"Classical traditional bluegrass music is mountain music grasping the feelings of the country people and their hard realities through the simple, eloquent songs of death and lost lovers, lonesome mountains and cabin homes. There's something chilling about the high, haunting sound of a tenor-range trio, the hammering drive of the Scruggs-style banjo, and the lonesome wail of a fiddle. A whole new generation has encountered in bluegrass the most honest, forthright statement of human emotions to be found."

Bob Artis tells the fascinating story of bluegrass music, from its roots in the traditional ballads and folk dances of Europe to its development in the central and not-so-central homes of America. The story of homemade music is traced through the careers of those who lived it and loved it:

  • Bill Monroe—the father of bluegrass. The history of his band, with its ever-changing faces, along with Bill's own metamorphosis resulted in a particular sound that came to be known as bluegrass.
  • The Stanley Brothers—whose careers illustrate the rough and often sad life of the bluegrass artist. The all-night car rides. The wrecks, the low pay, and the alcoholism that eventually plunged the brothers into tragedy.
  • Flatt and Scruggs—both alums of Bill Monroe's band, Lester and Earl became the popularizers of bluegrass as they brought the music to the college campuses and became darlings of the folk music boom.
  • Don Reno and Red Smiley—who represent still another step toward taking bluegrass of the hills Today, Reno is the leading exponent of the progressive school of banjo playing.
  • Jimmy Martin—one of the most durable stars of the idiom. High-strung and temperamental, for him, national success has always been just out of reach.
  • The Osborne Brothers—one of the most popular country and western bands around. Even the most fanatic of the traditionalists cannot deny their important contribution to the evolution of bluegrass.

These are only the highlights, for the author spotlights all of the characters in the story of Bluegrass, Jim and Jesse, Jimmy Gaudreau, the Country Gentlemen, Chubby Wise, Mac Wiseman, Carl Story, "Pop" Lewis and his family; Jimmie Skinner, the Greenbriar Boys, the Louvin Brothers, Earl Taylor and hundreds of others. The settings are also depicted —from the bluegrass bars on Washington to the endless summer festivals. Bluegrass captures the very soul of the mountains and the rhythm of the music.

Appendixes include a discography of the major bluegrass artists and directories of bluegrass radio stations, organizations and publications.

About the Author
Bob Artis became interested in bluegrass music at the age of fifteen. by the time he was eighteen, he had taught himself to play the mandolin, five-string banjo, guitar, autoharp and dobro and had organized an active bluegrass band.

Since 1968 he has been involved in every phase of bluegrass: performing, recording, promoting, teaching and writing. As mandolin player for the old and respected Mac Martin and the Dixie Travelers, he recorded four albums with them. When Mac Martin left the band in 1972, Bob assumed leadership.

Bob Artis's other activities include helping to found the thriving Western Pennsylvania Bluegrass Committee; promoting concerts; publishing a bluegrass newsletter; and contributing articles regularly to Bluegrass Unlimited and Muleskinner News.