Folklorist Alan Lomax famously described bluegrass music as “folk music in overdrive with a silvery, rippling, pinging sound” in a 1959 Esquire magazine article. While many bluegrass fans date the genre to 1939, when Kentucky native Bill Monroe formed his first Blue Grass Boys band, most believe that the classic bluegrass sound came together late in 1945, when Earl Scruggs, a 21-year-old banjo player from North Carolina playing an innovative three-finger picking style, joined the band. The classic style from 1945 is still performed widely today, as are bluegrass styles which reflect a variety of influences including jazz, country, Celtic, rock & roll, old-time, and gospel music.
This exhibit celebrated the history of bluegrass music though the holdings of the Southern Folklife Collection. From the Grand Ole Opry to small music parks, festivals, independent record labels, in print, and in the mainstream, bluegrass music now connects global audiences with the “high lonesome sound” raised and loved in the American South.
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