Although the genre was yet to be named, the addition of Earl Scruggs (1924–2012) to Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys provided the crowning moment in the definition of bluegrass.
Scruggs astounded everyone. His extraordinary banjo style allowed him to roll out a rapid barrage of notes that nevertheless sounded out the melody as clearly as the fiddle.
What is now known as “Scruggs-style” banjo playing became the final critical component of Bill Monroe’s undeniably distinctive sound that would eventually be called bluegrass.
This according to Homegrown music: Discovering bluegrass by Stephanie P. Ledgin (Westport: Praeger, 2004).
Today is Scrugg’s 90th birthday! Above, Monroe, Lester Flatt, and Scruggs at the Grand Ole Opry in 1945; below, Scruggs and friends on David Letterman’s show in 2001.
A number of people attend U.S. bluegrass festivals not for the stage show, but for the informal jam sessions in the campgrounds or parking lot.
The interactional etiquette that jammers follow is manifested both in the conventions that help strangers to come together and in choices made during group playing of bluegrass standards. Ethics and aesthetics are fused as jammers negotiate interactional guidelines to reach a heightened musical and social communion.
This according to “A special kind of courtesy: Action at a bluegrass festival jam session” by Michelle Kisliuk (TDR: The drama review XXXII/3 [fall 1988] pp. 141–155). Above and below, festival attendees jamming with that special courtesy.
Related articles are here.
Maintained since 1996 by Charley Pennell, a cataloguer at the D.H. Hill Library at North Carolina State University, Bluegrass discography lists bluegrass singles, LPs, tapes, CDs, and videos by label, performer, and album. Resources for obtaining these publications are also listed.
Below, the legendary Flatt & Scruggs perform Foggy mountain breakdown.