America’s music – bluegrass continues to grow in its popularity with new generations picking up the mantle of decades of evolution of the music that grew from the Appalachian sounds that gave it birth.
There are over 80 million listeners of bluegrass in the United States with millions more around the world, there are over 1,000 active bands, nearly 800 radio stations, and close to 200 associations.
The custodian of the industry’s heritage and those charged with honoring the legacies of its pioneers is the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Ky.
I first appeared in Owensboro in 1988 at a Legends concert and then as a presenter on the IBMA Awards in 1992.
I recently returned specifically for the museum and its annual ROMP Festival as it hosted its Pioneers of Bluegrass Gathering.
They welcomed many legends and over 30 of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. It was an honor to attend and appear with my fellow band mates from throughout Monroe’s long career.
For those of you unfamiliar with Monroe, he is probably the only American music master inducted in the Country Music, Rock and Roll, Nashville Songwriter’s and Bluegrass Music halls of fame. Many attribute him as “the Father of Bluegrass.” I was honored that he included me as a youth in his band allowing me to play both fiddle and bass.
Mr. Monroe honored me by investing his time and creative energies in making me a better musician and performer. Through each opportunity I enjoy in my career, his lessons in life are with me.
During the gathering, the museum collected interviews and performances from all of us for an upcoming documentary project expected for release during the Monroe Centennial Celebration in 2011. This included segments filmed in Rosine, Ky. at the Monroe Home Place and at the cemetery. Some imprompti jamming from the event can be found in the Youtube video above that was also among the documentary taping.
Grand Ole Opry stars the Whites, Curly Seckler, Doc Watson and David Holt were among the performers sharing their talents to honor the pioneers.
Some among the pioneers “Doc” Tommy Scott, Fletcher Bright, Pete Kuykendall, Eddie Adcock, and Bill Clifton.
This was my first time to walk through the museum and especially the Hall of Fame spending some time looking closely at the bronze plaques honoring those our industry considers to be its most esteemed.
As I read each plaque, I felt as if I was visiting with old friends, they inspired me with their music, they gave me the hopes I could follow in their footsteps and in many cases they placed their faith in me to be part of their career.
As I walked through I thought about how God had blessed me to have the opportunity to know and learn from so many of them.
Of the 33 IBMA Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame inductees, I served as music producer to nine; recorded with nine; appeared as a band member for three; starred with four performing behind me on my stage show; performed as a guest star with two; produced bluegrass events featuring four; administrated musical licensing and publishing for five; directed a PBS documentary including four, provided media relations for two; interviewed and/or featured as an award-winning print media journalist and radio host the work of 24 while also writing for one.
God blessed me to walk beside so many of these who gave the world a new musical style and industry to support it. Many of their legacies are now cast in wax, bronze, musical notes, words and in many cases granite headstones.
I pray in the opportunities I have ahead, I live up to the faith they placed in me and continue to earn the most recent honor given as a Pioneer of Bluegrass. I urge you, if you have never visited the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, be sure to http://www.bluegrass-museum.org.
You can also make a big difference by making a tax-deductible donation to the museum as well. While in the area visit the sites at Rosine, Ky. including the Monroe Home Place. Try to visit when the music is being performed for you to enjoy and I am sure it will an experience to remember.