Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Bluegrass Family Tree

Bill Monroe is the “Father of Bluegrass Music”, which is indeed true in the sense that he formed the band that gave birth (quite accidentally I might add) to the sound that has come to be known as bluegrass, and in the sense that he is the father of a great lineage of notables who invariably trace back to him. The Bluegrass Boys, Monroe’s band named for his home state of Kentucky, actually existed prior to the genre named for it. It wasn’t until guitarist Lester Flatt and banjoist Earl Scruggs joined the band that the sound and genre actually came to life. It was while thinking about this that I wondered just how much of today’s music could be traced back to him, and naturally, you know, I find this quite interesting, so if you’ll humor me let’s list some of them starting with Mr. Monroe and go forward from there. Note: This list is in no way intended to be comprehensive, for that would not be possible. I am only going to write ones that come to mind, since, well, I’m not really in the mood to do anything more than the lightest of research at the moment. If you have questions, well, you obviously have an internet connection, so cozy up with a search engine and get to work!

The list will work like so: I will list the name of a bandleader, and then the name of people who were in the band who went on to form or be in another band or bands and thus perpetuate the genre. Pretty simple. And fun. Sort of.

-Bill Monroe,- Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Carter Stanley, Sonny Osborne, Jimmy Martin, Don Reno, Del McCoury, Peter Rowan

-Flatt and Scruggs,- Josh Graves (introduced the dobro to bluegrass), Curly Secklar, Chubby Wise, Mac Wiseman

-The Stanley Brothers (Carter Stanley),- Ralph Stanley (well Duh!), Ricky Skaggs (we’ll cover him later), Keith Whitley, Larry Sparks, George Shuffler, Bobby Osborne (Some big leaguers in this list, huh?)

-Larry Sparks (and the Lonesome Ramblers),- Stuart Duncan (best doggone fiddle player ever, IMHO)

-The Osborne Brothers (Sonny and Bobby Osborne),- Harley “Red” Allen, Glen Duncan, Paul Brewster

-Jimmy Martin,- Paul Williams, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson

-J.D. Crowe (and the New South),- Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Keith Whitley, Don Rigsby

-Ricky Skaggs (and Kentucky Thunder),- Jim Mills, Paul Brewster, Darrin Vincent (Rhonda’s brother), Mark Fain (from Rogersville, TN), Andy Leftwich, and Cody Kilby

-Tony Rice,- Jimmy Gudreau, Wyatt Rice, Mark Shatz

-Jerry Douglas,- Alison Krauss and Union Station! (Alison, Ron Block, Dan Tyminski, Barry Bales (a Sullivan South grad from Kingsport). AKUS also once included Tim Stafford, also from Kingsport, as well as Adam Steffey, from nearby Scott County, VA. So……
-Tim Stafford (Blue Highway),- Shawn Lane, Jason Burleson, Wayne Taylor, Rob Ickes

-Adam Steffey (Mountain Heart),- Steve Gulley, Barry Abernathy, Clay Jones

-Don Rigsby (The Lonesome River Band),- Dan Tyminski (the man! Now with AKUS, he was the voice over for George Clooney in OBWAT), Ronnie Bowman, Sammy Shelor

-Doyle Lawson (and Quicksilver),- Randy Graham, Terry Baucom, Jimmy Haley, Lou Reid, Russell Moore, Ray Deaton, Shawn Lane, Barry Abernethy, Steve Gulley, Scott Vestal

-Lou Reid, Terry Baucom (and Carolina),- Alan Bibey, Clay Jones

-Russell Moore and Ray Deaton (IIIrd Tyme Out),- Alan Bibey, Wayne Benson, Lou Reid, Terry Baucom, Steve Dilling, Mike Hartgrove

-Alan Bibey (Blueridge),- Junior Sisk (one of the coolest voices ever)

-Shawn Lane (Blue Highway),- see “Tim Stafford” above

-Barry Abernathy and Steve Gulley (Mountain Heart),- see “Adam Steffey” above

-Scott Vestal (Continental Divide),- David Parmley (formerly of The Bluegrass Cardinals, a very influential second generation band)

-Don Reno (Reno and Smiley)­,- Red Smiley, Bill Harrell, Ronnie, Dale and Don Wayne Reno (The Reno Brothers)

-Del McCoury,- Ronnie and Rob McCoury, Mike Bub, Jason Carter

-Mike Bub (Lonesome Standard Time),- Larry Cordle (GREAT songwriter,- wrote Highway 40 Blues and Murder on Music Row just to name a couple), Butch Baldassari, Glen Duncan, Terry Eldrige

-Peter Rowan,- Jerry Garcia (yeah, I said Jerry Garcia, and yeah, it’s the same one), David Grisman, Vassar Clements, Herb Pederson

Well, I can honestly say that I enjoyed writing this. I wanted to point out, since I didn’t include any dates that this list, which as I said before is in no way comprehensive, brings us right up to the present. Bands like Mountain Heart, Blue Highway, IIIrd Tyme Out, The Del McCoury Band, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, The Lonesome River Band, and of course that little string ensemble we refer to as Alison Krauss and Union Station are all among the most prominent bands touring and recording today. There is but one group here that I feel terribly guilty for not mentioning, and that is Jim and Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys. I love their music very much, but admit that I could not find a way to tie them into this at all (six degrees of Jim and Jesse anyone?). If anyone else knows a connection, other than the genre itself, please let me know. I’ve always thought that their music had perhaps the most original feel to it (other than Bill Monroe’s of course), and perhaps this is an explanation.


Anonymous said...

And thrn there's the whole Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene part of the family............

SteveLong said...

Excellent point, Anon. Another branch, and a killer one at that. Much more progressive in their time. The Gentlemen were much more folk infuenced, and of course they have a direct tie-in to the Scene via the late-great John Duffy. Good stuff. I didn't go there initially because the connection to Appalachia isn't as strong in a sense. Thanks for the comment.

RedNeckoBlogger said...

Also do not overlook, Elvis' cover of "Blue Moon of Kentucky" was one of the first records to put Mr. Presley on the music map! If fact the Great Monroe is in the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence... IMHO, Monroe's "Rocky Road Blues" released in the early 40s, is the first Rock'n Roll song ever recorded!

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