Bluegrass music is one of the native American musical genres fondly cherished worldwide. Even though pop music and remixes now prevail in the media and music industry, Bluegrass has always been famous for live concerts and solo recordings. The art is not ancient but certainly has a good history and evolution worth exploring. Let’s discuss further how this genre came about.
How and when did it come up?
Bluegrass, the term actually refers to a botanical plant called meadow grass found in Kentucky and northern America. Since the music developed around this region near the Appalachian Mountains, the name came about as Bluegrass music. The music was influenced by various communities around the Atlantic Ocean, along with native American music.
Reportedly, migrants and settlers from Scotland, Ireland, and the blue music singers among African-Americans contributed together to bring out this regional music.
Though the music was regionally common, there wasn’t any exposure to spread it worldwide. In 1939, the Monroe Brothers’ band of Bluegrass music performed for a radio program called Grand Oly Opry, which evidently introduced the genre to the world. Back then, their band recalled their music as the hillbilly music of old towns, which later got named Bluegrass due to its origin.
A distinct subset of country music
The early 1920s and 1930s emerged with American country music in and around Bristol city. During the same time, the pioneers of the Bluegrass music industry also came up with propaganda of recordings and concerts, popularising this genre too.
Though this Appalachian music is regarded as a subset of country music, it is broadly different in the terms of instruments used, musical setting, and the structure of the band and concert. The Bluegrass singers depend on manual string acoustics and highlight solo performances amidst the band songs, which aren’t common in other country music’s genres
Famous artists and developers
As the early music developers were from various regions, their musical instruments and traditions came along with them to contribute to the development of Bluegrass music. The famous banjo player Earl Scruggs, guitarist Lester Flatt, bass guitar player Howard Watts and the early Bluegrass Boys’ Band of Monroe brothers were the prominent pioneers to develop and spread the music.
According to the classification of instruments used, the Scots brought the violin-like fiddles, the Americans had always played stringed acoustic guitars, and the African-Americans brought the banjos. Currently, recent bands like Old Crow Medicine Show, Greensky Bluegrass, and Watchhouse are reigning over the Bluegrass music world, having concerts and online programs every year.
If you aren’t aware, there are also special Bluegrass Musical Awards dedicated to this genre every year!
How did it gain worldwide popularity?
After World War 2, Bluegrass musicians (the early players) developed different theme-based songs and performed them on radio and open-air concerts to gather public attention.
The post-war period around 1945 also witnessed a great boom and demand for the country’s native music like Bluegrass, which was evidently soothing for the war-affected people. The most widespread popularity Bluegrass music ever had was the Bluegrass Festival of 1965, which had spread its reach across the oceans.