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I Play the Parent Music

Posted by FretlessinTexas on Saturday, May 8, 2010


Last night, I was playing clawhammer banjo for some nice folks. They really seemed to enjoy the music and like so many people, they said how much they enjoyed bluegrass music. I said that I liked bluegrass too, but that I was playing the "parent music" to bluegrass.

That got some quizzical looks, which prompted me to launch into a way-to-detailed account of how bluegrass was a relatively recent music dating back to about the time of World War II, and that a fellow named Bill Monroe -- and they all would nod -- really was the father of the genre.
I told them that the kind of music that I was playing, which today is called old-time music (some call it old-timey which I dislike for some reason), was the music that Bill Monroe would have heard as a child. Indeed, most rural people prior to the mid nineteen twenties, were raised with it.
It draws on music from the British Isle and Africa and somehow in that jumbo becomes distinctly American. It's old fiddle tunes like John Brown's Dream and banjo tunes like Cumberland Gap. 
As the late Mike Seeger wrote: "It's a rich and varied heritage of music - as rich as the roots music of any country.It was played throughout rural America but was extra strong and distinctive in the Southeast, especially in the mountains. It is sung and played on a variety of acoustic instruments including the guitar and mandolin which were newcomers to it in the early twentieth century. It used to be played by African Americans as well as Anglo, French & Scotch- Irish, etc Americans. It nearly died out in mid-century but has found new life and is being played, mostly informally, by people all over the country."
In short, old-time is the foundation to bluegrass, its parent music.
My listeners nodded with rapt attention and then one piped up: "I sure liked Roy Clark's banjo playing on Hee Haw."
"Yes, maam. I did, too," I said. "But I preferred Grandpa Jones' playing."

5 comments on “I Play the Parent Music”

mandolin123 Says:
Saturday, May 8, 2010 @6:25:59 AM

here here

Banjov1 Says:
Saturday, May 8, 2010 @9:46:57 AM

I've seen that before too. It's funny though, I'm a Scruggs style player and a lot of my friends complain that I'm not playing Cumberland Gap and John Hardy clawhammer style. They keep buggin me to learn some of those "old fiddle tunes".

There seems to be so many kids in my area that are picking up banjos and only interested in frailing away on them. I'm guess I'll eventually work on some drop thumbin, but I'm actually getting a kick out of playing along in some of these jams with my fingerpicks if they let me.

I guess it goes both ways


FretlessinTexas Says:
Saturday, May 8, 2010 @10:26:39 AM

I like bluegrass. I just don't play it.

RatLer Says:
Sunday, May 9, 2010 @3:16:34 AM

Great explantion, Dean.
I grew up with bluegrass. I just wasn't very good (still not) with Scruggs style. Clawhammer came much easier for me. Never really learned the old-time tunes but always leaned towards the bluegrass tunes played clawhammer style....a little mixed up, but what can you expect from a "full-blooded- briar" born in Ohio...!!!

FretlessinTexas Says:
Sunday, May 9, 2010 @5:35:38 AM

I've made more friends from Ohio since living up here in Northeast Indiana than anywhere else. Something must be in your water because you all are nice people. That's a fact.

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