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Dobro's place in bluegrass

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Jun 12, 2019 - 7:39:23 AM
3107 posts since 7/12/2006

I have a friend whom i have played music with off and on for years. Hes a good mandolin player. He doesnt like the dobro in bluegrass music and says it is not a true bluegrass instrument. Now i know dobro has been in bluegrass for a long time. Josh Graves is the earliest one i can think of . Any bluegrass historians out there that shed some light on how dobro made its way into bluegrass? I personally like the dobro especially on slow songs.

Jun 12, 2019 - 9:37:58 AM
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2361 posts since 4/19/2008

From the GRAND OLE OPRY:
James Clell "Tex" Summey known professionally as Cousin Jody, was first to come to the Opry with Roy Acuff in 1937, and he later worked with Pee Wee King and Lonzo & Oscar. He also performed as a solo act, until health issues forced him to retire. He passed away in 1975, and it should be noted that he was the first person to play the dobro and steel guitar on the Opry stage and he was the one who brought the original dobro sound with Roy Acuff.

BTW He retired when he injured his left hand when a jack slipped when he was leveling a mobile home.

Edited by - mmuussiiccaall on 06/12/2019 09:38:52

Jun 12, 2019 - 9:46:40 AM
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1944 posts since 4/5/2006

Was the guy's name that played dobro with 'Bashfull' Brother Oswald? I think he probably came before Josh Graves. Not sure about Tut Tayloy, but he played with a flat pick, (the way Josh played before Earl gave him some finger picks) which kind of suggests he had been an early dobro player.

There still a lot of animosities about this or that not belonging in BG becuase that was not the way Bill Monroe did it. Flatpick guitar being one of them, female vocalists, whatever..... To each his own, I guess.  

Jun 12, 2019 - 9:56:41 AM
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Jbo1

USA

780 posts since 5/19/2007

Bill Monroe also had accordion and piano in early versions of his band.

Jun 12, 2019 - 10:14:49 AM
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203 posts since 2/6/2018

....shhhh, don't let Jerry Douglas or Rob Ickes hear you...they've only been around for several decades.

Jun 12, 2019 - 12:37:10 PM

69221 posts since 5/9/2007

I like to hear a dobro in bluegrass,but I also like hearing a piano and drums.

Jun 12, 2019 - 1:15:47 PM
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334 posts since 5/29/2006

Well, Josh Graves was the dobro player with the Foggy Mountain Boys for fifteen years or so starting in 1955, put in another few years with Lester's band and then Earl's, then went out on his own & played with guys like Jesse McReynolds and Kenny Baker.

That may not be good enough for your friend to accept the dobro as a true bluegrass instrument but it's good enough for me.

Jun 12, 2019 - 2:23:24 PM

chuckv97

Canada

40586 posts since 10/5/2013

Mike Auldridge and Jerry Douglas caught my attention mightily in the early ‘70’s. Josh Graves to me was the guy who laid the groundwork.

Jun 12, 2019 - 2:27:55 PM
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1928 posts since 9/13/2018

quote:
Originally posted by Jbo1

Bill Monroe also had accordion and piano in early versions of his band.


I love hearing a good accordion in a bluegrass song. ( it’s possible that’s a double/negative) my cousin Steve , had the opportunity, and got to jam with Kansas in a rural Michigan bar.They were white clover at that time. Fascinating? Not really... just a cool memory. Steve loved chicken reel on accordion, me on banjo, my brother on fiddle. A real mess  of really close friends. Steve was later killed on the highway. Maxi bummer. Anyhow! Get them done accordions out, and lets all make accordion face!!

 Bruce 

Jun 12, 2019 - 2:29:10 PM

69221 posts since 5/9/2007

My first influence in dobro appreciation was Mr. Oswald on the first Circle album and soonafter hearing Tut Taylor with the Dixie Gentlemen.
I liked his flatpicking style.

Jun 12, 2019 - 6:50:57 PM

Mooooo

USA

6837 posts since 8/20/2016

Maybe your friend thinks Bluegrass has to be the way the Blue Grass Boys played it. I think they made it one word instead of two to show that Monroe's way wasn't the only way, but is indebted to him. I am about the opposite of your friend. I don't like the sound of the mando very much, especially when they overdo the tremolo....it sounds really sloppy most of the time. Bill Monroe always sounded like he was trying to play catch up with the rest of the band. I love the sound of Dobro, it is the only instrument I wish I could play well besides wishing to play the banjo well. Alright, tell me how wrong and stupid I am.

Jun 13, 2019 - 1:31:24 AM
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3107 posts since 7/12/2006

Moooo, you pretty much got it point on. He does seem to reference Monroe as the litmus test.

But I do love to have a mandolin in the band. gotta hear that chop!

Edited by - stanleytone on 06/13/2019 01:33:19

Jun 13, 2019 - 4:17:22 AM

phb

Germany

1862 posts since 11/8/2010

I think the dobro is a great bluegrass instrument because of its sustain which contrasts the plunky banjo and mandolin quite nicely. Without the dobro, the fiddle would be the only instrument with sustain in the lot.

Jun 13, 2019 - 10:41:30 AM

Mooooo

USA

6837 posts since 8/20/2016

quote:
Originally posted by stanleytone

Moooo, you pretty much got it point on. He does seem to reference Monroe as the litmus test.

But I do love to have a mandolin in the band. gotta hear that chop!


The chop is great. The Foggy Mountain Boys got away most of the time without it, to distance themselves from The Blue Grass Boys, probably. When guys like Sam Bush and Chris Thiele pick each note clearly, with great articulation, it puts chills up my spine...but when someone creates a blizzard of mush it makes me cringe. Mando is one of those instruments that can be refreshing or bland. Dobro is always sweet. But I think a proper alternative for Mando is Fiddle, so I don't even know why I'm going on about this...stupid me...

Jun 13, 2019 - 12:07:24 PM

3107 posts since 7/12/2006

 Mooo, I love the fluid lead styles of thile,bibey,hull, etc. The more choppy lead i can take in small doses.

Edited by - stanleytone on 06/13/2019 12:07:59

Jun 13, 2019 - 1:37:16 PM

chuckv97

Canada

40586 posts since 10/5/2013

Choppy,, crazy triplets mando break,,, love it. At the :50 second mark.
youtu.be/0tmemZin2QA


 

Edited by - chuckv97 on 06/13/2019 13:37:40

Jun 13, 2019 - 7:30:58 PM
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6491 posts since 2/14/2006

I never listen to people who say "this should be this way," or "this shouldn't be that way," etc.... It's purely up to whether it sounds good or not. Traditions covering any rules in music are so dumb.

Jun 14, 2019 - 6:29:43 AM

4415 posts since 9/21/2007

We should call it what it is-- Hawaiian Guitar.

We tend to underestimate the influence of Hawaiian music. It was incredibly popular and you can absolutely bet that everyone involved in the development of Bluegrass music was influenced by it from radio play.

Jun 14, 2019 - 7:44:49 AM
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1107 posts since 2/10/2013

mooo - I play several stringed instruments. But if I could only play one instrument, and play it very well, it would be the fiddle. The fiddle is reputed to be able to replicate the sound of the human voice better than any other instrument. In addition, the fiddle is part of just about every type of music. When played, it can capture any mood you might have. And is is a lot lighter to carry around than a guitar or banjo - especially as you get older.

The drawback to playing a fiddle is the fact that it is a very "unforgiving" instrument. It magnifies your mistakes. Fiddlers say that learning to play the fiddle well is a lifetime endeavor

But I do love the sound of a banjo. It seems to make people smile.

Jun 14, 2019 - 9:51:25 AM

Mooooo

USA

6837 posts since 8/20/2016

I'm no historian, but I think maybe Josh Graves was the first guy to ever play bluegrass Dobro. I can't think of anyone before him picking in a bluegrass band. Brother Oswald was playing with Roy Acuff, and they were considered country music. Plenty of BG bands played Roy Acuff tunes and back then Bluegrass was also called country, but I think if you look at it hard there is a difference between Bluegrass and Roy's music. I could be wrong, and would love to hear more from people with a better grasp than me.

Jun 14, 2019 - 8:19:30 PM

1110 posts since 1/31/2011

The Bluegrass Album Band. Nuff said.

Jun 24, 2019 - 9:21:55 AM

mrbook

USA

1944 posts since 2/22/2006

I have been reading Ralph Stanley's autobiography, and was surprised to read Ralph's story that Josh Graves offered to leave Flatt & Scruggs to play with the Stanleys, and at a time when F&S were doing well. Carter was for it, but Ralph was not, so it didn't happen. I love the dobro, but it would have changed the Stanley Brothers sound.

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