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BLUEGRASS GENERATIONS. Principal Research: Fred Bartenstein Research Assistance: Mary Jo Leet Ed Renner Admin. Assistance: Kelly Skidmore. September 9, 2005 www.FredBartenstein.com 725 Wright Street, Yellow Springs, OH 45387.

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bluegrass generations

BLUEGRASS GENERATIONS

Principal Research: Fred Bartenstein

Research Assistance: Mary Jo Leet Ed Renner

Admin. Assistance: Kelly Skidmore

September 9, 2005 www.FredBartenstein.com

725 Wright Street, Yellow Springs, OH 45387

slide2
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud

of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders…and

let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

“Hey, let’s hear it for Lester Flatt. Joe Stuart and Pete

Rowan, Mac Wiseman and Melvin Goins. Stoney Cooper

and Earl Snead, bluegrass music is what we need.”

“Tater Tate and Alan Munde,” John Hartford, 1976

project goals
Project goals:
  • Create a database of not less than 500 professional bluegrass artists, whose recordings have had national distribution.
  • Propose a classification of generations.
  • Explore interesting patterns.
data collected for 680 artists
Name & nickname(s)

Year of birth

State of birth

Year of death

Gender

Year of first and last commercial recording

Primary instrument

Primary vocal part

Member of the Blue Grass Boys?

Primary other recording genre

Band leader?

Sources of information

Data collected for 680 artists
primary sources of information
Bluegrass Bios 2005 (Wayne Rice)

America’s Music: Bluegrass (Barry Willis)

All Music Guide website (allmusic.com)

Bluegrass Discography website (ibiblio.org/hillwilliam/ BGdiscography)

Century of Country website (countryworks. com/artist_full.asp)

Blue Grass Boys website (//doodah.net/bgb/)

Country Music Records (Tony Russell)

Country Music Sources (Meade, Spottswood & Meade)

Fred Bartenstein database of 9,000+ songs for broadcast

Primary sources of information:
potential sources of error
Potential sources of error
  • Incorrect information (some guesses)
  • Incomplete information (missing artists, particularly in later generations, US bias)
  • Interpretation
generation 0 the ancestors
examples (of 30):

• Dock Boggs

• A.P. & Sara Carter

• Grayson & Whitter

• Uncle Dave Macon

• J.E. Mainer

• Sam & Kirk McGee

• Charlie Poole

• Jimmie Rodgers

• E.V. & Hattie Stoneman

• Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith

Generation 0 - The Ancestors
generation 1 the pioneers
examples (of 118):

• Roy Acuff

• Bill & Earl Bolick

• Maybelle Carter

• Flatt & Scruggs

• Wade Mainer

• Bill & Charlie Monroe

• Molly O’Day

• Carl Story

• Doc Watson

• Bob Wills

Generation 1 - The Pioneers
generation 2 the builders
examples (of 200):

• Country Gentlemen 1&2

• J.D. Crowe

• Hazel Dickens

• Jimmy Martin

• Del McCoury

• Jim & Jesse McReynolds

• Bob & Sonny Osborne

• Don Reno & Red Smiley

• Classic Seldom Scene

• Carter & Ralph Stanley

• Mac Wiseman

Generation 2 - The Builders
generation 3 the innovators
examples (of 246):

• Sam Bush

• Rodney Dillard

• Jerry Douglas

• Bela Fleck

• Hot Rize

• Doyle Lawson

• Laurie Lewis

• Tony Rice

• Skaggs & Whitley

• Larry Sparks

• Rhonda Vincent

Generation 3 - The Innovators
generation 4 the conservators
examples (of 69):

• Mike Bub

• Sidney & Suzanne Cox

• Stuart Duncan

• Rob Ickes

• Alison Krauss

• Rob & Ron McCoury

• Russell Moore

• Kenny & Valerie Smith

• Adam Steffey

• Ronnie Stewart

• Dan Tyminski

Generation 4 - The Conservators
generation 5 the explorers
examples (of 17):

• Chapmans (except Bill)

• Michael Cleveland

• Ryan Holladay

• Sierra Hull

• Andy Leftwich

• Nickel Creek

• Brandon Rickman

• Ralph Stanley II

• Josh Williams

• Gabe Witcher

Generation 5 - The Explorers
when were they actively recording
When were they actively recording?

322725 252317Med.Age

1927194619591978199119981stRec

what other genres did they record
What other genres did they record?

(30)

(56)

(61)

(174)

(73)

(281)

Total (680)

1927 1946 1959 1978 1991 1998 median 1st rec

where were they born
Where were they born?

(40)

(52)

(66)

(496)

1927 1946 1959 1978 1991 1998 median 1st rec

what states did they come from
What states did they come from?

Overall-

56%

1927 1946 1959 1978 1991 1998 median 1st rec

primary instrument overall
Primary instrument (overall %)

(198)

(157)

(105)

(97)

(82)

(20)

(21)

overall instrument

Ancestors

Pioneers

Builders

Innovators

Overall (instrument %)

Conservators

Explorers

how many were women
How many were women?

(605)

(75)

Overall-

11%

1927 1946 1959 1978 1991 1998 median 1st rec

did they play in the blue grass boys
Did they play in the Blue Grass Boys?

Overall-

11%

1927 1946 1959 1978 1991 1998 median 1st rec

how many were band leaders
How many were band leaders?

Overall-

33%

1927 1946 1959 1978 1991 1998 median 1st rec

how many were prodigies 1st recording younger than 18 or late bloomers after 40
How many were prodigies (1st recording younger than 18) or late bloomers (after 40)?

median 1st rec 1927 1946 1959 1978 1991 1998

some observations
Some observations
  • Generations alternate between innovation and conservation.
  • In lean times, artists arise from the bluegrass heartland (NC, VA, TN, KY, WV).
  • Interest in bluegrass occurs in adolescence, followed by a 10-12 year apprenticeship, and a median recording career from ages 25 to 53.
  • Long careers “crowd the market” as generations overlap.
  • There is not one African-American or Hispanic in the database.
some observations31
Some observations
  • From 1936 to 1939, 28 banjo players were born.

- 18% of all 157 banjo players in the database

- 53% of all 54 musicians born in those 4 years

- more than double the overall 23% rate of

banjoists.

• These included:

Eddie Adcock Bill Emerson Allen Shelton

J.D. Crowe Walter Hensley Roni Stoneman

Doug Dillard Bill Keith Bobby Thompson

Ben Eldridge Sonny Osborne Eric Weissberg

some observations32
Some observations

• 12-17 years later, Earl Scruggs released his first seven banjo instrumentals.

• Similar but less pronounced concentrations

occurred:

- among mandolin players who were 10-14

when Bill Monroe’s 1940-1942 Bluebirds

were released.

- among guitar players who were 10-15 in the

first flush of bluegrass lead guitar, 1960-1969.

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