Bluegrass and the Fiddle: A History

Bluegrass and the Fiddle: A History

Bluegrass and the Fiddle: A History

The history of bluegrass music and fiddle, which is one of its essential components, is a story of evolution. The two are strongly linked to one another that it’s practically impossible to discuss one without the other.

The Development of Bluegrass Music

Old mountain music, specifically those that originated from the Appalachian region, is one of the major roots of bluegrass music. Whereas industrialization had reshaped cultures and even music in urbanized cities, the Appalachian region – and all aspects of living – remained untouched. And for people in those regions, fiddle music was the most popular form of entertainment.

Another essential element of bluegrass music is the use of the banjo, which has its roots in African-Americans that had first come to America as slaves.

Gospel music also plays a significant role in bluegrass music and this also originated from the Appalachians, who were generally religious.

Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe is acknowledged as the Grandfather of bluegrass music and is certainly the most famous fiddler of all. Monroe was born in a Kentucky farm to a family with mostly musically inclined members. Mrs. Monroe shared her love for music with her children and since his two older brothers already played the banjo and guitar, Monroe decided to hone his skills on the fiddle.

Another source of inspiration for Monroe was Uncle Pendleton Vandiver, the younger brother of Monroe’s mother. Vandiver played the fiddle as well and when Monroe came to live with him for a short time, following his parents’ death, Monroe often accompanied his uncle whenever the latter played during local events.

After performing as part of a duo act with his older brother, Charlie, the two went their separate ways and Monroe established his own band, the Bluegrass Boys. Monroe’s band became vastly popular and was later on credited for establishing the standards for bluegrass music. The genre itself borrows its name from Monroe’s band, owing to the fact that Monroe – although not completely proven to have invented bluegrass music – was at least the major force that drove bluegrass music to popularity.

Other Fiddlers in the Bluegrass Boys

Monroe also hired other fiddlers to join his band. There was Art Wooten, the very first additional fiddler that Monroe invited. Other names that made it to the list include Tommy Magness, Howdy Forrester, and Chubby Wise.

Wise was part of the band’s most famous lineup, which had played during the genre’s golden years in the mid to late 1940’s. Then, other members of the band included Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and Cedric Rainwater.

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