The Roots of Bluegrass
Bluegrass music is a unique blend of traditional and contemporary sounds that continues to take the world by storm. Born from old-time and mountain music in Appalachia, bluegrass music has been referred to as “mountain music in overdrive.” Its origins are tied directly to life in the mountains and foothills of North Carolina and the musical traditions of the Europeans and African Americans who settled there. The signature sounds of bluegrass have been shaped by musical innovators from North Carolina such as Earl Scruggs, who developed the syncopated three-finger style on the five string banjo, and Doc Watson, who created a flat-picking style for the guitar.
Bluegrass Music in Western North Carolina
The term “bluegrass music” was adopted sometime in the mid to late 1950s according to most experts and was originally taken from the band Bill Monroe formed in 1939, the “Blue Grass Boys.” Bill Monroe is considered the father of bluegrass music by most musicians today; over the span of a decade or so, he perfected a unique blend of old-time and early country music, gospel, and blues. Monroe spent many years as a bandleader working with a wide variety of early bluegrass music greats. As Monroe traveled and played music across the country, he repeatedly asked North Carolina musicians to join his band. One of his first and most important discoveries was a young Earl Scruggs, who dramatically changed the world with his signature three-finger banjo picking style. A bluegrass music pioneer, Scruggs grew up in Shelby, North Carolina near other great bluegrass artists such as Snuffy Jenkins and Smith Hammett. Monroe also gave 21 year old North Carolina native Bobby Hicks the chance to play bass in 1954 and eventually Hicks began playing the fiddle. His relationship with Monroe led to one of his ten Grammys. At age 25, guitarist and mandolin player Frank Buchanan, born in Spruce Pine, was also lucky enough to join the Blue Grass Boys. He went on to record 18 songs with Monroe including the popular, “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues.”
Blue Ridge Music Trails
Have you always wanted to experience the history of bluegrass music first hand? Nothing explains the passion behind bluegrass music better than seeing the majestic beauty of the mountains that inspired it. The Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina are the perfect way to explore the entire region and discover where of some of the world’s most talented musicians have lived and worked over the last 100 years. The Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina guidebook is an incredible resource when traveling in the region and will become a keepsake you will want to share with everyone when you return home. Read the stories of some of the most prolific contributors to bluegrass music in the US. Browse our calendar of events to find places to hear the music live and up close.
Live Bluegrass Performances
Year-round the mountains and foothills of North Carolina are home to bluegrass music events of all shapes and sizes. You will find opportunities to enjoy live shows, participate in jam sessions, and even learn new skills and styles of bluegrass music. Events are a great way to meet new friends and find support in the world of bluegrass music, whether you are traveling with your family or taking a trip on your own.
Browse our events calendar when planning your vacation. Don’t miss Western North Carolina’s most popular bluegrass music events and venues, which include: