Kentucky is the birthplace of bluegrass music and it’s quiet beautiful hills continue to inspire as new local musicians emerge and add to this rich history with a style all their own.
This rich history dates back to the people who migrated to America in the 1600s from Ireland, Scotland, and England. With them they brought the basic styles of music that are generally considered to be the roots of bluegrass music as it is known today. They wrote songs about day-to-day life in the new land. Since most of these people lived in remote areas, the songs reflected life on the farm or in the hills. This type of music was called “mountain music” or “country music.” The invention of the phonograph and the onset of the radio in the early 1900s brought this music out of the mountains and into the homes of people all over the United States.
The Monroe Brothers were one of the most popular acts of the 1920s and 1930s. Charlie Monroe played the guitar, Bill played the mandolin, and they sang in harmony. When the brothers split in 1938, both went on to form their own bands. Bill was a native of Kentucky, the Bluegrass State, so he decided to call his band “Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys,” and this band started a new form of “traditional” country music.
Bill Monroe and his “Blue Grass Boys” first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry stage in 1939. Bill’s band was different from other traditional country bands because of its hard-driving and powerful sound that used traditional acoustic instruments and featured distinctive vocal harmonies. After experimenting with various instrumental combinations, Bill settled on mandolin, banjo, fiddle, guitar, and bass as the format for his band.
The availability of traditional music broadcasting and recording, nationwide bluegrass festivals, and movie, television, and commercial soundtracks featuring bluegrass music have helped to bring the music out of obscurity. Bluegrass music is now performed and enjoyed around the world. The International Bluegrass Music Association claims members in all 50 states and 30 countries. In addition to the classic style born in 1945 that is still performed widely, bluegrass bands today reflect influences from a variety of sources including traditional and fusion jazz, contemporary country music, Celtic music, rock & roll (“newgrass” or progressive bluegrass), old-time music, and Southern gospel music.
Get the full Kentucky experience and visit a bluegrass festival , the birthplace of Bill Monroe, or the Country Music Highway Museum. You can find some of Kentucky’s best music attractions in the links below and start planning your bluegrass music experience today!
Here are some great venues to celebrate Bluegrass Music in the Bluegrass and the Lexington KY area:
- The Southland Jamboree in Lexington, Kentucky is a free bluegrass music concert series that happens weekly during the summer in south Lexington. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and join us for some bluegrass music! Bring your instrument and join in the jam after the show: http://southlandjamboree.org/
- Red Barn Radio celebrates the Traditional Music of Kentucky, records each show before a studio audience for later broad-cast. Their show takes place at the Performance Hall at ArtsPlace, 161 North Mill Street in Lexington, Kentucky, Wednesdays at 8 PM: http://www.redbarnradio.com/main.html
- Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour’s show airs on over 500 radio stations, American Forces Radio network worldwide and in millions of homes on PBS stations across America. You can watch their live show taping every Monday night on Folk-Book.com
- Willie’s Locally Known, a music venue serving BBQ and wings that are already being hailed as legendary, opened in March at 805 N. Broadway, Lexington, Ky. Conveniently located near the highway at the crossroads of Interstates 64 and 75, in the midst of the cultural renaissance of Lexington’s north end, owner Wilson Sebastian III aims to bring good music back to the bluegrass region. http://www.willieslex.com/
- The Festival of the Bluegrass is a traditional Bluegrass Music Festival in the heart of the beautiful Bluegrass region of Kentucky. Established in 1974, it continues to operate as a family-run Festival. We have a little something for everyone and invite you to join us at the Kentucky Horse Park Campground in Lexington the 2nd weekend of June. http://www.festivalofthebluegrass.com/
- Ohio County KY celebrates Bluegrass Music withe the Blue Moon Bluegrass Festival, Pickin’ on the Porch, Blue Moon Jamboree, and Cowboy Fast Draw festivals, as well as The Monroe Homeplace museum and The Rosine Barn Jamboree: http://www.visitohiocountyky.com/
- Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, honors Kentucky performers, songwriters, publishers, promoters, managers, broadcasters, comedians and other music professionals who have made significant contributions to the music industry in Kentucky and around the world: http://www.kentuckymusicmuseum.com/