Fox on the Run

Cliff Waldren

By Wayne Erbsen

In the early 1970s, Fox on the Run was among the most requested bluegrass songs. Along with Rocky Top — a bluegrass band could scarcely play a show without fans yelling for Rocky Top or Fox on the Run.” The song was written in 1968 by an Englishman named Tony Hazzard and first recorded as a rock song by Manfred Mann in February, 1969.

The first bluegrass band to record Fox on the Run was Cliff Waldren and the New Shades of Grass. Listening to this bluegrass recording, a lot of people were puzzled by one

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Things to Say When Tuning a Banjo

By Wayne Erbsen

Banjo PlayerDid you hear about the guitarist that was so far out of tune that the banjo player noticed?

Q: What does a banjo sound like when it’s completely in-tune?
A: No one knows.

You can tune a banjo, but you can’t tuna fish.

It was in tune when I bought it.

Q: How can you tell if a banjo player is sitting in a level spot?
A: The drool drips out of both sides of his mouth.

I can’t remember – do I have to have the pegs in line with the strings or at right angles?

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What Kind of Mandolin Should I Get?

By Wayne Erbsen

Unless a free mandolin just falls in your lap, you’ll need to purchase one. When you go shopping for a mandolin, I strongly suggest that you don’t buy a cheap one off the Internet. Most of these cheapo instruments will sound like a tin can strung with barbed wire. Instead, you should visit your local music store and get the expert advice of a knowledgeable sales person. Be sure to stress that you’re a beginner and that you need a mandolin that’s set up so it’s easy to play.

Mandolin stylesEven before you make a trip to a

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Drifting Too Far From the Shore

Charles E. Moody was not your average gospel songwriter. He alone wrote both the words and the melody of two of the bedrock classics of country and bluegrass gospel, “Kneel at the Cross” and “Drifting Too Far From the Shore.” To get a handle on this man and the songs he wrote, let’s go back to Moody’s beginnings in rural Georgia.

One of eight children, Moody was born in a log cabin on October 8, 1891, near Tifton, Georgia. In this rural farming community, music was a favorite pastime, and as a young man Moody learned to play the harmonica

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The Big Bang Theory of Bluegrass

Rural Roots of Bluegrass by Wayne Erbsen

By Wayne Erbsen

If the “big bang theory” helps to explain the origin of the universe, perhaps “the big bang theory of bluegrass” will shed some light on the origin of the bluegrass music universe.

There are two schools of thought as to the origins of bluegrass music. One has Bill Monroe singlehandedly inventing bluegrass music around 1945. The other takes a more evolutionary approach, with a number of musicians and bands contributing to the sound we now call “bluegrass.” In particular, this approach points to Wade and JE Mainer’s Mountaineers as the first band that had all the ingredients

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Playing Bluegrass Backup on Fiddle, Mandolin & Banjo

banjo player with gunBy Wayne Erbsen

As you might guess, there are numerous differences between old-time and bluegrass music, although they share a lot of similarities too. In old-time music, the banjo, fiddle, and mandolin generally play the melody all at the same time. During an old-time tune, the guitar generally refrains from playing the melody and concentrates on providing the rhythm and an occasional bass run. In bluegrass music, on the other hand, only one instrument plays the melody at a time. Everyone else plays backup. So let’s explore what playing backup means in bluegrass music.

First off, it’s good to remember

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Dock Boggs – Only Remembered For What He Has Done

By Jack Wright

Originally published in The Old-Time Herald, Volume 6, Number 5, 1998 

Introduction

Dock Boggs’ 1927 recordings of raw, powerful singing and distinctive banjo-playing have moved and influenced musicians, fans and scholars ever since their release. His songs that became especially well known include Country Blues, Sugar Baby, Oh Death, Prodigal Son, and Wise County Jail. With the release this year of the CD of Dock’s material, and the planned release on Smithsonian Folkways, his music is crossing new lines and reaching larger audiences.

DocBoggsANDwoman_editedDock was a coal miner in southwestern Virginia and

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Samantha Bumgarner: The Original Banjo Pickin’ Girl

This article was written by Charles K Wolfe.

One of the sillier myths being bandied about these days by the Nashville establishment involves the role of women in the history of country music. It is said, down along Music Row and in the August pages of Country Music Magazine, that before the advent of Kitty Wells in the late 1940’s, women had little to do with country music’s devel­opment: they were cast as only pretty faces along to dress up the act. This, of course, is nonsense, and an account of the significant women artists who contributed to

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Rural Black String Band Music

By Charles Wolfe

Originally published in Black Music Research Newsletter 4, No. 2 (Fall 1980). Used by permission of Mary Dean Wolfe.

“The first time I think I ever seen Arnold Schultz … this square dance was at Rosine, Kentucky, and Arnold and two more colored fellows come up there and played for the dance. They had a guitar, banjo, and fiddle. Ar­nold played the guitar but he could play the fiddle-numbers like Sally Goodin. People loved Arnold so well all through Kentucky there; if he was playing a guitar they’d go gang up around him till he would

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Industrial Strength Bluegrass from Ohio

By Neil V. Rosenberg

From an essay published in a booklet distributed at the Dayton Bluegrass Reunion (“An All-Star Salute to Dayton’s 40 Year Bluegrass Legacy”) on April 22, 1989. Performers included Paul “Moon” Mullins and Traditional Grass, Noah Crase, The Hotmud Family, The Allen Brothers, Red Allen, Porter Church, Red Spurlock, The Dry Branch Fire Squad, Larry Sparks, Frank Wakefield, David Harvey and the Osborne Brothers. Used by permission.

Tonight’s concert honors two generations of Dayton musicians who played major roles in creating and popularizing urban bluegrass music.  Cityfolk hopes that this evening, Daytonians will rediscover an important facet

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