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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Happy Songs of Sunshine and Light, and ‘Short Life of Trouble’

A while back I was invited to bring an instrument to a potluck party of some friends of mine in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. I brought along my fiddle in the hopes of finding some bluegrass musicians to jam with.

When I arrived at the converted barn where the party was being held, I saw a guitar learning up against the corner, so I sidled up to the guitar’s owner and introduced myself. As I shook howdy with him I asked him what kind of music he played, so I’d know whether our styles would be compatible. But

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The Truth About the Lester Flatt G Run

By Wayne Erbsen

Bluegrass hero Lester Flatt had a lot to be proud of. One of his most lasting achievements was the G Run that bears his name. You can hear this distinctive guitar run in practically every traditional bluegrass song that can be played on the guitar using a G-shape chord. In its original form, it is basically a two-note run that is played at the end of a verse or chorus. It consists of playing the D string of the guitar at the second fret followed by the G string open. It more or less punctuates the song

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The Carter Scratch

By Wayne Erbsen

They didn’t call her Mother Maybelle for nuthin.’ Nope. In addition to being the mother of three girls (Helen, June, and Anita), Maybelle Carter was nothing less than the mother of flatpicking guitar. Starting in 1927, her lead and rhythm guitar playing laid the foundation of what would later be known as bluegrass guitar. Her signature lick on the guitar has been referred to as the Carter Scratch, the Carter Family Scratch, or the Maybelle Carter Scratch. That’s because of her way of playing the melody notes on the bass strings of the guitar while vigorously going

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Gussie L. Davis – Tin Pan Alley/Bluegrass Songwriter

Some of the greatest traditional bluegrass songs were apparently written by someone named “Public Domain” or “Traditional.” What kind of decent mother or father would name their child that? In this article I’m going to acquaint you with a songwriter named Gussie Lord Davis, who has seldom been credited as the composer of such well-known folk and bluegrass songs as “Maple on the Hill” (1880), “Goodnight Irene” (1899),“One Little Word” (1899), “Just Set a Light” aka “Red and Green Signal Lights”(1897), “In the Baggage Coach Ahead” (1896), “He’s Coming to Us Dead” (1899), and “Make Up and Be Lovers Again”

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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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The Big Bang Theory of Bluegrass

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

Read the rest

Ukuleles Come From Where?

This is a guest post from Sarah Jacobs of Know Your Instrument.

The ukulele is long-hailed as the national instrument of the Hawai’ian islands. It’s played at luaus, family gatherings, and while simply relaxing on the beach. A lot of children in Hawai’i even learned how to play at a young age. For hundreds of years ukuleles have been deeply intertwined with Hawai’ian culture – but they didn’t originate there.

Ukuleles actually hail from Portugal – technically, they are evolved versions of the Portuguese machête. The uke was originally invented in Madeira – a small Atlantic island off the

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Man of Constant Sorrow – Guitar Tab & Lyrics

By Wayne Erbsen

dick-burnettKentucky-born, blind street singer Dick Burnett had every reason to compose I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow. An orphan by the time he was 12, Burnett was almost murdered in 1907 when he was robbed and shot in the face with a shotgun. Though he survived, Burnett was now a blind man. To earn a livelihood for his wife and child, he took to the streets with a banjo, a fiddle, and a tin cup tied to his leg. To add to his income, he produced little song books, which he later called “song ballets.”

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Short Life of Trouble ~ Music, Lyrics, and the Joy of Sad Music

By Wayne Erbsen

This is an excerpt from Rural Roots of Bluegrass.

A while back I was invited to bring an instrument to a potluck party of some friends of mine in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. I brought along my fiddle in the hopes of finding some bluegrass musicians to jam with.

When I arrived at the converted barn where the party was being held, I saw a guitar learning up against the corner, so I sidled up to the guitar’s owner and introduced myself. As I shook howdy with him I asked him what kind of music

Read the rest