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A Birth of Country 1

A YouTube History of Music

Bluegrass Music

Group & Last Name Index to Full History:


Tracks are listed in chronological order by year, then alphabetically.

Listings do not reflect proper order by month or day: later oft precedes earlier.

Not on this page? See history tree below.



Red Allen

Norman Blake
John Carson    Vassar Clements
Lester Flatt
David Grisman
John Hartford    Roscoe Holcomb
Grandpa Jones
Dave Macon    Wade Mainer    Jimmy Martin    Bill Monroe
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Osborne Brothers    Brother Oswald
Eck Robertson    Peter Rowan
Earl Scruggs    Skillet Lickers    Arthur Smith    Stanley Brothers
Tennessee Ramblers
Doc Watson    Chubby Wise    Mac Wiseman

Orange Blossom Special



Featured on this page loosely in order of first recording if not record release (as possible).

Names are alphabetical, not chronological, per year:



Eck Robertson

1923 John Carson
1924 Dave Macon
1926 Skillet Lickers
1928 Tennessee Ramblers
1935 Wade Mainer
1936 Bill Monroe    Chubby Wise
1939 Brother Oswald
1944 Grandpa Jones
1947 Stanley Brothers
1948 Lester Flatt    Earl Scruggs    Arthur Smith    Mac Wiseman
1950 Vassar Clements    Jimmy Martin
1954 Osborne Brothers
1956 Red Allen    Norman Blake
1960 Roscoe Holcomb
1961 Doc Watson
1963 David Grisman
1966 Peter Rowan
1967 John Hartford    Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

1965   Orange Blossom Special


  Bluegrass (not called that at its first) is one of the three major veins out of which country western developed, folk and swing (originating via early jazz) the other two. As it isn't always possible to distinguish between genres except artificially, if what you're seeking isn't on this page you might find it in one of the other Country categories at the bottom of this page. All the blending aside, bluegrass in general emphasized instruments while folk emphasized song.



Among the earliest "bluegrass" recordings are those by fiddler Eck Robertson, At the grass roots of bluegrass, Robertson released 'Sallie Gooden' in 1922. Born in 1887 in Arkansas, Alexander "Eck" Robertson began playing fiddle at age five while living on a farm in the Texas panhandle. As a young man he worked as a piano tuner when not playing playing fiddle at silent film theaters. Robertson died in 1975 in Texas.

Eck Robertson   1922  

   Sallie Gooden

Eck Robertson   1923  

   Ragtime Annie

   Turkey in the Straw


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Eck Robertson

Eck Robertson

Source: Old Weird America



Birth of Bluegrass Music: John Carson

Fiddlin' John Carson

Source: Bluegrass Messengers


Fiddler John Carson released a number of popular songs in the twenties, his first in 1923 below. Born in Georgia in 1868, Carson was ready to busk the streets of Copperhill at age eleven. Not a lot is known about Carson's life in his twenties, other than that he married in 1894. In 1900 he found work in a cotton mill in Atlanta, which is the sort of employment he kept for the next two decades while playing fiddle at contests and minstrels shows. He was 55 years of age when he first recorded in Atlanta, which initial tracks were deemed to hold sufficient potential to send him to New York City to record more. Carson recorded nearly 150 sides during his lifetime, usually with a group called the Virginia Reelers or his daughter Rosa Lee. He wrote more than 150 songs, though copyrighted only nine. Carson died in 1949 in Atlanta.

John Carson   1923

   Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane

John Carson   1924

   I'm Nine Hundred Miles From Home

John Carson   1928  

   Ain't No Bugs On Me

John Carson   1929  

   He Rambled



Birth of Bluegrass Music: Uncle Dave Mason

Uncle Dave Macon

Source: Bob Dylan Commentaries

Like Carson, banjo player Uncle Dave Macon could feasibly be considered early folk music but for the skill he demonstrated with his instrument. Born in Tennessee in 1870, Macon began playing banjo at age fifteen, learning the instrument from a circus comedian. He was married in 1889, whence he is found farming. Around 1900 he formed The Macon Midway Mule and Mitchell Wagon Transportation Company, which he ran for twenty years, playing banjo as he hauled freight by mule. The invention of the automobile, however, eventually put him out of business in 1920. His first professional performance was at a church benefit in 1921. Stories differ as to how he was discovered in 1923. But it's certain he began touring for the Loews Theatres chain doing vaudeville. Macon got together with fiddler Sid Harkreader to release a number of recordings in 1924 (three of which are below). His first performance for the Barn Dance show on WSM radio in Nashville was October 15, 1925, only about a month after the program, which would begin to be called the Grand Ole Opry in 1927, began. (See DeFord Bailey in Blues 2 as to how Barn Dance became the Grand Ole Opry.) Macon would tour with Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs in the forties. It's said he wasn't real impressed by Scruggs, nor cared for the direction that the newer bluegrass in general was taking mountain country music. Howsoever, Macon died in 1952. He was the tenth inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966.

Uncle Dave Macon   1924  

   Bile Dem Cabbage Down

   Love Somebody

   Soldier's Joy

Uncle Dave Macon   1929  

   Over the Mountain



Birth of Bluegrass Music: Gid Tanner

Gid Tanner

Source: Jukka Joutsi

Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers popularized "hillbilly" music in the twenties. Blind guitarist Riley Puckett was a member of the Skillet Lickers, together with fiddler Clayton McMichen who also performed lead vocals. During the same period the Carter Family (Country 2) took country the folk direction. ('Dixie', below, was composed in the 1850's, its authorship uncertain.)

Skillet Lickers   1926

   Hand Me Down My Walkin' Cane

   Dance All Night With a Bottle In Your Hand

   Farmer's Daughter

   The Girl I Left Behind Me

   Pass Around the Bottle

   Ya Gotta Quit Kickin' My Dog Aroun'

Skillet Lickers   1928  

   Cotton-eyed Joe

   The House Carpenter

Skillet Lickers   1931  


Skillet Lickers   1934  

   Hawkins Rag


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Riley Puckett

Riley Puckett

Source: Find a Grave


The Tennessee Ramblers first recorded in 1928. The Ramblers were a string band based in Tennessee, not to be confused with the Tennessee Ramblers of North Carolina, a country western band (Country 3).

Tennessee Ramblers   1928

   Cackling Pullet

   Preacher Got Drunk and Laid His Bible Down



Banjo player Wade Mainer first recorded with 'Seven and a Half' in 1934 with his brother's band, J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers. Born in North Carolina in 1907, Mainer formed his own band, the Sons of the Mountaineers, in 1937. They performed largely for radio shows, which increased record sales, and were invited to play the White House in 1942. In 1953 Mainer moved with his wife to Flint, Michigan, where he took employment with General Motors (from which he retired in 1973). A devout Christian, Mainer dropped out of the music business and stopped playing banjo, though he and his wife continued to sing gospel for church purposes. Eventually reconsidering that banjo was not an instrument of sin, Mainer began playing it again in 1961, recording and touring with his wife as well. Like Uncle Dave Macon above, Mainer was a bridge between old mountain music and what would become bluegrass via the influence of such as Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs (below). Mainer died in 2011, 104 years old.

Wade Mainer   1935

   Seven and a Half

Wade Mainer   1936

   I'll Be a Friend to Jesus

Wade Mainer   1937

   Goin' to Georgia

   Train 45

Wade Mainer   1941

   Old Ruben

Wade Mainer   1944

   Nobody's Love Is Like Mine

Wade Mainer   1953

   Little Birdie

Wade Mainer   1971

   Wild Bill Jones

Wade Mainer   1989

   Crick In the Water

      Live with Julia Mainer

   I Can't Sit Down

      Live with Julia Mainer


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Wade Mainer

Wade Mainer

Source: Find a Grave



Mandolinist Bill Monroe first recorded with 'New River Train' in 1936 with his brother, Charlie, as a duo called the Monroe Brothers. (It had been a quartet, but brother Birch and friend, Larry Moore, had quit the group.) Born near Rosine, Kentucky, in 1909, it was 1929 when Bill joined his brothers at a Sinclair oil refinery, also putting together a band with them. He and brother Charlie recorded sixty tracks together between 1936 and '38, the year they went their different ways. Bill next formed a group called the Kentuckians, which lasted only three months, before putting together the Blue Grass Boys, the band after which the whole musical genre of bluegrass would be named. It was 1939 when Monroe debuted on the Grand Ole Opry show. In 1942 that Chubby Wise joined the Blue Grass Boys. Lester Flatt joined the group in 1945, and Earl Scruggs in December the same year. Their contributions to the group were key to its development, and success, beyond 1948, when Flatt and Scruggs left to form the band, the Foggy Mountain Boys. By the late fifties, however, mainstream country music, not to mention rock and roll, were putting the crunch on bluegrass. The folk revival in the early sixties, though, put air in its sails again, which is when Monroe began being called the "father" of what was then starting to be called bluegrass. Monroe died in 1996, four days before his 85th birthday.

Bill Monroe   1936

   New River Train

Bill Monroe   1940

   Mule Skinner Blues

Bill Monroe   1942

   Orange Blossom Special

Bill Monroe   1946

   Blue Moon Of Kentucky

   Heavy Traffic Ahead

Bill Monroe   1947

   Sweetheart You Done Me Wrong

Bill Monroe   1950

   Blue Grass Ramble

   Brakeman's Blues

Bill Monroe   1951

   Highway of Sorrow

Bill Monroe   1952

   I Hope You Have Learned

   Sugar Coated Love

Bill Monroe   1953

   Get Up John

Bill Monroe   1954

   I'm Working On a Building

   A Voice From On High

   Y'all Come

Bill Monroe   1955

   Brown County Breakdown

   Tall Timber

Bill Monroe   1956

   Uncle Pen

Bill Monroe   1966

   Live In Madison

Bill Monroe   1973

   Mule Skinner Blues


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe

Source: DC Metro


Rather the obverse of mining and trucking, country music more representing the trucker and miner than those industries, so did country more represent the railroad industry (: the train) than the railroad laborer (in general). Nevertheless, fiddler Chubby Wise, composer of 'The Orange Blossom Special', began his career in 1930 at age fifteen, playing local gigs in Jacksonville, Florida. He would join Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in 1942, with which he made his first recordings (the original 'Bluegrass Breakdown', below, among them). He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry the next year. Wise played with the Blue Grass Boys until 1950. In 1954 he joined Hank Snow's Rainbow Mountain Boys with which he remained until 1970. Wise died in 1996, 80 years old.

Chubby Wise   1948

   Bluegrass Breakdown

      With the Blue Grass Boys

Chubby Wise   1962

   Memphis Blues

      With the Rainbow Mountain Boys

   Peacock Rag

      With the Rainbow Mountain Boys

   Smoky Mountain Waltz

     With the Rainbow Mountain Boys

Chubby Wise   1971

   Lee Highway Blues

      Live performance

   Orange Blossom Special

      Live with Mac Wiseman

Chubby Wise   1973

   Cacklin' Hen

Chubby Wise   1994

   Westphalia Waltz

      Live performance


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Chubby Wise

Chubby Wise

Source: Banjo Hangout


It was New Year's day, 1939, that Beecher Ray Kirby joined the Grand Ole Opry with Roy Acuff's band. The members would soon be calling him Bashful Brother Oswald, recording for the first time in 1939 with Roy Acuff as well ('Old Age Pension Check'). Though Brother Oswald was a banjo, guitar and slide guitar wizard he played Dobro on that first recording. (A resonating guitar, "Dobro" is a contraction of the "Dopyera brothers" who invented it, meaning "goodness" in their native Slovak. The Dopyeras would own Dobro throughout most the history of country music, not acquired by Gibson until 1997.) Born in Tennessee in 1911, it was 1934 when Oswald joined Acuff's band, the Crazy Tennesseans, later to become the Smokey Mountain Boys. He began to be called Brother Oswald in order to feign familial relationship with singer Rachel Veach, making her place in the band more embraceable by audiences. Oswald would play with the Smokey Mountain Boys until Acuff's death in 1992. But he launched a solo career as well in 1962, upon releasing the album, 'Bashful Brother Oswald'. Oswald released his last album, 'Carry Me Back', in 1999. He died in 2002 in Madison, Tennessee. (More Roy Acuff in A Birth of Folk Music.)

Brother Oswald   1939

   Old Age Pension Check

      With Roy Acuff

Brother Oswald   1940

   Precious Jewel

      With Roy Acuff

Brother Oswald   1964

   Black Smoke

      Live performance

   Columbus Stockade Blues

      Live performance

   Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad

      Live performance

Brother Oswald   1972

   Dobro Chimes

Brother Oswald   1995

   Mountain Dew

Brother Oswald   1999

   Precious Jewel

   Stuck Up Blues


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Brother Oswald

Brother Oswald

Photo: Jim McGuire

Source: Jim McGuire

Birth of Bluegrass Music: Grandpa Jones

Grandpa Jones

Source: Find a Grave


Born Louis Marshall Jones in Niagara, Kentucky, in 1913, banjo player Grandpa Jones (Louis Marshall Jones) first recorded in 1944 with guitarist Merle Travis, a stereo version of that below. Travis afterward put his career on hold during World War II to serve the Allied cause, resuming the music business in 1946, recording for King Records and performing on the Grand Ole Opry radio show. Jones became a member of the cast of the television show, 'Hee Haw', in 1969. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1978.Jones died in 1998 in Tennessee.

Grandpa Jones   1944

   It's Raining Here This Morning

Grandpa Jones   1945

   You'll Be Lonesome Too

Grandpa Jones   1947

   Mountain Dew

   Old Rattler

Grandpa Jones   1952

   Old Rattler's Son


The Stanley Brothers consisted of Carter on guitar and Ralph on banjo, both born in Virginia. Their formed their first band, the Lazy Ramblers, for their first professional gig was at WJHL radio in Johnson City, Tennessee. But World War II put music on hold, both of them enlisting in the Army. Upon discharge from service they tried again, putting together the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1946 for an appearance at WCYB radio in Bristol, Tennessee. The Stanley Brothers made their first record release in 1947: 'Mother No Longer Awaits Me at Home'/'The Girl Behind the Bar'. They toured Europe in 1966.

Stanley Brothers   1947

   The Girl Behind the Bar

Stanley Brothers   1948

   Little Maggie

Stanley Brothers   1949

   A Vision of Mother

Stanley Brothers   1958

   Live at Sunset Park

Stanley Brothers   1959

   Hymns and Sacreds


   Over in the Glory Land


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Stanley Brothers

Stanley Brothers

Source: Bluegrass Today


Born in Tennessee in 1914, Lester Flatt, guitarist and vocalist, got his major professional push with Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in 1945. To mention Lester Flatt is nigh as to mention Earl Scruggs since they worked together for twenty years upon forming the Foggy Mountain Boys in 1948, which group enjoyed great popularity until disbanding in 1969. Upon parting ways Flatt reshaped much of the Foggy Mountain Boys into a group called Nashville Grass, with which he remained until his death of heart failure in 1979. Flatt was inducted into the Country music Hall of Fame in 1985 and International Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 1991.

Lester Flatt   1951

   I'll Just Pretend/Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms

      With Earl Scruggs

Lester Flatt   1961

   Old Salty Dog Blues

      With Earl Scruggs

Lester Flatt   1973

   Bluebirds Singing For Me

      Mandolin: Marty Stuart


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Earl Scruggs

Lester Flatt

Source: Australian Bluegrass

Birth of Bluegrass Music: Earl Scruggs

Earl Scruggs

Photo: David Schenk

Source: KALW

Born in North Carolina in 1924, phenomenal banjoist Earl Scruggs got his major career boost in 1945 with Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. He left the band with Lester Flatt in 1948 to form the Foggy Mountain Boys. When he and Flatt parted ways in 1969 Scruggs put together a group called the Earl Scruggs Revue. Scruggs was inducted into the Country music Hall of Fame in 1985 and International Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 1991. He died in 2012 of natural causes. Scruggs is famous for 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown', first recorded in 1948, and 'The Ballad of Jed Clampett' in 1962, theme song for the television comedy 'The Beverly Hillbillies'.

Earl Scruggs   1948

   Foggy Mountain Breakdown

       With Lester Flatt

Earl Scruggs   1962

   The Ballad Of Jed Clampett

      With Lester Flatt   Vocal: Jerry Scoggins

Earl Scruggs   1986

   Orange Blossom Special

      Original composition: Chubby Wise   With Lester Flatt

Earl Scruggs   2001

   Foggy Mountain Breakdown

      Live performance with Steve Martin



Birth of Bluegrass Music: Arthur Smith

Arthur Smith

Source: Quotation Of

Born in 1921 in South Carolina, Arthur Smith released his first single in 1948 ('Banjo Boogie' with 'Guitar Boogie' flip side). (Boogie woogie is the southern equivalent of ragtime, the latter out of which jazz largely developed.) In 1955 Smith partnered with banjo player Don Reno to record 'Feudin' Banjos', which tune was later used in the 1972 film, 'Deliverance'. Smith is otherwise best known as television host of 'The Arthur Smith Show' which ran for about thirty years. He also built a recording studio in Charlotte where he produced radio programs and cut records. Smith died in 2014, 2 days after his 93rd birthday. By which time he had copyrighted nigh 500 tunes.

Arthur Smith   1948

   Banjo Boogie

   Guitar Boogie

Arthur Smith   1955

   Feudin' Banjos

      With Don Reno



Born in 1925 in Virginia, Mac Wiseman, guitar and upright bass, began his music career as a disc jockey for WSVA radio in Harrisonburg, Virginia, upon studying music at the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music. He began his career as a musician playing upright bass for country singer Molly O'Day. Wiseman first recorded soon after in 1948 with the Foggy Mountain Boys, formed that year by Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt upon leaving the Blue Grass Boys (among those first recordings see 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown' under Earl Scruggs above). In 1949 he recorded 'Travelin' Down This Lonesome Road' and a couple duets with Bill Monroe (unfound) just prior to forming his own band that same year. Wiseman was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Country Western Music Hall of Fame in 2014. More Mac Wiseman in A Birth of Rock & Roll 2.

Mac Wiseman   1953

   Goin' Like Wildfire

Mac Wiseman   1955

   Keep on the Sunny Side

      Television performance

   Love Letters in the Sand

      Television performance

Mac Wiseman   1957

   Tis Sweet To Be Remembered

Mac Wiseman   1960

   Keep On the Sunny Side

Mac Wiseman   1965

   Maple Sugar Sweetheart

      Fiddle: Ward Allen

Mac Wiseman   1971

   The Bluebirds Singing For Me

      Live with Lester Flatt

   Sweet Heart You Done Me Wrong

      Live with Lester Flatt

   Write Your Name In The Sand

      Live performance

Mac Wiseman   2001

   Travelin' Blues


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Mac Wiseman

Mac Wiseman

Source: CMT


Born in Kinard, Florida, in 1928, Vassar Clements, largely fiddle (guitar too easy), first recorded with Bill Monroe in 1950, replacing fiddler Chubby Wise for the next eight years. Unfortunately a wealth of Clements is lost at YouTube, no earlier recordings found than 1955. His next album, 'Crossing the Catskills', was released the next year. Clements played a variety of genres ranging from folk to jazz to rock. His last album, 'Livin' With the Blues', was issued in 2004, the year before his final public performance in February 2005 in Jamestown, New York. Clements died of lung cancer in 2005.

Vassar Clements   1955

   Brown County Breakdown

      With the Bluegrass Boys

   Tall Timber

      With the Bluegrass Boys

Vassar Clements   1975

   Old and In the Way

      Album with David Grisman & Jerry Garcia

      Recorded 1973

Vassar Clements   1980


      Original composition: Miles Davis   Live performance

Vassar Clements   2003

   Orange Blossom Special

      Original composition: Chubby Wise    Live performance

Vassar Clements   2004

   Phonograph Blues

      Album: 'Livin' With the Blues'    With Roy Rogers


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Vassar Clements

Vassar Clements

Source: Music Marauders

Birth of Bluegrass Music: Jimmy Martin

Jimmy Martin

Source: Bluegrass Today


Farmboy Jimmy Martin ("King of Bluegrass") was twenty-two when he snuck backstage at the Grand Ole Opry and got hired by Bill Monroe, replacing Mac Wiseman who had just left the band. He stayed with Monroe until 1954. (A guitarist, Martin also sings lead on the tracks below with the Blue Grass Boys.) Martin released his first record album in 1960 ('Good n Country'), steadily creating one album each year up to 1974 (excepting 1971), after which his LP releases were less regular. Unfortunately the earliest album recording found is not until 1964, the trucking tune 'Widow Maker'. Martin made a number of appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, but was never a member. He died of bladder cancer in 2005.

Jimmy Martin   1950

   Boat of Love

      With the Blue Grass Boys

   River of Death

      With the Blue Grass Boys

Jimmy Martin   1960

   Good n Country


Jimmy Martin   1964

   Widow Maker

Jimmy Martin   1971

   Little Maggie

      Live performance

   When the Savior Reached Down

      Live performance



Birth of Bluegrass Music: Osborne Brothers

Osborne Brothers

Source: Mark O'Connor

In 1954 the Osborne Brothers made their six debut recordings with Jimmy Martin, among them '20/20 Vision' below. (Their first recording, 'Chalk Up Another One' b/w 'I Pulled a Boo Boo', was released in 1955.) Sonny Osborne played banjo. His brother, Bobby, played mandolin. Both born in Kentucky, they grew up near Dayton, Ohio. When Bobby was drafted into the military in 1952 Sonny found employment with the Blue Grass Boys. The duo was given membership to the Grand Ole Opry in 1966 and played the White House in 1973. Their song, 'Rocky Top', was made the state song of Tennessee in 1982. They were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 1994.

Osborne Brothers   1954

   20/20 Vision

      With Jimmy Martin

Osborne Brothers   1956

   Ho Honey Ho

      With Red Allen

   Ruby Are You Mad?

      With Red Allen

Osborne Brothers   1963

   Muleskinner Blues

Osborne Brothers   1967

   Rocky Top

      Live performance

Osborne Brothers   1969

   You Win Again

Osborne Brothers   1979

   I Can Hear Kentucky Calling Me



Born in Kentucky in 1930, guitarist Red Allen (not to be confused with the jazz trumpeter Henry James Red Allen) got his big break with the Osborne Brothers, first recording four songs with them in 1956 ('Once More' below, 'Ho Honey Ho' and 'Ruby Are You Mad?' under the Osborne Brothers above). Allen is famous for his partnership with mandolin virtuoso, Frank Wakefield, first working with him in 1952 in a band called the Blue Ridge Mountain Boys, next with the Red Heads, then the Kentuckians in 1960. He and Wakefield played Carnegie Hall in 1963. Upon Wakefield's departure from the band in 1965 he was replaced by David Grisman. Red Allen died in 1993.

Red Allen   1956

   Once More

      With the Osborne Brothers

   Out on the Ocean

   Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On

      Original composition: Kitty Wells


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Red Allen

Red Allen

Source: Last FM

Birth of Bluegrass Music: Norman Blake

Norman Blake   1972

Source: All Music
Norman Blake, versatile with a number of string instruments, was born in 1934 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He quit school at age 16 to join the Dixie Drifters as a mandolin player, beginning his career in radio with that group in Knoxville at WNOS. His first recordings appeared in 1956 for RCA with banjo players, Walter Forbes and Bob Johnson, as the Lonesome Travelers. Said to have released two albums, no further documentation of such is found. Blake also made his first appearances at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956. Blake was drafted in 1961 and served as a radio operator in Panama. He there formed a bluegrass band of some small acclaim before discharge from service and his return to the States to teach guitar while playing fiddle in a country western group. He had been traveling to Nashville to work with June Carter when he moved there in 1969 to appear on television for Johnny Cash. From that point onward Blake found himself in demand with a number of larger names. Beginning with Bob Dylan on 'Nashville Skyline', he then collaborated with Kris Kristofferson, Joan Baez, John Hartford and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. With his reputation then well established, Blake spent the following years touring with his wife, Nancy Blake. He released his debut album in 1972: 'Back Home in Sulphur Springs'. During the course of his career Blake has issued 33 albums as of this writing. He also continues to perform on tour.

Norman Blake   1971

   Where the Old Red River Flows

    Banjo: John Hartford 

Norman Blake   1972

   Down Home Summertime Blues


  Philadelphia Folk Festival 1972

Norman Blake   1979

   Ginseng Sullivan

    Filmed live 


  Roscoe Holcomb didn't begin recording until 1958 (age 46) after about three decades of playing banjo while working as a coal miner and farmer. His first record release was in 1960 on a compilation called 'Mountain Music of Kentucky'. Holcomb was more a folk singer than bluegrass instrumentalist, but as he was from the Appalachian area of Kentucky and played in the bluegrass fashion he was better known at the time as a bluegrass vocalist than folk singer. Giving his last performance in 1978, he died in 1981.

Roscoe Holcomb   1960

   Hills of Mexico

Roscoe Holcomb   1961

   I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow

   Old Smoky

Roscoe Holcomb   1962


Roscoe Holcomb   1973

   Old Smoky

Roscoe Holcomb   1975

   Mississippi Heavy Water Blues

   Train That Carried My Girl From Town


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Roscoe Holcomb

Roscoe Holcomb

Source: University of Western Australia


Born in 1923 in North Carolina, blind bluegrass virtuoso Doc Watson had been playing banjo, guitar and harmonica nigh thirty years before recording his own debut album, titled simply 'Doc Watson', in 1964. Watson made his first recording with Clarence Ashley in 1961, thought to be 'The Banks of the Ohio', below. Watson was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2000. Watson last performed in public with the Nashville Bluegrass Band in April 2012, dying the next month on the 29th of May in North Carolina.

Doc Watson   1961

   The Banks of the Ohio

      With Clarence Ashley

Doc Watson   1964

   And Am I Born To Die?

      With Gaither Carlson

   Country Blues

   Deep River Blues

   Nashville Blues

   Omie Wise

   St. James Hospital

   Sitting On Top Of the World

   Talk About Suffering

   Tom Dooley

Doc Watson   1991

   Deep River Blues

      Live performance

   Windy and Warm

      Live performance

Doc Watson   1998

   Shady Grove/Summertime

      Live with David Grisman & Jack Lawrence


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Doc Watson

Doc Watson

Source: Noise 11

Birth of Bluegrass Music: Dave Grisman

Dave Grisman

Photo: Jay Blakesberg

Source: Wedel Blog

Born in 1945 in Hackensack, New Jersey, mandolin player David Grisman (the Dawg) first recorded with the Even Dozen Jug Band in 1963. He later recorded with Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys before helping Peter Rowan form the psychedelic band, Earth Opera. Their first album, released in 1968, was titled simply 'Earth Opera'. Their second album, 'The Great American Eagle Tragedy', was released the next year. (Tracks from those albums are under Peter Rowan below.) In 1975 Grisman formed the David Grisman Quintet, releasing that group's first album, 'The David Grisman Quintet', in 1977. Among Grisman's latest releases in the new millennium was 'Live at the Boarding House' in 2008 with his group, Old and in the Way. That group had issued its first LP in 1975 per 'Old and in the Way'. Tracks below include collaborations with Jerry Garcia, Tony Rice and Doc Watson.

David Grisman   1963

   Take Your Fingers Off It

      With the Even Dozen Jug Band

David Grisman   1966

   East Tennessee Blues

      With Bill Monroe

David Grisman   1981

   Dawg's Bull

      Live performance


      Live performance

David Grisman   1992

   The Thrill Is Gone

      Live with Jerry Garcia

David Grisman   1993

   Teddy Bears' Picnic

      With Jerry Garcia   Album: 'Not For Kids Only'

David Grisman   1994

   Tone Poems

      Album with Tony Rice

David Grisman   1998


      Live with Doc Watson

David Grisman   2008

   My Love Will Not Change

      Live with the Del McCoury Band

   Shady Grove

      Live performance



Born in 1942 in Boston, guitarist Peter Rowan got his big break in Nashville with Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys with which he first recorded in 1966. In 1967 he helped David Grisman shape the acid band, Earth Opera. Their first album, released in 1968, was titled simply 'Earth Opera'. Their second album, 'The Great American Eagle Tragedy', was released the next year. Rowan went on to become a member of numerous bands such as Seatrain, the Muleskinners and Old and In the Way, the latter with whom he played with Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and Vassar Clements. Rowan is perhaps most notable for his collaborations with mandolinist, David Grisman, and guitarist, Tony Rice. Many tracks with Tony Rice below. A couple of cuts from Rowan's reggae period are included below as well.

Peter Rowan   1966

   John Henry

      With Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys


      With Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys

Peter Rowan   1968

   Home of the Brave

      With Earth Opera   Album: 'Earth Opera'

Peter Rowan   1969

   All Winter Long

      With Earth Opera

       Album: 'The Great American Eagle Tragedy'

   It's Love

      With Earth Opera

       Album: 'The Great American Eagle Tragedy'

Peter Rowan   1971

   Home to You

      With Seatrain

Peter Rowan   1972

   Mama Don't You Cry

      With the Rowan Brothers

Peter Rowan   1973

   Drifting Too Far From Shore

      With Old and In the Way

   Kissimmee Kid

      With Old and In the Way

   Land of the Navajo

      With Old and In the Way

   Wild Horses

      Original composition: Rolling Stones

      With Old and In the Way

Peter Rowan   1993

   Dance With No Shoes

      Album: 'Awake Me In the New World'

Peter Rowan   1998

   No Woman, No Cry

      Album: 'Reggae Around the World'

Peter Rowan   2000

   Blackberry Blossom

      With Tony Rice

   First Whippoorwill

      With Tony Rice

   Home Lovin' Man

      With Tony Rice

   Knockin' At Your Door

      With Tony Rice

   Molly and Tenbrooks

      With Tony Rice

Peter Rowan   2002

   Give Me Love

Peter Rowan   2005

   Old Santa Fe

      With Tony Rice

Peter Rowan   2008

   Pulling the Devil By the Tail

      With The Free Mexican Air Force

Peter Rowan   2010

   Angel Island

      With Tim O'Brian & Tony Rice

   Don't Ask Me Why

      With the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band

   Hobo Song

      With Tim O'Brian & Tony Rice

   Midnight Moonlight

      With Tim O'Brian & Tony Rice

   Shady Grove

      With Tim O'Brian & Tony Rice

Peter Rowan   2011

   Walls of Time

Peter Rowan   2012

   Panama Red

   Pretty Polly

   Wild Mustang

      With Tony Rice


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Peter Rowan

Peter Rowan

Source: Peter Rowan

Birth of Bluegrass Music: John Hartford

John Hartford

Source: Find a Grave

Born in New York City in 1937, banjo player John Hartford also played dobro, fiddle, guitar and likely could have made a fencepost sing. Hartford was a commercial art student, receiving his degree in 1960. But the more compelling focus for Hartford was music. So he became a disc jockey in St. Louis, where he'd been raised, while further honing his skills. He is said to have recorded for local labels in St. Louis in the early sixties but no records of that can be found. In 1965 Hartford moved to Nashville to be at the center of the country music industry, and signed his first recording contract the next year. 'Gentle On My Mind' was his first single, released in 1967, the same year as his first album, 'Looks At Life'. One track from his 1971 album, 'Aereo-Plain', is indexed below, upon which release people began calling his bluegrass "newgrass" or, progressive bluegrass (a term used in the naming of the New Grass Revival band formed in 1971, a touch too late for this history). Hartford had a thing about steamboats as well. In addition to his music career, he earned a steamboat pilot license in the seventies, thereafter piloting the Julia Belle Swain for summer amusement, as well as tugboats. Hartford died in 2001 in Nashville.

John Hartford   1967

   Gentle On My Mind

   I Reckon

      Album: 'Looks At Life'

   I Shoulda Wore My Birthday Suit

      Album: 'Looks At Life'

   There Are No Fools In Heaven

      Album: 'Earthwords & Music'

John Hartford   1968

   California Earthquake

      Live on Playboy After Dark

   Natural to Be Gone

      Live on Playboy After Dark

John Hartford   1971

   Steam Powered Aereo Plane

      Album: 'Aereo-Plain'

John Hartford   1972

   Nobody Eats At Linebaugh's Anymore

      Album: 'Morning Bugle'

   My Rag

      Album: 'Morning Bugle'

   Old Joe Clark

John Hartford   1977

   Gentle On My Mind

   Nobody Knows What You Do

      Album: 'Nobody Knows What You Do'

John Hartford   1984

   Jug Harris

      Live performance

John Hartford   1987

   Goin' To Work In Tall Buildings

      Live performance

John Hartford   1998

   Blackberry Blossom

      Album: 'The Speed of the Old Long Bow'


  Formed in Long Beach, California, in 1966, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was originally a jug band, complete with washboard and washtub bass, consisting of Jeff Hanna, Jimmie Fadden, Ralph Barr, Les Thompson, Bruce Kunkel and John McCuen (replacing Jackson Browne) at the time it released its first album in 1967, 'The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band'. All played guitar, though McCuen performed on banjo as well. The band's initial single, 'Buy for Me the Rain', reached the Top 40. The group next issued the album, 'Ricochet', before going electric with the LPs, 'Rare Junk' and 'Alive'. Not until the issue of 'Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy' in 1970 did the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band find its direction in bluegrass. Their release of 'Mr. Bojangles' reached No. 9 on Billboard's Hot 100. The group released 'All the Good Times' in 1972 before garnering the assistance of such as Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, Mother Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson, Merle Travis, Vassar Clements and Norman Blake for the 1972 release of 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken'. That album established the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as a group of serious musicians, they touring Japan before the 1974 release of 'Stars & Stripes Forever'. After touring the Soviet Union in 1977 and issuing 'Dirt, Silver and Gold' in 1978, the band shortened its name, recording as The Dirt Band. Reassuming the name, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, in 1982, the album, 'Let's Go', was released the next year. The LP, 'Plain Dirt Fashion' was released in 1984, on it the band's first No. 1 song, 'Long Hard Road'. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band continues to perform to this day with original members, Jimmie Faden, Jeff Haden and John McCuen (who had left the band for a couple decades in the eighties).

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band   1967

   Buy For Me the Rain


Nitty Gritty Dirt Band   1968

   I'm Not Afraid

     Film: 'For Singles Only'

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band   1970

   Mr. Bojangles

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band   1972

   I Saw the Light

     Album: 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken'

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band   1975

   Ripplin' Waters

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band   1985


     Album: 'Partners, Brothers And Friends'

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band   1990

   American Dream

     Filmed live

  Mr. Bojangles

     Filmed live

  Workin' Man

     Filmed live

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band   2003

   Will The Circle Be Unbroken: Farther Along

     Filmed concert

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band   2010

   Dance Little Jean

     Filmed live


Birth of Bluegrass Music: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band   1967

Source: Eirik Wangberg

47 Years of 'Orange Blossom Special'

Composition: Chubby Wise    Lyrics: Ervin Rouse

Johnny Cash   1965

Don Rich & the Buckaroos   1966

Chubby Wise   1971

Chet Atkins   1978

Mickey Gilley 1980

Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs   1986

Roy Clark   1987

Doug Kershaw   1989

Seatrain   1995

Well Oiled Sisters   1998

Vassar Clements   2003

Country Sisters   2006

James Last   2007

Veronika Shabashova   2009

Annie Staninec   2009

RV   2005

Michael Cleveland   2010

IBMA Kids   2010

Steve Martin   2010

Charlie McCoy   2010

Ray Steelman   2010

Mikayla Roach   2011

Cistillo Kids   2012

Adam Larkey Band   2012

Memories Band   2012

Crystal Shipley & Raisin' Cain   2012

Wimberley Bluegrass Band   2012


The seventies would see the rise of talent such as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (with whom Clements and Watson performed) and New Grass Revival. But we presently pause this rather lean history of bluegrass music with John Hartford.



Early Blues 1: Guitar

Early Blues 2: Vocal - Other Instruments

Modern Blues 1: Guitar

Modern Blues 2: Vocal - Other Instruments

Modern Blues 3: Black Gospel Appendix


Medieval - Renaissance


Galant - Classical

Romantic: Composers born 1770 to 1840

Romantic - Impressionist

Expressionist - Modern

Modern: Composers born 1900 to 1950




Country Western


Early Jazz 1: Ragtime - Bands - Horn

Early Jazz 2: Ragtime - Other Instrumentation

Early Jazz 3: Ragtime - Song - Hollywood

Swing Era 1: Big Bands

Swing Era 2: Song

Modern 1: Saxophone

Modern 2: Trumpet - Other Horn

Modern 3: Piano

Modern 4: Guitar - Other String

Modern 5: Percussion - Other Orchestration

Modern 6: Song

Modern 7: Latin Jazz - Latin Recording

Modern 8: United States 1960 - 1970

Modern 9: International 1960 - 1970

Rock & Roll

Early - Boogie Woogie - R&B - Soul - Disco

Doo Wop

The Big Bang - Fifties American Rock

UK Beat

British Invasion

Total War - Sixties American Rock

Other Musical Genres - Popular Music Appendix

Musician Indexes

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Classical - Baroque to Classical

Classical - Romantic to Modern

The Blues

Bluegrass - Folk

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Jazz Early - Ragtime - Swing Jazz

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Jazz Modern - Piano - String

Jazz Modern - Percussion - Song - Other

Jazz Modern - 1960 to 1970

Boogie Woogie - Doo Wop - R&B - Rock & Roll - Soul - Disco

UK Beat - British Invasion

Sixties American Rock - Popular

Latin Recording - Europe

Latin Recording - The Caribbean - South America


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