KAFM TUNED IN: Tracing the evolution of bluegrass music

with Vetabluegrass
Father of Bluegrass |


The Fruita Fall Festival will run Sept. 27-29. There will be several renowned bluegrass acts including Steve Spurgin, Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, Sons & Brothers, and Bluegrass Etc. Other bands will be performing on both stages. For a schedule and more information, go to

Last month you learned how bluegrass got its name. But just where did that music come from? Bill Monroe did not just invent this new style.

Many songs came from mountain music and old-time music. Add some country, the popular music of the day. Country was The Delmore Brothers, The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers. Throw in some blues. So now we have a blend with a twist thanks to Bill Monroe, the “Father of Bluegrass.” Somewhere between the mid-’20s to mid-’30s most homes had radios, if they were in areas where there was reception. Think of the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?,” The Soggy Bottom Boys stop at a radio station in the middle of nowhere-Arkansas, record “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” and become an instant hit on the radio, in a very small geographical area.


Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys toured into the ’90s, but the Boys was an ever-changing group. Many of the members are well known for their careers after their tenure with Monroe. Peter Rowan, Del McCoury, Bobbie Hicks, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Byron Berline, Roland White are just a few of the many who played with Bill Monroe and continue to have successful careers in bluegrass. (Note: Del McCoury played in Grand Junction in March 2013.) There were many bands who played in Bill Monroe’s style. Often, “clogging,” which was common in Appalachia, was the dance style with bluegrass. At festivals today you can see folks clogging, but not in a line.


The musicians have their roots in traditional Bluegrass but have refined the sound. Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Norman Blake, Del McCoury, John Hartford are just some of the second generation. New Grass Revival (Sam Bush) and the Earl Scruggs Revue introduced a totally new sound in bluegrass by combining it with rock music. David Grisman and Jerry Garcia played bluegrass before the days of The Grateful Dead.


While still considered bluegrass by most people, the bands may have replaced the upright bass with an electric bass. Maybe drums were added solely as percussion background. More microphones were added for both vocalists and instruments. An occasional harmonica, accordion, or cello can be heard. The music has become more progressive with jazz (Bela Fleck) and jam-band (Yonder Mountain String Band) sounds and also with classical music (The Kruger Brothers and Bela Fleck). Alison Kraus & Union Station, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, and The Infamous Stringdusters are some of the well known names of the third generation.

Veta Gumber aka Vetabluegrass hosts a weekly show on KAFM 88.1, Bluegrass and Beyond, every Monday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Tune in to hear old and new bluegrass; from traditional to progressive; from Doc Watson to The Boxcars to Hot Buttered Rum and beyond! She can be reached at

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