Are you a bluegrass music fan? Many people are and throughout Appalachia you will find this American roots music being played on front porches, at the local parks, at a gathering of musicians just playing for the love of it, at concerts and just about anywhere. Attending a bluegrass festival is a real treat for lovers of this fantastic music that grabs your soul and makes you want to dance and sing your heart out.
When people began migrating to America in the early 1600s, they brought their own cultures, traditions and creativity with them. One of these great contributions they gave their new homeland was the love of various types of music -- this music became the roots of bluegrass. From Ireland, Scotland, and England, came folk dance music and ballads, from Africa came gospel music and blues. Also from Africa came the most integral part of the bluegrass music sound, the banjo.
Bluegrass has a spiritual quality to it that comes from the heart. One of the most popular Bluegrass artists of the past was Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Flat and Scruggs founded The Foggy Mountain Boys in 1948 which gave us one of the most loved pieces of bluegrass ever, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown". It is a quick-paced instrumental that is often played in movies like Bonnie and Clyde during chase scenes.
A "breakdown" is a standard in the bluegrass repertoire. Banjo players consider the ability to deliver a convincing rendition of this piece the mark of a good banjo player. Because of the repetitiveness of the music segments it is popular at jams and concerts. It is perfect for a guitar or mandolin player to jump in on and repeat what the banjo player had just played. This makes for a lively rendition of a song that would otherwise be rather boring if just played with one instrument. The way a true bluegrass instrument player puts his whole heart and soul into the music will touch the hearts of folks who are watching the band.
The Foggy Mountain Boys were a very influential band in the bluegrass music industry -- they recorded and performed together up until 1969 and their music is still loved and appreciated today, not just in Appalachia country, but world-wide. Try to listen to "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" without jumping up and dancing, or at least stomping your feet and clapping in time to the music. It will make you want to learn to play a banjo.
One exciting event you may find is a New Year's Eve celebration with lively Bluegrass music. Jekyll Island, Georgia is a good place to look into. Call 706-864-7203 for details.
If you will be near Yee Haw Junction, Florida you have got to check out their annual Bluegrass Festival. Just go to yeehawbluegrass dot com for details.
Check with your travel agent or online for more winter bluegrass festivals.
Want to start a bluegrass jam session yourself? I used to do this years ago. I would call up the members of the band I played in, called old classmates who took guitar and banjo lessons with me, and asked them all to invite a friend or two or more, over for a jam session. Everyone brought their own beverages and I supplied the snacks and food for break time. Talk about fun -- we would start around four in the afternoon and by 8:00 or so, every neighbor in the area would stop by with a dish of hot or cold food and stay to listen to the music. We had some pretty good singers and musicians there. About once a year for several years I held a good old-fashioned jam session. It is a great way to bring people together.