This week in Raleigh, IBMA’s Wide World of Bluegrass Fest: Highlighting North Carolina’s Bluegrass Roots
This week Raleigh once again hosts the International Bluegrass Music Association’s “Wide Open World of Bluegrass” festival from September 27 to October 1. Complementing the ticketed attractions, the festival also has a free street fest in downtown Raleigh along Fayetteville Street on Friday and Saturday — complete with live music, street food, and craft vendors. If you’re in Raleigh, check it out!
It’s a good opportunity to share a snapshot of this deeply rooted, ever-evolving and uniquely American art form along with some resources for more info on North Carolina’s connection.
The origins of the name “Bluegrass” are often associated with the legendary mandolin player Bill Monroe, native Kentuckian who named his band the “Blue Grass Boys” for his home state in the late 1930s. The term “bluegrass”, however, appears not to have been applied to the developing form until well into the 1940s or 1950s. The roots of the genre itself are old and wide, originating from a deep and complex mix: the folk music and dance forms of Appalachia brought to North America by European immigrants beginning in the 17th century (especially from the British Isles); traditional music brought from Africa and handed down in the African American traditions of gospel and blues; and particularly in the innovative, front and center use of the banjo which came to colonial America from Africa.
North Carolina’s own Earl Scruggs is credited with developing Bluegrass’s emphasis on the banjo played in a unique style. Born in Shelby in Cleveland County, Scruggs utilized a three-finger roll or crawl style that helps give Bluegrass its bright sound and drives its forward momentum and energy. Scruggs played with Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys for a time, then formed his own band the Foggy Mountain Boys, and later teamed up as a duo with Foggy Mountain’s guitarist Lester Flatt. And for a time Flatt and Scruggs called Raleigh home. So, little wonder that Raleigh now finds itself home to this annual festival.
Want to learn more? Visit these resources:
Listen to some Flatt and Scruggs from the archives: visit Archive.org for a sampling of recordings available
NCpedia Resources on North Carolina music traditions and festivals:
- North Carolina Bluegrass music on NCpedia
- North Carolina Recording Industry History on NCpedia
- North Carolina folk, country, and bluegrass music traditions and musicians on NCpedia
- North Carolina Folk Festivals on NCpedia
— Kelly Agan, North Carolina Government & Heritage Library