- Well, definitions, by definition, are used to describe other things. If
someone who didn't know what BG was asked me what it is, I'd probably try
and explain it in 50 words or less. If not, they'd probably fall asleep or
walk away. At work we call it the "elevator pitch". If you can't describe it
during an elevator ride, it's not a good definition.
Was BG even called BG before the 70's? Does anyone know when the actual
general term became used? I remember seeing Bill Monroe in the late 60's in
Southern Ill. and I don't recall ever hearing the term BG until much later.
I think that most people called it Old Time music, folk music, country
music, caterwalling (lots of folks I knew didn't like it), hillbilly music,
whatever. I simply remember that Bill Monroe called his band the Bluegrass
Boys. I thought it meant that they were from Kentucky.
There were festivals for playing this stuff in the late 60s' and early 70's.
Were they called BG festivals back then, or folk festivals? All the BG music
performed in Chicago back then at the Old Town School of Folk Music was
called Folk Music, as I recall. The only specialties I remember were
"country music", "delta blues" etc. No Bluegrass music that I recall.
If BG isn't folk, why does every BG circle eventually play "Will the Circle
be Unbroken"? (G).
People are funny, aren't they? We love to put stuff in boxes, and then
become very rigid about the box size and type. Obviously, Bill Monroe pulled
tons of stuff from "Old Time" mountain music, folk, dance stuff of the 20's
and 30s' and yes, a lot of delta blues. Wonder who he heard playing blues
that made him play the mandolin like that? Yank Rachel maybe? (both spent a
lot of time in Indiana).
In listening to the old early recordings of Monroe, I am struck by the
difference between him and stuff that was earlier, is the sort of "jazz"
like move to improvisation soloing, unlike the "ensemble" stuff that was
prior to that. Mostly earlier music than BM seemed to only focus on fiddle
solo, but I might be wrong. I bet he was listening to this jazz stuff and
saying to himself, jeez, if they can solo, why can't I?
The movie O Brother, captures that earlier style in the scenes with the
bands for the politicians. No real soloing, just harmonies and corn ball
humor. Having spent lots of time in Springfield Ill back in the late 50's
and early 60's (my dad announced the horse races at the State Fair), I can
tell you that that's what southern music I heard was like back then. Even
with BM out there and playing.
Have a great day folks.
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