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Bluegrass Rambles

Everything you need to know about bluegrass, whatever that is

Ted is an IBMA-nominated music writer who travels to bluegrass festivals with his wife and picks guitar in as many jams as he can.

Bluegrass Rambles

Everything you need to know about bluegrass, whatever that is

Ted is an IBMA-nominated music writer who travels to bluegrass festivals with his wife and picks guitar in as many jams as he can.

Washington, DC: Once the Capital of Bluegrass

Lovely article, Ted.

I'm from the NYC metro area originally.  I moved to the DC area in 1990 and that's where I've been ever since.  Before that, I liked some bluegrass friendly music (e.g., some early CDB and Poco, Grateful Dead's Workingman's  Dead), but the only bluegrass music act I could name was Flatt and Scruggs.  And that was because of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song.  I had never even heard of Bill Monroe.

The only music option that I had in my car at the time of my relocating was the radio (casette no longer worked).    I stumbled upon WAMU's "Bluegrass Country" program that was on during afternoon drive time.  DJ duty was shared by Ray Davis and Jerry Gray, with Eddie Stubbs subbing on occasion (Eddie had an old time country program on the weekends).    I became a regular listener and started becoming a fan of specific artists.  The first bluegrass friendly album I bought was the second one from Norman Blake and Tony Rice.  I bought others by the Seldom Scene, Tony Rice (both solo and Tony Rice Unit), Doc Watson, Johnson Mountain Boys, John Starling, Allison Krauss,  Nashville Bluegrass Band and others.  I eventually worked my way to a lot of the bluegrass masters as well. 

Saw some great bluegrass shows at the Birchmere.  One really memorable one was a double bill of the Seldom Scene and Doc Watson.  Guesting with the Scene that night was Tony Rice on guitar and former Scene front man John Starling.  Scene bass player T. Michael Coleman played with Doc and Jack Lawrence on Doc's set.  Another special one was a New Year's Eve show with the Scene (once again with John Starling) and Tony Rice Unit.  At Barns of Wolf Trap, I saw a "Blues and Bluegrass" themed show.  For blues, it was the great Cephas and Wiggins, who I hadn't heard of before.  For bluegrass, it was the Johnson Mountain Boys.  The show ended with everyone on stage playing Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad.  Ahhhhh. 

I did get to see Bill Monroe once as part of an annual show Ricky Skaggs would put on at Wolf Trap's Filene Center called Ricky Skaggs Pickin' Party.  Unbelievable lineup.  I think Bill got a standing ovation on just about every song.