Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music, once said, “Bluegrass has brought more people together and made more friends than any other music in the world.”
However, with the fear of spreading the deadly coronavirus, many area events such as fiddlers’ conventions, bluegrass festivals and weekly music venues have been canceled or indefinitely postponed. This has left fans without the joy of the music and the gathering of folks that they love in the bluegrass community.
There are still many ways to associate while we are all shuttered in our homes. If you are connected to the internet, there are numerous options, but there are also ways to include music into our daily lives without the aid of modern technology. You just have to be creative and tap into resources available.
Elizabeth Greeson, president of High Lonesome Strings Bluegrass Association, shared, “Write a letter to someone that made an impression on you when you first started playing music. Write a letter to encourage a young person who you know that has a gift and you want to remind them that it’s hard work and requires a lot of practice, but one day it will really pay off. Get out your old pictures that bring back great memories.”
Tommy Edwards, host of “Bluegrass Saturday Night” on WLHC, 103.1 FM in Sanford, suggested listening to radio programs. “Life 103.1’s Bluegrass Saturday Night, 7-9 p.m., and Buddy Michaels’ Hometown Festival, 7-9 a.m., are broadcast from Sanford and Rocky Mount. Both shows are available online at Life 1031.com. They are live stream with no archives.”
Also, on Saturday mornings, WKXR, 1240 am, in Asheboro, offers a syndicated two-hour radio show entitled “Knee Deep in Bluegrass.” Cindy Baucom, wife of banjoist Terry Baucom, is the host.
“Lots of music can be heard on WPAQ 740 am (in Mount Airy) or on the internet at wpaq.com. At folkstreams.net is a link for Fiddlers’ Grove (annual fiddling championship). They’re live-streaming some of the old competition audio recordings. Jan Johnansson has a great YouTube channel! He’s preserving a lot of performances. Plus there’s an ongoing documentary on Facebook, The Bluegrass People, and there’s The Bluegrass Jamboree Chat on Facebook,” said Vivian Hopkins, president of the NC Bluegrass Association, which also has a Facebook page.
There are other internet groups that you can join. On Facebook, there is a group, “Bluegrass, The Music that Matters,” that has over 25,000 members. You can subscribe to a free online publication, “Bluegrass Today,” that sends out nightly emails Monday-Friday detailing the latest news in the acoustic music world. Station Inn, the world-famous bluegrass venue in downtown Nashville, offers “Station Inn TV,” a monthly subscription to its live concerts which are all archived and can be viewed at any time in the comfort of your home. “Lovin’ Bluegrass” is Carol McDuffie’s YouTube channel that features many local musicians and venues.
“Promoting musicians as well as venues as I travel is my passion. Preserving the history of the music is my goal! May it live on forever in time through these videos,” said McDuffie of Sanford.
If you’re a musician, now is the perfect time to practice and learn new tunes while you’re sequestered in your home, referred to as “woodshedding.” If you always wanted to play and maybe even bought an instrument, use this time to start learning. Need an instrument or lessons? Ron’s Pickin’ Parlor in nearby Stanly County has a wide array of quality instruments and accessories, plus offers lessons in banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, dobro and voice.
“We can ship items. We also offer prepaid curb service pick-up and online lessons,” relayed proprietor Ronnie Hatley. For information, call his shop at 704-888-9961 or visit his website, www.ronspickinparlor.com.
In Asheboro, Tim Moon gives music lessons. “If anyone will text me, I will mail instructional books on guitar and banjo — 336-825-7037.”
Those with internet have unlimited resources that they can tap into for lessons. Moon has instructional videos online under “Tim Moon Mandolin.” ArtistWorks is another great website that offers lessons by professional musicians on various instruments from all types of genres. There are also many instructional series offered on YouTube.
“Guitar instruction with Steve Kilby is a great resource from the Junior Appalachian Musicians.org,“ Hopkins recommended.
With events canceled, many bands are eager to perform. Several groups have been holding in-house concerts on Facebook Live. Most have a virtual tip jar or some format for listeners to make a donation.
Television offers bluegrass music on certain stations. Those with antennas can watch Circle TV and catch performances from the Grand Ole Opry. Recently, Marty Stuart, Vince Gill and Brad Paisley performed on the iconic stage to an empty Opry House, but the show was carried on Circle TV and can be viewed on YouTube. There are lots of music shows on RFD-TV such as Dailey and Vincent, the Marty Stuart Show and Reno’s Old Time Music Festival.
PBS is another source of traditional music with such programs as “Song of the Mountains” which showcases some of the best talents in bluegrass, Americana and old-time music. Hosted by Tim White, the show is filmed in the historic Lincoln Theatre in Marion, Va.
There are also magazines and books that fans can subscribe to or order. Bluegrass Unlimited is a long-standing monthly music magazine that features the best in bluegrass, past and present. Biographical and autographical books are available by famous performers such as Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice and many more. Plus there are numerous books on bluegrass music and its heritage.
So even though most of us are homebound as we strive to stay healthy, we can still be happy. Listen to bluegrass music, brush up on or learn to play a musical instrument, connect with other music lovers on the internet and/or read up on your favorite musician or band. There’s plenty to keep us all engaged and entertained.