Old-time music

Old-time music is a genre of North American folk music. It developed along with various North American folk dances, such as square dancing, clogging, and buck dancing. It is played on acoustic instruments, generally centering on a combination of fiddle and plucked string instruments (most often the guitar and banjo), as well as the mandolin.

Old-time music
Stylistic originsBritish folk, Appalachian music
Cultural originsEnglish, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, French, German, Spanish, African
Typical instrumentsOld time fiddle, guitar, banjo, mandolin, double bass, mountain dulcimer, harmonica
Derivative formsBluegrass, country, Cajun fiddle
Other topics
American folk music revival


Reflecting the cultures that settled North America, the roots of old-time music are in the traditional musics of the British Isles (primarily Great Britain and Ireland), and Europe. African influences include the banjo. In some regions French and German sources are also prominent. While many dance tunes and ballads can be traced to European sources, many others are of North American origin.

The term "old-time"

Old-time music represents perhaps the oldest form of North American traditional music other than Native American music, and thus the term "old-time" is an appropriate one. As a label, however, it dates back only to 1923.

Fiddlin' John Carson made some of the first commercial recordings of traditional American country music for the Okeh label. The recordings became hits. Okeh, which had previously coined the terms "hillbilly music" to describe Appalachian and Southern fiddle-based and religious music and "race recording" to describe the music of African American recording artists, began using "old-time music" as a term to describe the music made by artists of Carson's style. The term thus originated as a euphemism, but proved a suitable replacement for other terms that were considered disparaging by many inhabitants of these regions. It remains the term preferred by performers and listeners of the music. It is sometimes referred to as "old-timey" or "mountain music" by long-time practitioners.[1]

Other sources

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries tunes originating in minstrel, Tin Pan Alley, gospel and other music styles were adapted into the old-time style. While similar music was played in all regions of the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, in the 20th century it came to be associated primarily with the Appalachian region.


Important revivalists include Mike Seeger and Pete Seeger, who brought the music to New York City as early as the 1940. The New Lost City Ramblers in particular took the revival across the country and often featured older musicians in their show. The band was originally Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tom Paley. When Tom left the band, he was replaced by Tracy Schwarz. New Lost City Ramblers sparked new interest in old-timey music.


Old-time music is played using a wide variety of stringed instruments. The instrumentation of an old-time group is often determined by what instruments are available, as well as by tradition. The most common instruments are acoustic string instruments. Historically, the fiddle was nearly always the leading melodic instrument, and in many instances (if no other instruments were available) dances were accompanied only by a single fiddler, who often also acted as dance caller.

By the early 19th century, the banjo had become an essential partner to the fiddle, particularly in the southern United States. The banjo, originally a fretless instrument and frequently made from a gourd, played the same melody as the fiddle (though in a lower register), while simultaneously providing a rhythmic accompaniment incorporating a high drone provided by the instrument's short "drone string." The banjo used in old-time music is typically a 5-string model with an open back (i.e., without the resonator found on most bluegrass banjos).

Lotus Eaters
Old-time country band The Lotus Eaters perform at Our Community Place plant sale, April 19, 2008 in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Today old-time banjo players most commonly utilize the clawhammer style, but there were originally several other styles, most of which are still in use, loosely grouped by region. The major styles were clawhammer (which also went by a number of regional names), two-finger index lead (also called "North Carolina picking"), two-finger thumb lead (Kentucky and East Tennessee), and a three-finger "fiddle style" that seems to have been influenced in part by late-19th century urban classical style. Some players prefer to use a pick, particularly when playing melodies on tenor banjo. Young players might learn whatever style a parent or older sibling favored, or take inspiration from phonograph records, radio, traveling performers and migrant workers, local guitarists and banjo players, as well as other musicians they met when traveling to neighboring areas. Having a fiddle play the lead melody with a banjo playing rhythmic accompaniment is the most basic form of Appalachian old-time music, and this is the instrumentation most Appalachian old-time musicians consider to be "classic."

Because playing with more fingers meant being able to put in more notes, three-finger styles intrigued many players. Individualistic three-finger styles were developed independently by such important figures as Uncle Dave Macon, Dock Boggs, and Snuffy Jenkins. Those early three-finger styles, especially the technique developed by Jenkins, led to the three-finger Scruggs style created by Earl Scruggs in the 1940s, which helped advance the split between the old-time genre and the solo-centric style that became known as bluegrass. Jenkins developed a three-finger "roll" method that, while obviously part of the old-time tradition, inspired Scruggs to develop the smoother, faster and more complex rolls that are now standard fare in bluegrass music.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, other stringed instruments began to be added to the fiddle-banjo duo; these included the guitar, mandolin, and double bass (or alternatively, a washtub bass), which provided chordal, bass line, and pitched rhythmic accompaniment and occasionally took over the melodic line, usually during a "break" section that lasted the duration of a verse, refrain, or verse and refrain. This, along with a Dobro (resonator guitar), is also considered to be 'standard' bluegrass instrumentation, but old-time music tends to focus on sparser instrumentation and arrangements compared to bluegrass. Such an assemblage, of whatever instrumentation, became known simply as a "string band." Less frequently used are the cello, piano, hammered dulcimer, Appalachian dulcimer, tenor banjo, tenor guitar, lap-steel guitar, mandola, mouth bow, as well as other instruments such as the jug, harmonica, autoharp, jaw harp, concertina, button or accordion, washboard, spoons, or bones.

The fiddle is sometimes played by two people at the same time, with one player using the bow and fingers, while another player stands to the side and taps out a rhythm on the fiddle strings using small sticks called fiddlesticks (also spelled "fiddle sticks"). This technique (also sometimes called "beating the straws") is utilized in performance most notably by the duo of Al and Emily Cantrell.[2][3]

Each regional old-time tradition accompanies different dance styles. Some of these include clogging and flatfoot dancing (Appalachia), contra dancing (New England), square dancing (Southern states) and step dancing (Nova Scotia, particularly Cape Breton Island), though there is some overlap between regions.

Regional styles

There are numerous regional styles of old-time music, each with its own repertoire and playing style. Nevertheless, some tunes (such as "Soldier's Joy") are found in nearly every regional style, though played somewhat differently in each.


Appalachian folk music is brought to the United States by immigrants and slaves. In turn it influenced country music and old-time music.[4]

As a result of the terrain of the region, the societies and cultures were fairly isolated from outside intervention. In 1916 Cecil Sharp arrived in Appalachia and began recording the folk songs on the Mountains. Sharp, an authority on British ballads, was able to identify 1,600 versions of 500 songs from 281 singers, almost all having their origins in the English/Scottish Child Ballads. After his first study in Appalachia, he published English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians.[5] Some examples of songs preserved in the Appalachian Mountains and recorded by Sharp include, "The Hangman Song", "Barbara Allen", etc.[5] The primary sources for many of Sharp's recordings came from a string of related families around Shelton Laurel, NC. Of note is the fact that these families maintained a specific, unique vocal tradition and traditional English lyrical pronunciations across several generations, until gaining fame in the 1960s and 1970s through similar field recordings completed by John Cohen. These records featured Dillard Chandler, Berzilla Wallin (recorded by Sharp) and Dellie Norton. Relatives of those individuals continue to keep this unique vocal style alive to this day.

A Scottish fiddler named Niel Gow (note the unorthodox spelling) is usually credited with developing (during the 1740s) the short bow sawstroke technique that defines Appalachian fiddling. This technique was altered during the next century, with European waltzes and polkas being most influential.

African Americans, who were not only slaves but also free blacks working in timber, coal mining, and other industries at the time in the region, influenced Appalachian music as the banjo was adopted from African Americans by white musicians (such as Joel Walker Sweeney) in the years leading up to the Civil War.[6]

Appalachian folk became a major influence on styles like country music and bluegrass. It is one of the few regional styles of old-time music that, since World War II, has been learned and widely practiced in all areas of the United States and Canada (as well as in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere). In some cases (as in the Midwest and Northeast), its popularity has eclipsed the indigenous old-time traditions of these regions. There is a particularly high concentration of performers playing Appalachian folk music on the East and West Coasts (especially in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the Pacific Northwest). A number of American classical composers, in particular Henry Cowell and Aaron Copland, have composed works that merge the idioms of Appalachian folk music with the Old World–based classical tradition.

Appalachian old-time music is itself made up of regional traditions. Some of the most prominent traditions include those of North Georgia (The Skillet Lickers) Mount Airy, North Carolina (specifically the Round Peak style of Tommy Jarrell) and Grayson County/Galax, Virginia (Wade Ward and Albert Hash), West Virginia (the Hammons Family), Eastern Kentucky (J. P. Fraley and Lee Sexton), Middle Tennessee (Uncle Dave Macon, The McGee Brothers, Thomas Maupin, and Fiddlin' Arthur Smith), and East Tennessee (Charlie Acuff, The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers, G.B. Grayson).

The banjo player and fiddler Bascom Lamar Lunsford, a native of the North Carolina mountains, collected much traditional music during his lifetime, also founding the old-time music festival in Asheville, North Carolina. Notable North Carolina traditional banjo players and makers include Frank Proffitt, Frank Proffitt, Jr. and Stanley Hicks, who all learned to make and play fretless mountain banjos from a family tradition. These players, among others, learned their art primarily from family and show fewer traces of influence from commercial hillbilly recordings. The Proffitts and Hicks were heirs to a centuries-old folk tradition, and through the middle to late 20th century and they continued to perform in a style older than the stringbands often associated with old time music. Their style has been recently emulated by contemporary musician Tim Eriksen.

The Southern states (particularly coastal states such as Virginia and North Carolina) also have one of the oldest traditions of old-time music in the United States.

States of the Deep South such as Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana also have their own regional old-time music traditions and repertoires, as does the Ozark Mountains region of Arkansas and Missouri. Premier old time banjoist Bob Carlin has authored String Bands in the North Carolina Piedmont with a focus on non-Appalachian styles in that state. While the music of the Louisiana Cajuns has much in common with other North American old-time traditions it is generally treated as a tradition unto itself and not referred to as a form of old-time music.

Native American old-time music

Old-time music has been adopted by a few Native American musicians; Walker Calhoun (1918-2012) of Big Cove, in the Qualla Boundary (home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in western North Carolina) played three-finger-style banjo, to which he sang in the Cherokee language.

New England

The New England states, being among the first to be settled by Europeans, have one of the oldest traditions of old-time music. Although the Puritans (the first Europeans to settle in the region), frowned upon instrumental music, dance music flourished in both urban and rural areas beginning in the 17th century. Primary instruments include the fiddle, piano, and guitar, with the wooden flute sometimes also used. As with Appalachian folk, a number of classical composers have turned to New England folk music for melodic and harmonic ideas, most famously Charles Ives, as well as Aaron Copland, William Schuman, and John Cage, among others. Rhythmically, this style is more diverse than most southern old time, featuring schottisches, hornpipes, and waltzes in addition to reels.


Beginning in the early 19th century, when the Midwestern states were first settled by immigrants from the eastern United States and Europe, the Midwest developed its own regional styles of old-time music. Among these, the Missouri style is of particular interest for its energetic bowing style.[7]

The region of central and southern Illinois has its own distinct style and repertoire of old-time music as well.[8]

In the Upper Midwest, especially Minnesota, old-time music most typically refers to a mixture of Scandinavian styles, especially Norwegian and Swedish.[9]

Texas and the West

Texas developed a distinctive twin-fiddling tradition that was later popularized by Bob Wills as Western swing music. Fiddle music has also been popular since the 19th century in other Western states such as Oklahoma and Colorado. The National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest has been held each year in Weiser, Idaho since 1953.

Oklahoma, with its high concentration of Native American inhabitants, has produced some Native American old-time string bands, most notably Big Chief Henry's Indian String Band (consisting of Henry Hall, fiddle; Clarence Hall, guitar; and Harold Hall, banjo and voice), which was recorded by H. C. Speir for the Victor company in 1929.

The Pacific Northwest has a vibrant old-time music community. Extending the north-south corridor from Seattle to Portland and west to Weiser, ID and Boise, gatherings and festivals such as the Portland Old Time Gathering, Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, WA, an annual campout in Centralia, WA and the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest have helped build a growing and multi-generational old time music community.


Among the prominent styles of old-time music in Canada are the Scottish-derived tradition of Nova Scotia (particularly Cape Breton Island), the French Canadian music of Quebec and Acadia, the old-time music of Ontario, and the prairie fiddling traditions of the central-western provinces. It is here (primarily in Manitoba and Saskatchewan) that the fiddle tradition of the Métis people is found. The traditional folk music of Newfoundland and Labrador, though similar in some ways to that of the rest of Atlantic Canada, has a distinct style of its own, and is generally considered as its own genre.

Contemporary musicians

The current old-time music scene is alive and well, sparked since the mid-1990s by the combined exposure resulting from several prominent films, more accessible depositories of source material, and the work of a few of touring bands, including The Freight Hoppers, The Wilders, Uncle Earl, Old Crow Medicine Show, and the Glade City Rounders.

A new generation of old-time musicians performs as solo acts and band leaders all over the country, including: Mat Stokes, Brad Leftwich, Bruce Molsky, Rafe Stefanini, Bruce Greene, Rayna Gellert, Riley Baugus, Leroy Troy, Alice Gerrard, Dirk Powell, Walt Koken, and Martha Scanlan. The Appalachian dulcimer has long been a part of string bands in the Galax, VA, area and is seeing new popularity re-emerging as a key instrument for old-time music, thanks to the influence of musicians such as Don Pedi, David Schnaufer, Lois Hornbostel, Wayne Seymour his disciples, Milltown and Stephen Seifert. American hammered dulcimer players like Ken Kolodner, Mark Alan Wade and Rick Thum continue this tradition.[10] Family bands, such as The Martin Family Band, from Maryland, are continuing the traditions of old time music played on fiddle, banjo, lap dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, mandolin, piano, guitar, bass and percussion. The Carolina Chocolate Drops directly address the lost tradition of black stringband music.

Living elders of the music include Charlie Acuff of Alcoa, Tennessee, Chester McMillian of Mount Airy, North Carolina, Lee Sexton of Line Fork, Kentucky, Thomas Maupin of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Buddy Ingram Lebanon, TN, Michael Defosche Jackson Co., TN, Rob Morrison of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Jimmy Costa of Talcott, West Virginia, Curtis Hicks of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Clyde Davenport of Monticello, Kentucky, Delmer Holland of Waverly, Tennessee, and Harold Luce of Chelsea, Vermont.


Prominent old-time music festivals (some of which also include bluegrass, dance, and other related arts) include the Northern Lights Bluegrass and Old Tyme Music Camp and Festival in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (established 2005),[11] Old Fiddler's Convention in Galax, Virginia (established 1935), the West Virginia State Folk Festival[12] in Glenville, West Virginia (established 1950), the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest in Weiser, Idaho (established 1953), the Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention in Mount Airy, North Carolina (established 1972), Uncle Dave Macon Days in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the Vandalia Gathering in Charleston, West Virginia (established 1977), the Appalachian String Band Music Festival in Clifftop, Fayette County, West Virginia (established 1990), Breakin' Up Winter in Lebanon, Tennessee, the Winfield Music Festival is held in Winfield, Kansas and the Smithville Fiddlers' Jamboree and Crafts Festival held in Smithville, Tennessee (established in 1972).[13]

MBOTMA Festival2008
Uncle Zesty Widow's Peak Music Festival 2012

Old-time music as dance music

Because old-time fiddle-based string band music is often played for dances, it is often characterized as dance music. However, there are also long-standing traditions of solo listening pieces as well as fiddle songs, such as those that have been documented in West Virginia by Erynn Marshall in Music in the Air Somewhere: The Shifting Borders of West Virginia's Fiddle and Song Traditions (WVU Press, 2006). In dance music as played by old-time string bands, emphasis is placed on providing a strong beat, and instrumental solos, or breaks, are rarely taken. This contrasts with bluegrass music which was developed in the 1940s as a form of concert music. Bluegrass music, however, developed from old-time music, and shares many of the same songs and instruments, but is more oriented toward solo performance than is old-time music.

While in the British Isles reels and jigs both remain popular, the reel is by far the predominant metric structure preferred by old-time musicians in the United States (though a few hornpipes are also still performed). Canadian musicians, particularly in the Maritime provinces where the Scottish influence is strong, perform both reels and jigs (as well as other types of tunes such as marches and strathspeys).

Learning old-time music

Players traditionally learn old-time music by ear; even musicians who can read music. A broad selection of written music does exist, although many believe that the style of old-time music cannot be practically notated by written music. This is in part because there are many regional and local variations to old-time tunes, and because some of the most noted players often improvised and wouldn't play a tune exactly the same way every time.

Players usually learn old-time music by attending local jam sessions and by attending festivals scattered around the country. With the spread of broad-band Internet, more and more old-time recordings are available via small publishers, Internet streaming audio ("Web radio"), and small Web sites making the music more accessible.

Although it is one of the oldest and most prominent forms of traditional music in the United States and Canada, old-time music (with a few notable exceptions) is generally not taught in North American primary schools, secondary schools, or universities. Although square dancing is still occasionally taught in elementary schools (generally with recorded, rather than live music), old-time instruments and dances are not included in the educational system, and must be studied outside the school system.


Located in Johnson City, Tennessee, East Tennessee State University is the only four-year university in the world with a comprehensive program in bluegrass and old time music studies. The program includes a variety of bluegrass and country music courses, both performance-oriented and academic. Minors in both Bluegrass and in Appalachian Studies are also offered.

There are a variety of programs, mostly in the summer, such as the Augusta Heritage Festival, the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School, or the Appalachian String Band Music Festival, that offer week-long immersions in old-time music and dance. These camps are family friendly and allow beginners to enter into the tradition and more advanced players to hone their sound with instruction from some of the best in the music.

Outside Appalachia

There are, however a growing number of folk music schools in the greater United States, usually non-profit community based, that have taken up the mantle of providing instruction in old-time music: The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago, Illinois is perhaps the oldest of these, having begun in 1957. The Folk School of St. Louis in Missouri, started by banjoist Jeff Miller, is one of the many newer schools having opened its doors in 2002 after the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? caused an increase in people from urban areas wanting to learn old-time music. These schools and the subsequent music communities that spring from them offer a positive trend in keeping old-time music alive. Also, universities such as Berklee College of Music, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Brown University, UCLA, and Florida State University have "Old Time Ensembles" to teach and keep Old Time music alive. Regular old-time jam circles are also important to spreading and teaching this music. Regular old-time jams occur not only throughout the United States, but in places as far flung as Beijing, China, where the Beijing Pickers jam spawned a bluegrass/Americana group the Randy Abel Stable and the old-time band the Hutong Yellow Weasels. In the UK Friends of American Old Time Music and Dance was formed in 1995. A year later Sore Fingers Summer School was started.


  • Appalachian Journey (1990). Original material recorded and directed by Alan Lomax. A Dibbs Directions Production for Channel Four TV in association with Alan Lomax. Presented by North Carolina Public TV. 1991 videocassette release of an episode from the 1990 television series American Patchwork: Songs and Stories of America.
  • My Old Fiddle: A Visit with Tommy Jarrell in the Blue Ridge (1994). Directed by Les Blank. El Cerrito, California: Flower Films. ISBN 0-933621-61-2.
  • New England Fiddles (1995). Produced and directed by John M. Bishop. A Media Generation production. Montpelier, Vermont: Distributed by Multicultural Media.
  • Songcatcher (dir. Maggie Greenwald, 2000) is a film about a musicologist researching Appalachian folk music in western North Carolina.
  • Sprout Wings and Fly (1983). Produced and directed by Les Blank, CeCe Conway, and Alice Gerrard. El Cerrito, California: Flower Films. ISBN 0-933621-01-9
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). Produced by Ethan Coen, Working Title Films, Studio Canal. Directed by Joel Coen.
  • The High Lonesome Sound John Cohen's documentary about Kentucky musician Roscoe Holcomb.
  • Cold Mountain (2003), Anthony Minghella (Dir.) Miramax, Mirage Enterprises, Bona Fide Productions.

See also


  1. ^ "What Is Old-Time Music?". Oldtimemusic.com. Archived from the original on 2016-08-24. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  2. ^ "The Post". Thepost.baker.ohiou.edu. Archived from the original on 2004-11-17. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  3. ^ "Old Time Fiddle". Fiddlingaround.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  4. ^ Montgomery, Michael, The Scotch-Irish Element in Appalachian English: How Broad? How Deep?. University of South Carolina
  5. ^ a b Filene, Benjamin, Romancing the Folk: Public Memory & American Roots Music, University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
  6. ^ "A Short History of Traditional Appalachian Music".
  7. ^ "Official Site of MSOTFA". Missourifiddling.com. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-08-22. Retrieved 2010-01-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Levy, Mark; Carl Rahkonen; Ain Haas. "Scandinavian and Baltic Music". Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume Two. New York and London: Garland Publishing.
  10. ^ "Dulcimer Players News". Dpnews.com. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  11. ^ "Northern Lights Bluegrass & Old Tyme Music Festival & CampNorthern Lights Bluegrass & Old Tyme Music Festival & Camp | 11 Years of Bluegrass in Saskatchewan, Canada". Northernlightsbluegrass.ca. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2016-08-11.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-10-21. Retrieved 2010-06-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Smithville Fiddlers' Jamboree and Crafts Festival". Smithvillejamboree.com. Retrieved 2016-08-11.

External links

Media related to Old time music at Wikimedia Commons

American folk music

The term American folk music encompasses numerous music genres, variously known as traditional music, traditional folk music, contemporary folk music, or roots music. Many traditional songs have been sung within the same family or folk group for generations, and sometimes trace back to such origins as Great Britain, Europe, or Africa. Musician Mike Seeger once famously commented that the definition of American folk music is "...all the music that fits between the cracks."Roots music is a broad category of music including bluegrass, gospel, old time music, jug bands, Appalachian folk, blues, Cajun and Native American music. The music is considered American either because it is native to the United States or because it developed there, out of foreign origins, to such a degree that it struck musicologists as something distinctly new. It is considered "roots music" because it served as the basis of music later developed in the United States, including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and jazz.

Appalachian music

Appalachian music is the music of the region of Appalachia in the Eastern United States. It is derived from various European and African influences, including English ballads, Irish and Scottish traditional music (especially fiddle music), hymns, and African-American blues. First recorded in the 1920s, Appalachian musicians were a key influence on the early development of Old-time music, country music, and bluegrass, and were an important part of the American folk music revival of the 1960s. Instruments typically used to perform Appalachian music include the banjo, American fiddle, fretted dulcimer, and guitar.Early recorded Appalachian musicians include Fiddlin' John Carson, G. B. Grayson & Henry Whitter, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, the Carter Family, Clarence Ashley, and Dock Boggs, all of whom were initially recorded in the 1920s and 1930s. Several Appalachian musicians obtained renown during the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s, including Jean Ritchie, Roscoe Holcomb, Ola Belle Reed, Lily May Ledford, Hedy West and Doc Watson. Country and bluegrass artists such as Loretta Lynn, Roy Acuff, Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs, Chet Atkins, The Stanley Brothers and Don Reno were heavily influenced by traditional Appalachian music.


The banjo is a four-, five-, or six-stringed instrument with a thin membrane stretched over a frame or cavity as a resonator, called the head, which is typically circular. The membrane is typically made of plastic, although animal skin is still occasionally used. Early forms of the instrument were fashioned by Africans in the United States, adapted from African instruments of similar design. The banjo is frequently associated with folk, Irish traditional, and country music. Banjo can also be used in some rock songs. Many rock bands, such as The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and The Allman Brothers, have used the five-string banjo in some of their songs. Historically, the banjo occupied a central place in African-American traditional music and the folk culture of rural whites before entering the mainstream via the minstrel shows of the 19th century. The banjo, along with the fiddle, is a mainstay of American old-time music. It is also very frequently used in traditional ("trad") jazz.

Bluegrass Unlimited

Bluegrass Unlimited is a monthly music magazine "dedicated to the furtherance of bluegrass and old-time musicians, devotees and associates." First published in 1966, as of 2008 the magazine had a circulation of more than 25,000 copies and is widely considered the premier magazine for bluegrass music. Bluegrass Unlimited is a founding member of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA).Folklorist and music scholar Neil V. Rosenberg, in Bluegrass: A History, sets out the history of Bluegrass Unlimited and thereafter notes its prominence and influence as the oldest of the nationally distributed bluegrass magazines. The magazine launched, in 1966, in a typed, mimeographed 7– x 8½–inch booklet-like format with a hand drawn logo, and was available for $3 per year. In the fall of 1970, the magazine moved from an informal to a full-time operation with "new publishers" Pete and Marion Kuykendall upgrading it to a larger, standard format on glossy paper. The current U.S. subscription rate is $25.00 per year and the magazine is full-color and printed on high-speed web offset presses.As music historian Bill C. Malone observed, Bluegrass Unlimited magazine was initially devoted primarily to bluegrass music in the USA and abroad with occasional reference to old time country music. It is now a treasure trove of information on every phase of bluegrass and old-time music - biographical articles, discographies, record and book reviews, concert and festival dates, interviews, classified ads, and songs. "Bluegrass Unlimited has always been a thorough compendium of material on bluegrass and old-time music."Speaking of founder Pete Kuykendall and the influence of Bluegrass Unlimited, David Freeman, owner of Rebel Records and County Records, said: "When the magazine started publishing, bluegrass was pretty much at a low point. The magazine spread the word and highlighted the artistic aspect of the music, which helped to bring it out of the bars where it was in the 1950s. Without him I don’t know where the bluegrass industry would be today."The 1996 International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame citation inducting Pete Kuykendall says that Bluegrass Unlimited magazine is "a publication affectionately referred to as the 'bible of bluegrass music'".

Bluegrass music

Bluegrass music is a genre of American roots music that developed in the 1940s in the United States Appalachian region. The genre derives its name from the band Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. Bluegrass has roots in traditional English, Irish, and Scottish ballads and dance tunes, and by traditional African-American blues and jazz. The Blue Grass Boys played a Mountain Music style that Bill learned in Asheville, North Carolina from bands like Wade Mainer's and other popular acts on radio station WWNC. It was further developed by musicians who played with him, including 5-string banjo player Earl Scruggs and guitarist Lester Flatt. Bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe characterized the genre as: "Scottish bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin'. It's Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It's blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound."Bluegrass features acoustic string instruments and emphasizes the offbeat. Notes are anticipated in contrast to laid back blues where notes are behind the beat, which creates the higher energy characteristic of bluegrass. In bluegrass, as in some forms of jazz, one or more instruments each takes its turn playing the melody and improvising around it, while the others perform accompaniment; this is especially typified in tunes called breakdowns. This is in contrast to old-time music, in which all instruments play the melody together or one instrument carries the lead throughout while the others provide accompaniment. Breakdowns are often characterized by rapid tempos and unusual instrumental dexterity and sometimes by complex chord changes.There are three major subgenres of bluegrass. Traditional bluegrass has musicians playing folk songs, tunes with traditional chord progressions, and using only acoustic instruments, with an example being Bill Monroe. Progressive bluegrass groups may use electric instruments and import songs from other genres, particularly rock & roll. Examples include Punch Brothers, Cadillac Sky and Bearfoot. Another subgenre, bluegrass gospel, uses Christian lyrics, soulful three- or four-part harmony singing, and sometimes the playing of instrumentals. A newer development in the bluegrass world is Neo-traditional bluegrass; exemplified by bands such as The Grascals and Mountain Heart; bands from this subgenre typically have more than one lead singer. Bluegrass music has attracted a diverse following worldwide.


Clogging is a type of folk dance in which the dancer's footwear is used percussively by striking the heel, the toe, or both against a floor or each other to create audible rhythms, usually to the downbeat with the heel keeping the rhythm. The dance style has recently fused with others including African-American rhythms, and the Peruvian dance "zapateo" (which may in itself be derived from early European clog dances), resulting in the birth of newer street dances, such as tap, locking, jump, hakken, stomping, Gangsta Walking, and the Candy Walk dance. The use of wooden-soled clogs is rarer in the more modern dances since clog shoes are not commonly worn in urban society, and other types of footwear have replaced them in their evolved dance forms. Clogging is often considered the first form of street dance because it evolved in urban environments during the industrial revolution.

As the clogging style has evolved over the years, many localities have made contributions by adding local steps and rhythms to the style. The dance has its origins in Wales and England where the traditional clog had a one-piece wooden bottom and a leather upper. By the 16th century a more conventional leather shoe with separate wooden pieces on the heel and toe called "flats" became popular, from where the terms "heel and toe" and "flatfooting" derive.

In later periods it was not always called "clogging", being known variously as foot-stomping, buck dancing, clog dancing, jigging, or other local terms. What all these had in common was emphasizing the downbeat of the music by enthusiastic footwork. As for the shoes, many old clogging shoes had no taps and some were made of leather and velvet, while the soles of the shoes were either wooden or hard leather.

Clogging can be divided into five major categories: 1) shuffle clogging, 2) cadence clogging, 3) rhythm clogging, 4) stomp clogging, and 5) buck-dancing.

The shuffle clogging style is said to be the most popular style for bluegrass music cloggers while rhythm and stomp clogging are more popular with old-time music cloggers. What sets clogging apart from other dance styles such as tap-dancing is the lack of upper body movement used during performance. While tap dancers place emphasis on stage presence and arm movements, cloggers limit their upper body movement, focusing primarily on their feet.

Cold Mountain (soundtrack)

Cold Mountain is the soundtrack for the Civil War film Cold Mountain (2003) starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renée Zellweger. The album was nominated for two Grammy Awards and was produced by T Bone Burnett. Two songs were nominated for Academy Awards: "You Will Be My Ain True Love", written by Sting, and "The Scarlet Tide", written by Burnett and Elvis Costello. Both songs were sung by Alison Krauss.

The soundtrack consists of Appalachian, roots music, and old-time music to accompany the era of the movie. Jack White, of the rock band the White Stripes, performs five songs and appears as a troubadour in the movie.

Cold as the Clay

Cold as the Clay is the second solo album by Bad Religion's vocalist Greg Graffin released on July 10, 2006 in Europe, and the following day in the USA. It was released on the label ANTI- (a sublabel of Epitaph Records). It follows on from Graffin's 1997 release of American Lesion.

Graffin has described the album as "honor[ing] the legacy of American music. [...] Traditional songs that helped form the 18th and 19th century American cultural landscape. The modern songs are inspired by my love of country rock in vein of Gram Parsons, The Band, Neil Young". It was produced by fellow Bad Religion member, Brett Gurewitz (Mr. Brett), and features appearances by Jolie Holland, and members of The Weakerthans, in contrast to American Lesion, where Graffin recorded the entire album by himself. A special Vinyl edition was released to celebrate Record Store Day 2017.

Down on the River

Down on the River is a bluegrass and old-time music album by John Hartford, released in 1989.

Humphrey Bate

Humphrey Bate (May 25, 1875 – June 12, 1936) was an American harmonica player and string band leader. He was the first musician to play old-time music on Nashville-area radio. Bate and his band, which had been given the name "Dr. Humphrey Bate & His Possum Hunters" by Opry founder George D. Hay, were regulars on the Grand Ole Opry until Bate's death in 1936. The band's recordings, while scant, are considered some of the most distinctive and complex string band compositions in the old-time genre.

Independence, Virginia

Independence is a town in Grayson County, Virginia, United States. The population was 947 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Grayson County. Independence is home to a major town celebration on July 4 every year, held in front of the 1908 courthouse. It features bluegrass and old-time music and dance, food, crafts and a wild pony sale. The courthouse is also the location of the Mountain Foliage Festival, held in the autumn and featuring a parade, crafts, arts and music, as well as a race in which contestants use outhouses, the Grand Privy Race.

Mount Airy, North Carolina

Mount Airy is a city in Surry County, North Carolina, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 10,388. The town is widely known as the home of actor Andy Griffith and the inspiration for the fictional town of Mayberry on his eponymous show.

Rebel Records

Rebel Records is an independent American record label based in Charlottesville, Virginia that specializes in bluegrass and old time music. The label was founded in Mount Rainier, Maryland in 1959 by Dick Freeland, Bill Carroll and Sonny Compton. In 1980, Freeland sold the label to David Freeman, the founder of County Records. Rebel has 140 titles in print from more than 35 different artists and groups. In 2008, the label released 8 new titles, including ones from Ralph Stanley and Larry Sparks.

Round Peak, North Carolina

Round Peak is a small unincorporated community in Surry County, North Carolina, United States, near Mount Airy, North Carolina with an elevation of 1,280 feet. It is located in the southern Appalachian Mountains and gives its name to the Round Peak style of old-time music practiced in the area.The community of Round Peak is named for the nearby summit of Round Peak which has an elevation 2,094 feet (Powell 1968, p. 427). Popular attractions include the Round Peak Vineyards, part of the Yadkin Valley wine region.

San Francisco Bay Blues

"San Francisco Bay Blues" is an American folk song and is generally considered to be the most famous composition by Jesse Fuller. Fuller first recorded the song in 1954 (released 1955) for a small label called World Song. The song was brought into wider popularity in the early 1960s by club performances by Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Bob Dylan, and Jim Kweskin. Recorded covers have been performed by many artists including The Blues Band, Paul Jones, Jim Croce, The Weavers, Sammy Walker, The Brothers Four, Paul Clayton, Richie Havens, Eric Clapton, The Flatlanders, Paul McCartney, Hot Tuna, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Mungo Jerry, Glenn Yarbrough, George Ellias, Phoebe Snow, The Wave Pictures, The Halifax III and Eva Cassidy.

A "one-man band" rendition of the song featuring a kazoo solo was recorded by Fuller himself in a 1962 concert. This has been included in a Smithsonian Folkways compilation, Friends of Old Time Music.Topic Records issued the original Jesse Fuller version on a 10-inch vinyl LP called Working on the Railroad in 1959 and included it as track six of the first CD of the Topic Records 70 year anniversary boxed set Three Score and Ten.

The song was one of many California related songs played throughout "Sunshine Plaza" in the original Disney California Adventure.

String band

A string band is an old-time music or jazz ensemble made up mainly or solely of string instruments. String bands were popular in the 1920s and 1930s, and are among the forerunners of modern country music and bluegrass.

The Bullies Have All Gone to Rest

The Bullies Have All Gone to Rest is a bluegrass and old-time music album by John Hartford and Jim Wood, released in 1998.


WPAQ is an Americana, and Bluegrass-formatted broadcast radio station licensed to Mount Airy, North Carolina, serving the Piedmont of North Carolina and the Southside and Southwestern sections of Virginia. WPAQ is owned and operated by WPAQ Radio, Inc.

Wild Hog in the Red Brush

Wild Hog in the Red Brush is a bluegrass and old-time music album by John Hartford, released in 1996.

Related articles
Regional scenes
African-American music
Country music
Typical instruments
Stylistic origins
Sub- and fusion genres
Notable festivals
Notable performers

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