For years, the indefatigable Fred Robbins has been posting and maintaining an online archive of bluegrass memorabilia, in the form of photographs, video and audio files. His particular specialty is the early history of bluegrass festivals, from the late 1960s forward, though he also provides a home for media of a much more recent vintage.
Among his historic offerings is a photo collection from the 1966 Fincastle festival, many of which were included in an article he did for Bluegrass Unlimited in 2003, which is also available on his site. Of course, Fred never imagined just how seminal this event would become as he was snapping away, though I’m sure he knew he was witnessing something special.
Recently, through the courtesy of West Virginia banjo picker and microbiology professor Ken Landreth, Fred has posted some priceless audio from a number of festivals in 1969 and 1971. They include historic performances from Bean Blossom (’69 and ’71), and a pair of Carlton Haney festivals in 1969 (Berryville and Camp Springs). These were recorded on a high quality reel-to-reel machine, with microphones on stage.
Fred said that Ken has digitized all these tapes, and done the cataloging with track and performer information. As Robbins tells us…
“Just a few weeks ago I ‘discovered’ a reel tape that I digitized and posted. Within an hour, Ken emailed me to explain it was a copy of one he’d made and offered to send me a better version. And, well, ‘The rest is history’…in more ways than one!”
Here’s just one of the many audio files available on Fred’s site from Ken’s collection, the first ever bluegrass festival set by J.D. Crowe & the Kentucky Mountain Boys in Reidsville, NC (1969). With Crowe were Doyle Lawson on mandolin, Bobby Morris and Jim Hatton on guitar, Bobby Sloan on bass, and a special guest appearance from Red Allen. Fred Bartenstein is the M.C.
J.D. Crowe at Camp Springs 1969:
Fred provides all this material free of charge, and all the audio files can be downloaded as MP3 files. Visit his site online at frobbi.org.
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