Bean Blossom by Tom Adler

“Bean Blossom, Indiana — near Brown County State Park and the artist-colony town of Nashville, Indianais home to the annual Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival, founded in 1967 by Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass. Widely recognized as the oldest continuously running bluegrass music festival in the world, this June festival’s roots run back to late 1951, when Monroe purchased the Brown County Jamboree, a live weekly country music show presented between April and November each year. Over the years, Monroe’s festival featured the top performers in bluegrass music, including Jimmy Martin, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, the Goins Brothers, the Stanley Brothers, and many more.”

So says the University of Illinois Press, which has announced the 2011 publication of Bean Blossom: The Brown County Jamboree and Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Festivals, Thomas A. Adler’s history of Bean Blossom.

The book traces the long and colorful life of the world famous bluegrass and country music venue that has called attendants from across the globe. Millions of notes have been played there – both formally and informally, with jamming till dawn – and two albums have been recorded there.

However, there is a lot more to the story than that. With 24 black and white photographs, 8 line drawings and 3 maps, the 264 page book discusses the development of bluegrass music, the many personalities involved in the bluegrass music scene, the interplay of local, regional, and national interests, and the meaning of this venue to the music’s many performers

As Adler said in a 2006 interview ….

“…the real importance of Bean Blossom’s location is that it is right on the fuzzy dividing line between the cultural-regional areas we simply call ‘the North’ and ‘the South.’ Bluegrass got a particular boost at Bean Blossom because, while the hamlet was an isolated place prior to World War II, it was later a location that had become easily accessible from either the cultural North (Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) or South (Louisville and Nashville, Tennessee, etc.). Lots of early newspaper accounts and good articles about the festivals in the early 1970s noted how culturally diverse the festival audiences were. The oft-heard phrase in those days was that Bean Blossom was a place where (always to observers’ great surprise) ‘hippies and rednecks’ could find some common ground in their love of the music.”

For more information and to pre-order a copy of this book visit the University of Illinois Press web site.

Bean Blossom – The Brown County Jamboree and Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Festivals
Author: Thomas A. Adler, Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Cloth ISBN 978-0-252-03615-6?Paper ISBN 978-0-252-07810-1

Thomas A. Adler is a folklorist, banjo player, radio show host and the former executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky, and first attended Bean Blossom in 1968.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.

  • I’m curious about the claim of Bean Blossom as “oldest continuously running bluegrass music festival in the world.” My recollection – which could be faulty, of course – is that there was a hiatus of several years back a number of years ago, around the time the park was sold. It seems like there was a big to-do about the revival of the festival at that time.

    If that’s correct, it would seem to put a damper on the claim as the oldest _continuously running_ festival, wouldn’t it?

    Can anyone confirm whether it has, in fact, taken place every year since 1951 as the blurb claims?

  • Thomas A. Adler

    Archie:
    The quote about Bean Blossom being the site of the “oldest continuously running . . . “, etc. is actually something that’s been asserted only over the past decade or so, and not by me — but it makes sense to me. I think Jim Peva may have been the one to phrase it in just that way.

    While there have been gaps in the FALL festival schedule at Bean Blossom, since 1967 the annual June bluegrass festival has been presented every year. It was Bill’s original creation in that year (though clearly modeled after what he’d already experienced via Carlton Haney’s earlier multi-day, multi-artist festivals), and it goes on every June. Though festival dates in June have varied some over the decades, a lot of folks think of it as the Father’s Day festival, since it often ends on that Sunday, or the Saturday night before.

    1951 was the last year in which the Brown County Jamboree was owned and run by Francis Rund, and he had been involved for a decade or more. At the end of that year, Monroe bought the park and continued, beginning in 1952, to produce the weekly, seasonal, Brown County Jamboree. So the park as a whole has run from about 1941 to the present. The annual “festival” was/is the 1967 one.

    Who’s had an uninterrupted annual bluegrass festival that’s older?

  • Thanks for the information, Tom – that’s exactly what I was looking for. The Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music will hold the 40th Annual Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival on Labor Day weekend in 2011 and it’s been of interest to try to determine how many festivals still in operation pre-date that one. As far as I could determine, Ralph’s festival in McClure is perhaps a year older. Bean Blossom was one other possibility but I didn’t know if it had been presented every year or not. I don’t know of any other candidates. I hope someone else might have a contribution.