Classic bluegrass LPs, free to a good home from Scott Napier

The interest in vintage vinyl keeps going up, something that wasn’t envisioned by most music lovers when the era of the compact disc began in the mid-’80s. As the cost of CD players dropped rapidly during that time, and nearly all types of music shifting to the new platform, many audio manufacturers cut back on the production of turntables to the point that by the late ’90s, they were very few purchase options available for record players.

But with so much great music archived in the analog format, it seemed inevitable that a turnaround would be in the offing, and we are in the midst of it now. LPs that are being produced these days tend to be of the high fidelity sort, using better quality vinyl than was the norm during the middle of the 20th century, and collectors demand lofty prices for classic recordings.

One such collector is Scott Napier, bluegrass mandolinist and Associate Professor at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass & Traditional Music at the Hazard Community & Technical College in Hazard, KY. He has been buying up LPs since he was a young teen, and keeping them stored safely so that they remain in good condition.

During a recent inventorying of his records, he noticed that he had duplicates of several albums that served as milestones in the growth and development of bluegrass music. And with an eye to the value they held for him as a young picker, he has decided to give away five of these iconic titles to today’s young musicians.

They include these timeless recordings:

  • Bluegrass Instrumentals – Bill Monroe 1965
  • Foggy Mountain Banjo – Flatt & Scruggs 1961
  • Strictly Instrumental – Flatt & Scruggs with Doc Watson 1967
  • Big And Country Instrumentals – Jimmy Martin 1967
  • Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe – Kenny Baker 1976

It would be hard to overstate the importance of these records in their time, capturing the work of true masters of the art in their hey day. Many of the instrumental tunes that are seen as jam standards today saw their introduction on these LPs.

Napier has decided to give them away to young pickers (11-21) with no strings attached. All you need to do is send an email to Scott about your interest in bluegrass, and why you would cherish one of these records. He will give one to each of five winners, corresponding with their instruments of interest.

Scott says that he feels fortunate to have a good collection of albums, and is happy to share his duplicates with others.

“I’m old enough now, and was geeky enough as a child, to get those records before they were vintage. Most were bought at concerts, and many are autographed. I’m lucky to be living here in eastern Kentucky, because you can still find these in yard sales and used record shops. I’ve been buying records since I was 13, and I’ve been picky… every record I have is a must have.”

The whole idea of an album is almost lost for today’s young music consumers. Many will buy just a track or two even from important projects, or just listen to them on YouTube or Spotify. But those artists picked the songs carefully back then to be part of a whole, and chose the order with as much care.

“I want to show them how important the album concept was to artists in the ’60s.”

He also wants to encourage the sort of connection with working artists that he recalls from his youth. Scott shared a story of how he had written a letter to Sam Bush as a teen, telling his idol how much he had learned from the Homespun Tapes series Sam had produced. The letter also asked a question about the picks Bush used.

“About nine months later, which is an eternity to a 13 year old, I got a handwritten note back from Sam, and he taped two of the picks he used to the back of the paper. It meant so much to me to hear back from him, and I still have those two picks he sent!”

Here’s the video Napier made to share on Facebook about the giveaway, where he talks about each of the records and how much they meant to him as a budding young musician.

Scott also said that school is starting up at KSBTM, where students can study bluegrass music performance. At this point, the school is allowing students to take their courses in person, with some restrictions.

“We can have up to ten people at a time in the classrooms, with first priority given to in-person students. We’re in a big building, so we can space out enough to keep working… trying to keep it as normal as we can.

Our enrollment is off a little bit, but the numbers aren’t embarrassing.”

Hats off to Scott Napier for this gesture.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.