Classic festival photos from Akira Otsuka shared online

Boone Creek at Watermelon Park in Berryville, VA 1977 – photo © Akira Otsuka

Fred Robbins, one of the premier archivists in bluegrass music, has added a collection of photos taken by Akira Otsuka to his vast online repository of images and video. These include many classic photographs from the Carlton Haney bluegrass festivals in the 1970s, including artists like Boone Creek, Seldom Scene, J.D. Crowe & The New South, and Del McCoury when they were mere pups.

Serious bluegrass fans may recall that Akira first visited the United States as a member of Japanese bluegrass band, Bluegrass 45, in 1971. The group was warmly received by American festival audiences, and they made a return trip the following year. Otsuka and his fellow 45ers delighted the US fans with their versions of bluegrass favorites, and a number of clever stage antics, some that they picked up from The Country Gentlemen.

Eventually, Akira moved to the US where he has lived the bulk of his life, working as a bluegrass mandolinist and as a luthier. Recently he shared several collections of photos he took at Berryville in 1976 and ’77, and another from the very first DelFest in 2008. All can be viewed on Robbins’ site.

Anyone who followed bluegrass in the ’70s will delight in these vintage shots, and Watermelon Park regulars from back in the day will enjoy a trip down memory lane.

The DelFest images includes ones of the Sam Bush Band, Punch Brothers, the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, and Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn.

Regardless of your age or how long you have been following bluegrass, do yourself a favor and take a look at these photos. While you are there, be sure to take in the dozens of slides shows of bluegrass festivals on Fred’s site, going back to the very first in Fincastle, VA in 1965.

Hats off to Fred, Akira, and all of the other photographers keeping this important part of bluegrass history in the public domain.

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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.