In the early days of Rounder Records, the then fledgling label released a highly-celebrated series of LPs under the title, The Early Days of Bluegrass. A total of ten albums were produced on vinyl starting in 1975, consisting not of recordings by icons not Bill Monroe or The Stanley Brothers, but taken instead from 45 and 78 rpm records by lesser known artists who also contributed greatly to the foundations of bluegrass music.
These seminal tracks featured songs from people like Jim Eanes, The Sauceman Brothers, The Lilly Brothers, Connie & Babe, Red Allen, The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, The Bailey Brothers, Stoney Cooper and Wilma Lee, and many others. 153 cuts were included on those ten LPs, which have now been remastered, and assembled into a six-CD box set created with a special purpose.
The newly packaged edition of The Early Days of Bluegrass was a special passion project for Bill Nowlin, one of the founders of Rounder, with the proceeds being donated to Bluegrass Country radio to help ensure their continued existence as a free, 24/7 bluegrass music channel online. Nowlin financed this reissue himself, with thanks expressed to Dick Spottswood, who originated bluegrass programming at WAMU-FM in Washington, DC, and who chose most of the material that was assembled for the initial LP releases. Bluegrass Country lived until recently as part of WAMU, but has since split off and is run as a non-profit entity of its own.
Available for purchase from the Bluegrass Country web site, the box set is offered for $60 for the six audio CDs and a booklet with extensive liner notes. Also available is Nowlin’s 2019 book with the same name, a 200 page paperback with even more detailed notes about the artists and the tracks, along with many never-before-published photos. It sells for $15.
Anyone with an interest in the history of bluegrass music will want both the box set and the book in their personal library. Distribution of this set is somewhat limited, with only Bluegrass Country and a few specially-chosen outlets, like The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, offering it for sale. A complete track listing can be viewed online.
The Early Days of Bluegrass is also offered as a gift for new sustaining members of Bluegrass Country. Full details can be found on the site.