IBMA Keynote address: Larry Shell

There was another event Monday evening which we hadn’t covered yet, Larry Shell’s Keynote Address, delivered at a dinner sponsored by Bluegrass Unlimited and D’Addario. Larry is the Vice President of A&R at Broken Bow Records, and well known to bluegrass fans as the co-writer with Larry Cordle of Murder On Music Row, IBMA’s Song Of The Year in 2000.

A legitimate “music industry insider,” and a real player in the country music world in Nashville, Shell used the opening of his Keynote Address to express his passionate love for bluegrass music. He described how seeing Flatt & Scruggs perform in his home town of Boggy Bayou, FL at age 8 lit a fire in his soul, and kindled what has become a lifetime devotion to the music and the people who play it.

He also remarked on the significance of this year’s IBMA Business Conference, not only because it is the first year the event is held in Nashville, but because of the significance of some other important anniversaries. It was 20 years ago in 1985 that a group of bluegrass industry people first met to discuss the need for there to be a bluegrass counterpart to The Country Music Association (CMA), which had been so effective in promoting that style of music to a widening audience all over the world. Shell made special mention of Lance Leroy, who was singled out as the man most responsible for getting this discussion started.

In addition to this year being the 20th Anniversary of the formation of the IBMA, Shell reminded us that it was also the 80th Anniversary of The Grand Ole Opry, and mentioned how appropriate it was that we would hold our Awards Show in the historic Ryman Auditorium, just a block from where his speech was being delivered. Even more important to bluegrass fans, we are rapidly approaching the 60th anniversary of the formation of what many describe as the Original Bluegrass Band, when Bill Monroe first appeared on The Opry with Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Chubby Wise and Howard Watts in 1946. Mention was also made that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the first three day bluegrass festival, held in Fincastle, VA in 1965.

Much of the remainder of Shell’s address was dedicated to offering a rousing “pep rally” for the membership, encouraging everyone there to believe that great things were possible for bluegrass music, the necessary first step in making it happen. He even “went out on a limb” with a prediction that we would see another major bluegrass artist achieve a high degree of mainstream success in the next few years.

He closed with a poignant request of all of us on the business side of bluegrass music to “Be good to one another in your business dealings.” It was clear that was a very personal and sincere admonition, and he suggested plainly the need to “meet each other in the middle” so that both sides could benefit, and help move the music forward.

Here are a couple of photos from Shell’s address, taken by Dan Loftin.

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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.