Images Of America: Kentucky Bluegrass Music

Arcadia Publishing has a wide-ranging series of photo books in their Images of America collection. Aimed primarily at regional markets, each book assembles iconic local images into attractive paperback editions that are sold in bookstores and gift shops in the vicinity.

Some titles have a statewide focus, and it is one of these that caught our attention. Kentucky’s Bluegrass Music contains more than 100 pages of wonderful images, tracing the contributions of Kentucky musicians to bluegrass music from the 1930s to today. The photos were collected by James C. Claypool from a wide variety of sources (all credited in the book). The book is printed on heavy, gloss stock and the 200 plus images are left in their original state – not repaired or enhanced for publication.

Following a brief introduction for the befit of the uninitiated, the photo display begins, divided into ten chapters.

  • The Beginnings
  • The 1940s and Early 50s
  • The Bluegrass Revival’s Formative Years
  • Keeping The Faith
  • The 1970s
  • Classic and Progressive Bluegrass
  • The 1980s
  • Sustaining The Momentum
  • The Modern Bluegrass Circuit in Kentucky
  • The Stars of Today and Tomorrow

Each photo gets its own descriptive paragraph and while I won’t pretend that he didn’t miss anyone, Claypool has put together a fairly exhaustive compendium of important figures in Kentucky bluegrass. Of course there are several images of the big guys, like Bill Monroe, JD Crowe and Ricky Skaggs, but it is the photos of lesser-known artists and personalities that provide some of the book’s greatest pleasures.

That and the always-entertaining pictures of popular pickers when they were much younger.

The publishers have graciously allowed us to include a few photographs from the book, to offer a taste of what you’ll find in Kentucky’s Bluegrass Music. (Reprinted with permission from Kentucky’s Bluegrass Music, by James C. Claypool.  Available from the publisher online at or by calling 888-313-2665.)

I have certainly enjoyed going through this book. There are a few inaccuracies and omissions in the photo captions, but not anywhere near enough to really raise a quibble.

Any bluegrass fan will appreciate having a copy of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Music. Orders can be placed online.

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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.