Industrial Strength Bluegrass – Southwestern Ohio’s Musical Legacy

The Fall 2020 catalog from the world-renowned University of Illinois Press (UIP) is now available and the most notable feature for bluegrass music enthusiasts is the inclusion of the book, Industrial Strength Bluegrass, about bluegrass music’s legacy in south-western Ohio. 

Sub-titled Southwestern Ohio’s Musical Legacy, UIP describes the forthcoming 272-page volume thus ..….  

In the twentieth century, Appalachian migrants seeking economic opportunities relocated to southwestern Ohio, bringing their music with them. Between 1947 and 1989, they created an internationally renowned capital for the thriving bluegrass music genre, centered on the industrial region of Cincinnati, Dayton, Hamilton, Middletown, and Springfield. Fred Bartenstein and Curtis W. Ellison edit a collection of eyewitness narratives and in-depth analyses that explore southwestern Ohio’s bluegrass musicians, radio broadcasters, recording studios, record labels, and performance venues, along with the music’s contributions to religious activities, community development, and public education. As the bluegrass scene grew, southwestern Ohio’s distinctive sounds reached new fans and influenced those everywhere who continue to play, produce, and love roots music. 

Revelatory and multifaceted, Industrial Strength Bluegrass shares the inspiring story of a bluegrass hotbed and the people who created it. 

In his foreword Neil V. Rosenberg offered further insight … 

A new urban folk music, nurtured and shaped by a folk community in an industrial setting, has made the world familiar with southwestern Ohio’s bluegrass. Many facets of the region’s rich musical heritage are explored and celebrated in this book, a welcome addition to the literature on bluegrass.

The contributors to the book are Fred Bartenstein, Curtis W. Ellison, Jon Hartley Fox, Rick Good, Lily Isaacs, Ben Krakauer, Mac McDivitt, Nathan McGee PhD, Daniel Mullins, Joe Mullins, Larry Nager, Phillip J. Obermiller PhD, Bobby Osborne and Neil V. Rosenberg. Most writers have been directly involved in bluegrass music in the south-western Ohio area at some time or other.

Details – 

  • Industrial Strength Bluegrass – January 25, 2021 
  • ISBN 0252043642, 9780252043642; paperback (priced $29.95) 
  • Dimensions: 15.6 x 23.5 cm (6.125 x 9.25 in.) 
  • It is part of the esteemed Music in American Life series.
  • It includes 112 black and white photographs.

Publication is supported by a grant from the Judith McCulloh Endowment for American Music, named after the American folklorist and ethnomusicologist who worked as an editor at the UIP for 35 years.

Fred Bartenstein is an adjunct instructor in music at the University of Dayton. He is the editor of Bluegrass Bluesman, The Bluegrass Hall of Fame, and two anthologies of writings by folk arts impresario Joe Wilson. 

Curtis W. Ellison is a professor emeritus of history and American studies at Miami University. He is the author of Country Music Culture: From Hard Times to Heaven and editor of Donald Davidson’s The Big Ballad Jamboree. 

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.