In light of the recent success of a similar campaign slogan, I decided to shamelessly adopt it for bluegrass. Hey, if it can do for bluegrass what it did for the President elect, then the music world is about to be stunned!!
But, as someone mentioned to me recently, in order to say “again” a person really should define when the greatness first occurred. Now I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there that have their own ideas about when the golden era of bluegrass happened…some may even argue that it hasn’t happened yet.
For me, the good ole days will always be the 1960s. I loved listening to the cracklin’ radio deliver the sweet lonesome sounds of Bill Monroe, Jim and Jesse, the Osborne Brothers, Flatt & Scruggs, and the Louvin Brothers and couldn’t wait to catch the Grand Ole Opry show each week. In my estimation, bluegrass music outshone the rising star of Country music.
The performers generally wore matching outfits, cowboy boots, and ten gallon hats as opposed to today’s laid back stage gear consisting of blue jeans, sneakers and whatever shirt happened to be clean that day. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against being comfortable while on stage and have been known to wear blue jeans a time or two, but never sneakers…I draw the line at sneakers! It just seems that when I “dress” for a performance, I connect to my musical heroes of times gone by and those magical days when bluegrass was king (at least in my heart!).
The songs that played on that old radio typically evoked a longing, a loneliness that sometimes seems missing in our modern day grass. Oh, the high lonesome sound is still there, it just doesn’t seem to convey the same lonesome feeling to me. Folks sang about what they knew…and they still do (thank goodness!). Back then songs frequently featured a mother worrying about her young ‘un and his wanderin’ ways or about the working class (especially coal miners). They were songs about surviving, about overcoming obstacles, and about family. And they still ring true today as evidenced by Lost Soldier Son by Chris Brashear, the Gibson Brothers new album In the Ground, and Georgia Maple by Edgar Loudermilk. But new songs with that old bluegrass flavor seem few and far between.
So what would it take to “Make Bluegrass Great Again”? Honestly, I think bluegrass — and our country — have always been pretty danged great! I’m just hoping and praying that they will continue to be great for many generations to come!