Making bluegrass history in DC

New bluegrass fans may not realize the impact that the Washington, DC area had on the history of our music, especially if they live far from the nation’s capitol.

In the 1970s and ’80s a very active bluegrass scene had sprung up, with clubs and concerts supporting live music from northern Virginia to southern Maryland. The Country Gentlemen, Seldom Scene, Buzz Buzby and Bill Harrell were major draws across the US, all based in the DC market. The Birchmere, now an all-purpose music venue, was 100% bluegrass back then and acts traveling the east coast would stop in for a show, providing the locals with a chance to sample the best that bluegrass had to offer.

It was from this simmering stew pot that emerged later bands like Eddie & Martha Adcock, Patent Pending and The Johnson Mountain Boys, and it is thought that the active Washington bluegrass scene played a part in the decision by the US Navy to launch a country/bluegrass band, Country Current, and base them in DC.

The DC Bluegrass Union was chartered as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2003 to foster and preserve interest in the music in the Chesapeake area, and they will host their first festival this year, March 27, in McLean, VA. Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie and Mountain Heart are among the acts selected to perform.

To celebrate the rich history of DC bluegrass, the DCBU has created a photo archive page on their web site dedicated to keeping these musical memories alive. President Randy Barrett is asking anyone with photos they would be willing to share online to contact him by email.

Randy sent along a few of the photos from their archive to give a taste of what they are working to collect now.

Tickets for the DCBU festival can be purchased from Ticket Leap 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.