The History Press has released North Florida Folk Music – History & Tradition, by Ron Johnson, which traces the early and more modern history of the music from parts of the Sunshine State that have more in common with Alabama and Georgia than they do their neighbors down south.
The 160 page paperback edition first examines the Spanish roots of music played in the area prior to statehood, followed by the impact of Stephen Foster’s popular music, and the songs of the Civil War.
More contemporary folk music is considered in the form of brief biographies of ten artists whose music or activism cemented their place in the music. Included are Will McLean, described as the “Father of Florida Folk Music,” popular folksinger Gamble Rogers, Thelma Boltin, who built the Florida Folk Festival into an institution, and several others.
Johnson’s book doesn’t specifically address bluegrass at much length, though Buzz Busby, Vassar Clements, Charlie Waller, Earl Scruggs, Bobby Hicks, and Red and Murphy Henry all make appearances. One brief chapter is dedicated to banjo picker Paul Champion, who the author describes as being “the bridge between Florida folk and Florida bluegrass for many years.”
The History Press specializes in regional histories in the US, including books on arts and culture. Perhaps they can be convinced to include more bluegrass investigations in their future offerings.
North Florida Folk Music is available wherever books are sold, in both paperback and e-book editions.