On Monday June 24, 1985, a group of interested individuals gathered in the board-room of BMI’s Nashville headquarters for two days of discussion to explore the possibilities of forming a trade organisation in support of bluegrass music.
Initiated by Lance LeRoy, of the Lancer Agency, attendees at the meeting included Allen Mills, Sonny Osborne, publisher Pete Kuykendall, Milton Harkey, Art Menius (who went on to be the IBMA’S first Executive Director), Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Mac Wiseman, Larry Jones, from the Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Association (MBOTMA), representing associations; Ray Hicks (representing radio), John Hartin and Joe Carr, from South Plains College; Len Holsclaw (Lendel Agency, the sole management and booking agency for the Country Gentlemen from 1971 through to 1998), Doyle Lawson, and the late songwriter Randall Hylton, from the Nashville Bluegrass Music Association.
Prior to this meeting Mills had been vocal about the need for an industry event that he compared to the old DJ conventions (these pre-dated the Country Music Association’s annual festivals) and Osborne had, for several years, advocated for the creation of a bluegrass trust fund modeled on the Opry Trust Fund.
Bluegrass Unlimited was originally established to be more an organization with industry-wide goals than to be simply a magazine.
Art Menius remembers, “the potent mixture of energy, skepticism, commitment, distrust, and enthusiasm.” That said, “We spent a lot of time sharing dreams and goals, talking about the past, and somehow sliding toward consensus.”
He continued, “We agreed that we wanted to continue developing a bluegrass music trade association, although we could not decide on a name for it. We looked at the CMA as a model and charged Randall Hylton to obtain copies of its bylaws and investigate setting up a corporation in Tennessee. We created a committee to draft bylaws. We elected a Steering Committee with Pete Kuykendall as its chair.”
This wide cross-section of bluegrass people, “the core group,” “resolved to meet again on August 14-15 to discuss bylaws, elect an interim board of directors, and plan a public event. Most important of all, we agreed not to try to define bluegrass.”
Bluegrass Today is grateful to Art Menius for sharing his memories of the event.