Phil Zimmerman collection to Bluegrass Hall of Fame

Phil Zimmerman and one of his classic photos of David Grisman, Sam Bush, and Peter Rowan

The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro, KY has announced the acquisition of the complete collection of photographs and recordings from photographer and archivist Phil Zimmerman. A lifetime bluegrass performer, Phil had the good fortune in 1965 to attend the very first three-day bluegrass festival in Fincastle, VA, which cemented his fascination with bluegrass music, and capturing its pioneers for posterity.

Zimmerman has donated his life’s work to the Museum, where it will remain in its permanent collection. Many of the photos have appeared previously in his book, Bluegrass Time – A Musician’s Photographs of the Early Days of Bluegrass Festivals. Among the many pieces included in this collection are his reel-to-reel tapes from the Fincastle festival in ’65, plus other festivals from the late ’60s with live sets from Bill Monroe, The Osborne Brothers, The Stanley Brothers, Jimmy Martin, and Mother Maybelle Carter. He has likewise donated the audio equipment used to record these shows.

Hall of Fame Executive Director, Chris Joslin, welcomes this contribution with open arms.

“I have long been a fan of Phil Zimmerman’s work. Many of his photographs were featured in an exhibition here at the Hall of Fame in 2008. The collection of photographs featured in his book, Bluegrass Time, are iconic, and the book remains a popular item in our museum store with visitors to the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum.

Phil Zimmerman has an energy and passion for bluegrass music that reminds me why people are drawn to this music and to the community of bluegrass. His photography is compelling because he captured historical moments in bluegrass music that were also part of his personal story. Not only did he document people like Bill Monroe; he also played music with Bill Monroe and developed a friendship with him and many of the other artists he photographed. Phil Zimmerman’s photographs are important markers in the history of bluegrass music, and I am honored he trusts the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum with his collection and with his story.”

Living now in New England after being raised in the midwest, Phil has dedicated his life to this music. He plays and teaches banjo, mandolin, and guitar and served for several years as Director of Music Camps North in Massachusetts. A great many people have profited from his instructional efforts in the northeast, with both private and group lessons.

Zimmerman says that he can’t imagine a better home for these works.

“I’m proud of the historic bluegrass photographs I’ve taken, and original reel to reel recordings I’ve made of early bluegrass performances, and I’m delighted and honored that the prestigious Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum has offered my work a lifetime home as part of its permanent collection.”

There is no announcement yet from the Museum as to when items from Phil’s collection will be on display, though they have a number of exhibits that regularly rotate images from the early days of bluegrass.

Below are a few low resolution examples of his photographs.

Share this:

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.