Restored Bluegrass Country Soul premiere in Owensboro

We have written a number of times about the project to restore the sole existing 35mm print of the film, Bluegrass Country Soul, originally released for theatrical distribution in 1972.

The film, a project undertaken by producer/director Albert Ihde, captured hours of footage of the 7th annual Labor Day Weekend Bluegrass Music Festival, hosted and promoted by Carlton Haney in Camp Springs, NC in 1971. It was the first feature length film made about bluegrass, and was warmly received upon its release for the strength of the artists on stage, the cinema verite approach which presented the festival scene absent any voiceover or commentary, and for Ihde’s ability to present an honest look at the people who attend the festival to enjoy the music.

Full or partial performances are featured by Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Chubby Wise, The Osborne Brothers, Jimmy Martin, Mac Wiseman, J.D. Crowe, The Lilly Brothers, Tex Logan and Don Stover, The Country Gentlemen, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury, Doyle Lawson, Tony Rice, and Bluegrass 45. Many of these bluegrass superstars are no longer with us, and Bluegrass Country Soul shows them in their prime.

In the past few years, Ihde and his wife, Executive Director, Ellen Pasternack, have been at work with Albert’s original partner, Robert Henninger, creating a digital restoration of that lone print so that this prized historical remnant can be seen by succeeding generations. This project is now complete, and the restored film will be premiered next month in a 4K, high definition Digital Cinema Package (DCP), in surround sound and the same wide-screen format in which in was displayed in ’72.

That DCP has also been used to create a reissue box set that includes both Blu-ray and standard DVD copies, plus audio CDs with additional music recorded at Camp Springs but not included in the film.

The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum will host the premiere on November 2 in Owensboro, KY, and Ihde, Pasternack, and Henninger will present them with the restored DCP to be stored at the museum in perpetuity.

Albert explains how this donation was arranged…

“After the new bluegrass museum asked me for film photos and posters for an exhibit, Ellen and I decided to donate an archival copy of our film to their permanent collection. When one of my original partners on this film, Robert Henninger, examined our one remaining print, he saw that the color had deteriorated badly and offered to oversee a digital restoration in 4K high definition, Dolby sound, and in the widescreen (Academy) format in which it was first shown in theatres. If we hadn’t restored it now, the film might have been lost forever.” 

Here are a couple of previews from the restored film.

Tickets to the November 2 premiere are free of charge, but reservations are required. More details can be found online, or by calling 270.926.7891.

Orders for the Golden Anniversary box set can be placed online.

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.