Urban Haglund passes

Knowledgeable Swedish bluegrass record collector, scholar, activist, and musician, Urban Haglund, passed away on Sunday morning, July 26, 2021, after a heart attack. He was 73 years old. 

Born October 10, 1947, in Borlänge, north-west of Sweden’s capital Stockholm, Haglund had a liking for music from an early age, and in due course he learned to play rhythm guitar and bass. 

He became a bluegrass music fan in 1962 when he was about 15 or 16 years of age and heard the Osborne Brothers’ recording, Jesse James, on Swedish Radio. 

Haglund became a member of the Stanley Brothers Fan Club – even though Haglund had never heard them at the time – and started to build a small library of 45 rpm records by corresponding with artists. He developed a passion by adding LPs and magazines to his collection, which was speculated might have been the best in Europe at one time. 

In March 1966 the Stanley Brothers, as part of a package tour, played several dates in Europe and, naturally, Haglund was in attendance for the Stockholm show. 

From shortly after 29:00 minutes Jan Johansson talks to Haglund about the Stockholm date. Prior to that is a live recording of The Stanley Brothers and a discussion with Gary Reid.

In the mid-1960s Haglund (guitar) with his brother Mats (banjo) started the group The Tennessee Travelers. Later they were joined by another brother Thomas (fiddle). Subsequently, the group became known as the Midnight Cowboys and then, in 1972, the Blue Grass Swedes.

On one instance the young Urban, the eldest of the three, and Mats supported another brother Thomas in a fiddle contest that he won in Stockholm.  

Later Urban Haglund played bass as a member of the quartet Country Comfort. 

In the various guises these bands recorded a few singles, an EP and several albums. 

Haglund was an occasional visitor to the USA, the first time in 1970 being to attend the Sixth Annual Labor Day Blue Grass Music Festival, spending time in the Washington, DC area visiting with Dick Freeland, and Don Reno and Bill Harrell, and seeing Buzz Busby and Leon Morris perform in a local venue; another – in September 1985 – to enjoy time at Bean Blossom, Indiana; and, having been an early member of the association, to participate in the IBMA Convention and Fan Fair activities, Owensboro, Kentucky (1987), to mention just three instances. 

In recent years he would play informally attending jams at the Lilla Parkcaféet and O’Connells Irish Pub in Stockholm, where he continued to be welcoming and encouraging to others, sharing his bluegrass music knowledge with locals as well as like-minded folk far and wide. 

Haglund inspired many within our genre. Compatriot, but US resident since 1986, fiddler and teacher, Jan Johansson, is among those that learned much from him over many years …. 

“Urban and I were friends for a long time. Since the mid-70s. He was extremely enthusiastic about bluegrass music and he used to have a record collection that was very impressive. He was like a bluegrass guru who introduced me to a lot of the bluegrass culture. 

Over the last several years we talked at least once a week but a lot of times we would talk on an almost daily basis.”

R.I.P. Urban Haglund 

A Discography 

Tennessee Travelers

  • Kountry Korral Is Proud To Present… (Blue Horizon LP 500, 1969) 
  • Country … A New Swedish Hit Sound… (Kountry Korral Records KLP 501, 1971)

The Midnight Cowboys

  • Midnight Cowboys, Kenneth Swanström Jamboree… (Kountry Korral Records KLP 502, 1971)

Blue Grass Swedes

  • Midnight Cowboys (Rondo Ron M 102, 1973)
  • Blue Grass Swedes (GM-Production AB GLP755, 1975)
  • Mystery Train (GMP GLP7712, 1978)
  • Drivin’ Nails In My Coffin (AWR 27916, 1979)

Country Comfort

  • Country Comfort (Duc Records SLP-1001,1979) 
  • Comfortable (Aktiv Musik HEJ LP-006, 1985)

All are Swedish releases. 

Bluegrass Today is grateful for the assistance of Joe Ross who wrote an excellent article about bluegrass music in Sweden (Bluegrass Unlimited, July 1989). The Scandinavian bluegrass discography accompanying that feature was compiled by Haglund. 

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.