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Blue Grass Music Festivals

Updated on June 4, 2015
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is a published author and freelance writer and photographer.

Al Batton and Bluegrass Reunion at Preddy Fest

photo copyright 2009 by Donna Campbell Smith
photo copyright 2009 by Donna Campbell Smith

Bluegrass festivals have become popular events throughout the United States, just pick a state and you are sure to find a festival scheduled sometime, somewhere. Bluegrass groupies travel in motor homes from festival to festival, sometimes arriving days ahead of the show to camp and play their own picking parties around the evening campfires. Vendors sell food, arts and crafts and CDs of bluegrass music. Golf carts are the main mode of transportation once on site, as fans moved back and forth from the stage area to their campsites.

Bass Mountain Music Park

photo copyright 2009 Donna Campbell Smith
photo copyright 2009 Donna Campbell Smith

Origin and History of Bluegrass Music

Having attended my first bluegrass music festival recently led me to wonder about the origin and history of this style of foot-stomping music. I remember Daddy playing some of the same songs on his guitar that the musicians played at Preddyfest Memorial Day Weekend. Preddyfest an annual bluegrass to-do in Franklin County, North Carolina.

I assumed that Bluegrass had something to do with Kentucky, and it does. But a little research also attributes bluegrass’ roots to the Scotch-Irish folk music prevalent in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Bluegrass also traces back to music brought to the south by African slaves, who introduced the banjo to Colonial America.

Pioneer women can be credited as keepers of Anglo-Saxton ballad lyrics, many of which show up in bluegrass songs. It seems in the days of early pioneer life women were not allowed to play “daddy’s” violin or other musical instruments, so they sang the songs.

But, what exactly is Bluegrass Music? Well, the granddaddy of Bluegrass is Bill Monroe. He and his brother, Charlie, were a famous country music duo in the 1930s. The brothers had a falling out – both were said to be hotheaded – and Brother Bill (did he had a still on the hill?) formed a new band and taught the musicians his brother’s style of playing. Bill then continued to perform in much the same way as before the breakup.

Bill Monroe, who had lived in North Carolina for most of his career, named his new band in homage to his home state of Kentucky, Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. They first performed together on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in 1939.

Over time some changes were made in the band, both in musicians and the music. Monroe mixed his music up with the old mountain music, blues, work chants, and gospel. It was an all strings band made up of mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and bass. It all came together on the Grand Ole Orpy stage with their performance in 1945. Earl Scruggs playing banjo, Lester Flatt singing and playing guitar, and Chubby Wise playing fiddle, were members of the band who later went on to make names for themselves in bluegrass music.

Bill Monroe described Bluegrass Music as having “a hard drive to it.” He said, “It's Scotch bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin'. It's Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It's blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound.”

Picking in the Campground at Preddy Fest

Bass Mountain Bluegrass Museum

copyr right 2008 Donna Campbell Smith
copyr right 2008 Donna Campbell Smith

Some of North Carolina's Blue Grass Festivals

Bass Mountain Bluegrass Park’s museum has a collection of Bill Monroe memorabilia housed in a one-room log cabin along with other vintage Bluegrass items. The Bass Mountain Bluegrass Festival boasts to be North Carolina’s longest running Bluegrass Festival. Although it was announced they had discontinued the 30-year-old event for 2009, the festival did take place at the same location, Cane Creek Campground in snow Camp, NC, over Memorial weekend under a new name, Lil John’s Mountain Music Festival.

Preddy Fest host, Rodney Preddy, announced that the 2010 festival will once again be on Memorial Weekend, marking their 12th year.

To find a Bluegrass Festival near you go to Bluegrass Festival Guide and click on your state. In these days of economic stress you can’t find a cheaper vacation – less that $100 for two or three days entertainment (Preddy Fest was only $50 for advance 3-day tickets), and at some festivals the camping is even free with the weekend ticket.

Denton Farm Park is another North Carolina festival worth visiting. Denton Farm Park is like a trip back in time. Vintage buildings, a real steam locomotive, and a covered pavilion for a rain or shine show are some of the park's highlights.


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    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      I love bluegrass, I recently attended Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco. It was bittersweet because we lost 2 festival regulars in the last year, Doc Watson and Earl Scruggs, and also the man who financed the festival, Warren Hellman. Their contribution to the music will always be remembered.

    • profile image

      Johnny 6 years ago

      Tony Iommi used bango strings on his guitar early on in the sixties, he need light gauge to gripe the strings with his finger tips missing!

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 6 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Thank you, Datahound. Yes, you need to check out Preddy Fest next year, right in your backyard. I can't play or sing but I am an excellent listener and I love it.

    • datahound profile image

      datahound 6 years ago from USA

      Great hub! I need to catch some of these smaller festivals. The music is addicting isn't it? They used to call the fiddle the "devil's box" because people would have to dance when it was being played as if possessed. I got hooked in 1975 when I saw John Hartford perform in Spartanburg, SC. My first festival was Harris, NC in 1976 where Doc and Merle Watson performed two one and a half hours sets and came back on Sunday and did an hour of gospel music. Lester Flatt was there with a young Marty Stuart on mandolin. Been a crazy fan ever since. Get to the Merlefest in N. Wilkesboro or the Doc's small festival in June in Valle Crusis near Boone. The pickers in the parking lot are the best!

    • Putz Ballard profile image

      Putz Ballard 7 years ago

      Great hub and I am a fan of festivals and bluegrass.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 7 years ago from NW Indiana

      I love the fiddle and banjo music. It amazes me how talented some of the musicians are. In Missouri there are Blue Grass festivals every summer and one that always fell during my birthday in Odessa Mo. It is a great time to spend a few days listening to this style of music and most amazing are the children who grow up playing. That was my birthday celebration for 7 years straight and a great gathering when I was in college. Thanks for delivering fond memories with this subject. Thumbs up on your write here!

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina

      I am guessing you are cousin Charlie. My Daddy (Campbell) played guitar and sang me to sleep when I was a little girl. I am glad his music lives on through my talented daughter. I can't play, but I love listening more than anything I can think of.

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      ralwus 7 years ago

      I love bluegrass and grew up with it. Nice hub and enlightening too. Now see if you can guess who I am among Campbell cousins with the intials CC. LOL

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      Deborah Brown 7 years ago

      My first festival was Preddy Fest 2008 and I promised all that Preddy Fest 2009 would not be my second. As it turned out, Preddy Fest 2009 was my 4th but still my favorite!

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 7 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Maybe your brain is clouded;o) The picture of you and Tony is nice. I'll send it to you and you can use it if you want to.

    • dineane profile image

      dineane 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for the links :-) I have the hardest time writing about Preddyfest - it's definitely the highlight of my year, our one true vacation. You know if *I* can put up with the ticks and spiders and sleeping in a tent then it must be something special! I just can't seem to do it justice in my writing.

    • John Z profile image

      John Z 7 years ago from Midwest

      I really enjoyed this hub and will check out the bluegrass festivals for this summer.

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