It’s time for Independence Day, the Ferris wheel top of summer heat, and the height of the bluegrass festival season. July 1 is the beginning of a new fiscal year for the IBMA Foundation, and this issue will introduce a new board member, look forward to World of Bluegrass in Raleigh in September, and check in on a couple of grant recipients.
Like many of you, our hearts are heavy after the recent deaths of legendary first generation artists Jesse McReynolds (June 23, age 93) and Bobby Osborne (June 27, age 91). It feels like the oldest tall trees in the forest are coming down. We’ve all grown up in their shade and shelter, twining our roots with theirs for decades. Now Jim & Jesse and the Osborne Brothers are gone, along with fellow pioneers Flatt & Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, Bill Monroe, Reno and Smiley, the Stanley Brothers, and Mac Wiseman. It’s time for the sub-canopy of trees to keep growing and teaching the musicians and historians who will follow us. Bobby and Jesse left hundreds of recordings behind, which will continue to teach and inspire us for generations to come. They both taught dozens of the finest musicians in the genre as members of their bands. Bobby Osborne was a teacher at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass & Traditional Music at Hazard Community & Technical College in Hyden, KY, a program directed by Bobby’s nephew Dean Osborne in the Osborne Brothers’ hometown. We hope to welcome a student band from this college at the September 29-30 Bluegrass College Band Showcase in Raleigh. Around the globe in Kenya, banjo player Tom Wolf recently told me about teaching Jesse’s technique on “Stoney Creek” to young African fiddler Oscar Chilumo Mbwana, a recipient of one of our Arnold Shultz Fund grants. Oscar and his bandmate in the Elephant Grass Musical Chairs Band in Nairobi, Stephanie Mwaura, love scalding off “Dixie Hoedown” —a tune written by Jesse McReynolds—on twin fiddles.
The Ferris wheel keeps turning and the forest keeps growing. Our sincere condolences to the McReynolds and Osborne families, as well as those in the bluegrass community who loved them like family. Thanks to each of you who are doing your part to keep bluegrass music alive and thriving for future generations to play and enjoy!
Here’s your Independence Day soundtrack for today’s newsletter:
“The New Freedom Bell,” by the Country Gentlemen on the Live at Carnegie Hall album (Starday 1962), written by Louise Osborne (Bobby and Sonny’s sister).
“Ruby,” from The Osborne Brothers live on the Bluegrass Country Soul DVD, recorded in 1971 at Carlton Haney’s Labor Day Bluegrass Festival in Camp Springs, NC, with Ronnie Reno joining Bobby and Sonny Osborne on the vocal trio.
“Dream of Me,” from Jim & Jesse live at the Grand Ole Opry around 1990-91, with Jimmy Campbell on fiddle, Vic Jordan on banjo, and Mike Drudge playing guitar.