Next week begins the summer Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman series at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium. Known as the Mother Church of Country Music and the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 through 1974, the Ryman bills this series with the line, “Experience the best in bluegrass on the very stage where bluegrass was born over 60 years ago.” That would be the evening where Earl Scruggs stepped on stage with Bill Monroe. Here’s how Richard D. Smith describes that night in Can’t You Hear Me Callin’: The Life of Bill Monroe:
For Earl’s first night on the Opry, Monroe picked out a fast number that would show off the newcomer’s dazzling style – “White House Blues,” an old song recounting the 1901 William McKinley assassination. It was a perfect selection. Scruggs stepped up to the microphone with apprehension, knowing that nothing like this had been heard to date on the Opry or even over WSM radio.
Use to the banjo as a country comedian’s prop, or hearing it picked or strummed in one of the quaint old styles, the audience was totally unprepared for the speedy, leaping avalanche of notes that issued from the five-string in the hands of the twenty-one-year-old from North Carolina.
They went wild.
For those in middle Tennessee, there’s a strong line-up for this year’s Bluegrass Nights, including Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Ralph Stanley, Jim Lauderdale, Rhonda Vincent, Dan Tyminski, and more. For those coming to Nashville for the National Preservation Conference in October, the opening plenary will be held at the historic Ryman, which has a great preservation story. Both events come highly recommended.
Thanks to the Bluegrass Blog for the note about the Ryman series.
More to come…