Bean Blossom Festival 1971

rick 1.jpg

This exhibit features the Hatch Show print used to promote Bill Monroe’s fifth annual Bean Blossom festival staged in June of 1971. Bill Monroe was known for his tough willpower, fierce artistic competitiveness, gristly stubbornness, and lengthy feuds. (1)  Given these qualities, his 1971 Bean Blossom festival was historical in featuring two artists whose appearances would have previously seemed unlikely.

Monroe, who jealously guarded the conservative tradition of “his music,” had booked an act considered to be outside of the traditional mainstream of bluegrass. Noted in the poster as a “special guest,” was John Hartford, sporting unkempt long hair and beard, in contradistinction to his former clean-cut Glen Campbell Show appearances. In addition to Hartford on the banjo, his band was comprised of guitarist Norman Blake, dobroist Tut Taylor, and fiddler Vassar Clements. (2) This band had just finished recording Hartford’s groundbreaking album, Aereo-Plain, an album many consider as “pioneering a mix of young and old, of tradition and originality, of reverence and abandon.” (3) This mix would ultimately become known as “newgrass,” a variation of Monroe’s music that he admittedly disliked, though it would become popular with a large portion of bluegrass fans. (4)  Mandolinist Sam Bush, later founder of the progressive New Grass Revival, was there for Hartford’s performance. Says Bush, ” I’ve said many times without the Aereo-Plain album or band there wouldn’t have been any New Grass Revival. It was the first time where people truly used acoustic bluegrass instruments to create original contemporary music…It was the origins of what some people might call Newgrass.” (5) The fact that Bill Monroe booked Hartford suggests that his long-standing hard line traditionalism might be softening, an encouraging nod to the increasing youth of the festival crowds.

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The second unexpected event at the 1971 festival was the reunion of Bill Monroe and his former lead singer, Lester Flatt. The men had not spoken to each other for decades. (6) Although Monroe dismissed Flatt’s appearance as his son James’s “doings,” he greeted Lester with a handshake and “Welcome to Bean Blossom”(7),  after which they performed “Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” and “Little Cabin on the Hill” together. The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, from New Zealand, had made their American debut at this festival. Their fiddler, Colleen Trenwith, kept a journal of the experience, and wrote of the Monroe-Flatt reunion: “That was the most exciting moment of the festival and the applause was upstanding and lasted for ages.” (8) The resolution of this longstanding feud proved so popular with the crowd that Lester and his band played the Bean Blossom Festival every year until his death in 1979. (9)


Bean Blossom, Thomas Adler


As bluegrass historian Neil Rosenberg notes, “Those who attended the 1971 Bean Blossom festival considered it a milestone, confirming their faith in the power of the music.” (10)

-Rick Gentry



(1) Can’t You Hear Me Callin’: The Life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass, Richard D. Smith,

Da Capo Press, 2000,  pp. 63-64.


(2) Bean Blossom: The Brown County Jamboree and Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Festivals, Thomas

  1. Adler, University of Illinois Press, 2011, p. 120.


(3) John Hartford: Pilot of a Steam Powered Aereo-Plain, Andrew Vaughan, StuffWorks Press,

2013, p. 9.


(4) Bluegrass, A History, Neil Rosenberg, University of Illinois Press, 2005, p. 319.


(5) Vaughan 2013, p.10.


(6) Rosenberg 2005, p. 291.


(7) Smith 2000, p. 220.


(8) Personal Journal, June 10 – August 4, Colleen Trenwith, 1971, p. 12.


(9) Adler 2011, p. 122.


(10) Rosenberg 2005, p. 291.



Related Links – sound recordings of the Bean Blossom 1971 festival – home movie of Bean Blossom 1971

“A Performer’s View on Audiences at Union Grove – A New Crowd”

As bluegrass exploded in popularity in the 1960s, festivals in the 1970s began attracting a variety of attendees. Specifically, the 1970s saw an increase in youth becoming involved in the music. Not only were bluegrass festivals significant in this time period due to their attraction of a younger crowd, but folk festivals and old-time fiddlers conventions showed similarities in this aspect as well. In this case, a collaboration of photos of the audiences at the 1973 Union Grove Fiddler’s Convention was a prime example of the growth of a younger crowd (1). Read the history of the event here (2).


It’s important to emphasize the bluegrass festival in relation to bluegrass culture. The expansion of the genre (stylistically and generationally) explains how the music was adapted and changed following youth interest. “Youngsters who had learned to play […] in a bluegrass style soon began to experiment with one or all of those variables – instrumentation, lyrical genre, and stylistic approach – leading bluegrass into new territories […] The result of these experiments were variable, and a number of labels, especially “progressive bluegrass” and “newgrass” were applied as descriptors” (3). Having youth involved and enthusiastically interested in bluegrass (as well as old-time, progressive folk, etc.) like as is depicted in this photo, even at an old-time fiddlers convention like Union Grove, proves to be a determining factor in the evolution of “newgrass.” These photos are representative of the young listeners interested in bluegrass (wherever bluegrass was found) that eventually began to incorporate a wider audience. Here is an example of a post titled “Union Grove Fiddlers’ Convention,” detailing the other types of audience members this event attracted (4). Additionally, it note the array of people photographed in clippings here, from newspapers beginning in 1970 documenting Union Grove. Notice the women and youth especially (5).


In surveying this collaboration of photographs, striking is the amount of youth in the crowds. Presentations of youth and generational diversity exemplifies the expansion of the bluegrass genre during this time in history. In fact, having festivals put on by someone like Carlton Haney during this time was beneficial to younger, hippie-esque crowds. “Bill Monroe was a religion to Carlton Haney, but he was not a musical conservative” […] The growing divides between generations and his adaptations to such “showed Carlton’s appreciation for the wider scope of bluegrass” (6). However, it can’t be surely stated that there was tension among audience members. The image of younger audiences, with their long hair, glowing smiles, and enthusiasm towards the music can bring light to possible tensions across 1970s bluegrass communities. Consequently, bluegrass was a way of bringing people from varying backgrounds together. “It was as if the generational and racial tensions of the times were, like social differences between jam-session participants, forgotten or neutralized at these festivals” (7). To further reiterate this point, see here an elaboration on this, in a post called “Bluegrass and The Counter Culture” (8). As younger audiences and players started having influence on the genre, tensions arose between hardcore traditionalists and boundary-pushing progressivists. This festival eventually got too rowdy for the older crowds, as it “became an alternative to going to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break for college students” (3). Experimentation in things beyond just the songs became a detriment to the festival community and family orientation of the bluegrass festival. However, this did not cease the outpouring of love for the music from folks across the spectrum.

Perhaps the images of long-haired hippies at Union Grove in 1973, though seemingly positive and bringing generations together, was proof of a growing divide among the older and younger folks. More likely, however, is that despite the tensions, overall there was a larger feeling of togetherness and inclusion among bluegrass fans.


-Sophie Galep



Works Cited and Other Notes


  1. ETSU Archives of Appalachia. Bernard Rousseau Collection. “Easter Time is Music Time” Photo Album.
  2. Fiddler’s Grove official website,
  3. The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture Volume 12: Music, by Charles Reagan. Wilson and Bill C. Malone, The University of North Carolina Press, 2014, pp. 27–28.
  4. Carter, Zachary. “Union Grove Fiddlers’ Convention.” Bluegrass History, 10 Sept. 2014.
  5. “Documents.” Fiddler’s Grove Retrospective: 1970-2000, University of North Carolina.
  6. Fred Bartenstein. Personal Communication. 26 March 2018.
  7. Bluegrass, A History. Neil V. Rosenberg, University of Illinois Press, 2005 p. 288.
  8. Ingersoll, Jeff. “Bluegrass and The Counter Culture.” Bluegrass Scenes And Sounds, 20 Apr. 2015.

Black Mountain Spring Festival – 1984

In 1984, the second annual Black Mountain Spring Festival took place in Black Mountain, NC. Black Mountain is a town located in Buncombe County out of Asheville, NC. The festival was presented by the Grey Eagle & Friends nonprofit organization. David M. Peele, Fred Park, and Elizabeth Ann Wyndelts directed the event. McDibbs, a local iconic music house founded by David Peele, sponsored the event. (Wikipedia).

The festival reinforced the consensus of traditional and folk music being the primary sound for the area. Most of the audience was made up of folk music fans. The so-called “longhairs” came to enjoy the traditional music of the festival along with the dancing. This is evident in the type of performers the festival booked; the nature of the bands that performed were of the traditional and folk persuasion. Performers like Sparky Rucker and The Georgia Sea Island Singers were big folk names at the festival; traditional performers like Norman Blake and the trio Dalglish, Larson, Sutherland were also in concert. The type of performers that were present at the festival reflect the type of audience that was in attendance. The festival happened in the early 80s and was a scene for the growing folk music boom. Many people were increasingly becoming fans of the instrumental numbers done by these types of musicians. Trio Dalglish, Larson, Sutherland was a combination of traditional and neo-Celtic music. Their repertoire almost entirely consisted of instrumental numbers. (AllMusic). The audience that was present at the 1984 Black Mountain Spring Festival genuinely appreciated the music that they came to see. Throughout the course of this semester our class has discussed the shift in audience demographic among these festivals. This festival portrays a growing demographic of folk traditionalists. Because of this surge bands began to also play more music of this persuasion. However, unlike many other festivals such as Haney’s or Bean Blossom, this festival was solely focused on folk and traditional music.

Perhaps the biggest reason for this was that this was a college town. Black Mountain college was not too far away. Many of the fans in the audience was most likely made up of college students. McDibbs music house was instrumental in showcasing amateur and local talent; it became a landmark that set the stage for this kind of music in the Asheville area. This all became reflective under the festival’s direction by David Peele, who owned McDibbs.

-Kaleigh Kemp

Work Cited

Hollifield, Adrienne, and A.D. Anderson. “McDibbs.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Feb. 2018, Accessed 27 March 2018.

Harris, Craig. “Malcolm Dalglish | Biography & History.” AllMusic, Accessed 28 March 2018.

The Bluegrass Festival as a Community Outside of Culture

John Mullins

When bluegrass came to be and its sound poured out of the mountains, it brought the tradition of community and cohesion with it.  Despite the music being stereotypically associated with mountain folk or “hillbillies”, its influence spread far and wide, catching the ear of a broad and unsuspecting group of people, and bringing them together at what is the bluegrass festival.

Since Carlton Haney’s first bluegrass festival in 1965, a new era in bluegrass was sparked.  Haney combined the then-popular folk festival with the layout of fiddling conventions, old-time music contests, religious gatherings, and community concert gatherings (2).  The success of Haney’s first festival sparked the “festival era” as the idea of a bluegrass festival rooted itself across the country (3).  These festivals had a unique quality that was not shared with any other type of festival of that time, however.  The growing crowds that attended were from a wide variety of backgrounds, a melting pot of conservative, liberal, old and young.  Despite having major differences, these groups came together to listen to the music and play together, or jam. Haney echoes this in a statement he made in the documentary “Bluegrass Country Soul” where he says, “Long hairs and short hairs pick together, everybody gets along at the bluegrass festival.” (1)

Fans of bluegrass came from all over the country to heart of these festivals in the mountainous southeast and set aside differences to listen to the bands perform.  As Neil Rosenberg, in an interview with Michelle Kisliuk in reference to the first festival, says “While there was some polarization between the citybillies and the hillbillies in the small crowd, many of those present shared an enthusiasm for the music that transcended cultural differences.” (2).  Bluegrass festivals created a common unity amongst people, despite their personal backgrounds.  It created a sense of community outside of politics and personal life for festival goers.

The advent of the bluegrass festival is arguably one of the most important aspects of bluegrass as it spread the sound to people who would have most likely never heard of bluegrass.  Michelle Kisliuk says in her article “A Special Kind of Courtesy” that “The festival was the main factor that contributed to the growth and spread of bluegrass.” (2).  The festival led to diverse crowds otherwise outside of the bluegrass stereotype that shared a common love for the music. Bluegrass brought a sense of community to fans, despite differences all were tied together through the music and its Appalachian roots.

– John Mullins

Works Cited

  1. Archives of Appalachia. Denemoustier Collection. ://
  2. Ihde, A. (Director). (1971). Bluegrass Country Soul[Video file]. United States: Washington Film Group.
  3. Kisliuk, M. (1988). “A Special Kind of Courtesy”: Action at a Bluegrass Festival Jam Session. Tulane Drama Review,32(3), 141. doi:10.2307/1145912
  4. Rosenberg, N. V. (2005). Bluegrass: A History. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Bass Mountain Bluegrass Park

Jacob Wright.jpgThe flyer above is an advertisement for the 5th Annual Memorial Day Weekend Festival. Bass Mountain is located just south of Burlington, North Carolina where today it is the location of the Lil John’s Mountain Music Festival. At this particular festival in 1983, the lineup included the “father of bluegrass”, Bill Monroe who is noted for his lead role in creating the genre celebrated by many today. Other notable acts include the Lewis family, the Johnson Mountain Boys, Del McCoury and the Dixie Pals, Stoney Ridge, Dave Evans and the River Bend, and a local band known as the Bass Mountain Boys.

The Bass Mountain Boys are an interesting subject when talking about this festival because they are the group who were responsible for putting together the festival. Shortly after Camp Springs had dwindled down in its business, Bass Mountain Bluegrass Park sprung up because there was no other competition. It was built completely by this band of friends who promoted it themselves as well. (1)

Also, on the bottom of this flyer it is interesting to note the strictness with which alcohol is banned. This type of behavior, however did not pertain to just Bluegrass festivals but rather festivals of all kinds and is a normal occurrence of festivals. Most festivals, however, try to fight this issue through banning alcohol as we see here. (2)

One interesting character to note of this festival was a separate structure made just for those who wished to dance to the music being played on stage. (1) From this platform, they could dance without disturbing the spectators and without dancing in mud or dirt. This was a simple way for dancers to enjoy the performances in harmony with those who did not wish to dance. This is somewhat of a good representation of the diversity of the crowds at festivals like this one and the issue of coexistence between them. The question in this time period was, “How do you make these different groups of people live peaceably together for a weekend?”

In this case, the Festival would cater to the more progressive crowds as well as traditional by hosting two different festivals. One was set over Memorial Day weekend and another was to be held in August. The Memorial Day festival was a more traditional festival and the August one was more progressive (1) so that way both crowds could have their own festival in which they could enjoy their favorite artists. This flyer, of course, is from the Memorial Day festival but the August festival was just as important if not more important in welcoming crowds with fresh ideas.

This idea of two different festivals was just one of several tactics to cope with the expanding family of Bluegrass which was quickly gaining new backgrounds and different views about the music and this festival is just one of many that helped to unite the “family” of Bluegrass.

– Jacob Wright

Sources Cited:

Freeman, Herschel; Bluegrass Unlimited, March 1982 “Bass Mountain Boys; Picking and Promoting in Piedmont”

Rosenberg, Neil V. Bluegrass: a History. University of Illinois

Bluegrass Unlimited

Bluegrass Unlimited is one of the most popular bluegrass magazines in the world. Bluegrass Unlimited was first published in July 1966. The magazine is still going strong and has had a circulation of more than 25,000 copies. The magazine publishes twelve issues a year. They publish a new issue each month. Because of their long history and wide collection of articles Bluegrass Unlimited is known as the premier magazine for bluegrass. Bluegrass Unlimited was a founding member of the International Bluegrass Music Association(IBMA). Shown here is a index of every record review the magazine has published. The magazine is based out of Warrenton, Virginia. The magazine publishes news relevant to the bluegrass community along with record reviews, stories, and upcoming events. Shown below is the index for all the record reviews the magazine published from July 1966-July 1981. This index shows the variety of bluegrass, old time, and country the bluegrass community listened to. In order to appeal to all their readers Bluegrass Unlimited did reviews on music not strictly bluegrass. The bluegrass community is full of people who listen to all kinds of music and come from different backgrounds. Because of that, it is not a surprise that there are conflicts among them, but is amazing to see how well they all get along.

-Andy Stinnett

Andy Stinnent.jpg

The Scene

The Seldom Scene is a Bluegrass band formed in 1971 in Bethesda, Maryland. Three of the Seldom Scene members were former members of the Country Gentlemen. The group hit hard in Bluegrass-world when they released their debut album ‘‘ Act I’’ in 1972. A lot happened for the band in 1972. The Seldom Scene would play their first Bluegrass Folk Festival at the American Legion Country Music Park in Culpeper, Virginia, organized by Jim Clark (1). Seldom Scene mandolin player John Duffey had a chat at this festival with Carlton Haney and head of Rebel Records Dick Freeland (2). Jim’s festival at that time and drew a lot of visitors and was popular among youngsters. Muleskinner New reported that ‘’Jim proved the success of Blue Grass Music’s appeal to the youth audience; approximately 75 percent of the crowed was between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five (1)’’. Drawing that kind of audience was rare for that time. Member of the Seldom Scene were:

  • John Starling –           Guitar
  • John Duffey –           Mandolin
  • Ben Eldridge –           Banjo
  • Mike Auldridge – Dobro
  • Tom Gray –           Bass


The Seldom Scene played all kinds of different shows and venues. This picture of the Seldom Scene is not tied to a particular Bluegrass festival. The picture was taken in 1972 at The National Parks Centennial that took place that year (3). The Seldom Scene performed for the United States the Department of Interior in 1972 on March 19 as part of the Centennial celebration (4). There are wo rare things about this photograph. One is that the band is wearing a uniform, what they only did this for a small amount of time in 1972. The Seldom Scene would start wear more casual clothing because they were more seen as a progressive Bluegrass group during that time. (5) Wearing more informal outfits on stage was part of being a progressive Bluegrass band. Tom says ‘‘We’re all in dressed in that band uniform. We gave up on that within our first year (4).’’ Another rare aspect of this photograph is the mandolin John Duffey is playing. It is a so called ‘’Duck’’ mandolin build by himself, he didn’t play this Mandolin for long.

This photograph was found in the Leon McIntyre collection from the Archives of Appalachia:

The Scene

at the East Tennessee State University (6). It is unknown who added speech balloons and names to the picture and why the person did that, it might have been something they said on stage during their performance. The Seldom Scene exists out of humorous bandmembers, perhaps this drew humorous audiences!

-Owen Schinkel




(1) Bluegrass: a History, Neil V. Rosenberg, University of Illinois Press, 2005 p. 298, 299


(2) Photo by Carl Fleischhauer. Dick Freeland, John Duffey and Carlton Haney in Culpeper, Virginia, June 10, 1972.


(3) Eldridge, Ben. ‘‘Research question (Photograph).’’ Owen Schinkel. 03-24-2018. Email.


(4) Gray, Tom. ‘‘Picture Scene 1972.’’ Owen Schinkel. 03-27-2018. Email.


(5) Seldom Scene at Berkshire Mountains Festival in Ancramdale, New York, 1970’s.


(6) ETSU Archives of Appalachia Leon McIntyre Collection, Box 19, Folder

Longhairs in a Tree: But Can They Hear The Music?

What are the words that first come to mind when looking at this photo? Hippies? Peace? Love? Most likely, your first thought wasn’t “bluegrass” or any type of music term. When put in context, however, this photo is a strong representation of the social aspect of bluegrass and string music in the 1970’s.

This photo was taken in 1978 at the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention in Union Grove, North Carolina. Throughout the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, the social scene within bluegrass music changed dramatically. A historian named Thomas Goldsmith said “festivals took on a cross-cultural aspect as newly interested rockers and hard-core bluegrass fans showed up at events from coast to coast” (1). This image is a strong depiction of the emergence of these new audiences at music festivals. Neil Rosenberg, a renowned bluegrass historian, referred to newcomers like those pictured as “longhairs”. The popularity of bluegrass festivals rose with the emergence of rock music festivals, and bluegrass audiences grew in both size and diversity as a result (2). There were many things caused by this growth. Perhaps the most controversial of these was the increase of drug and alcohol abuse at festivals. As one of dozens of festivals throughout the Eastern United States at the time, the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention had a reputation during the ‘70’s for the presence of drug and alcohol. Growth in the diversity of festival audiences also contributed to a shift in the focus of the fan base; from music-focused audiences to more social-focused audiences. Perhaps during this time the ratio of “pickers” to “grinners” was changing (3). Rosenberg said “Bluegrass festivals were now attracting people who came not because they knew about the music but because they had heard good things about these events, outdoor musical festivals which resembled rock or folk festivals” (2). Based off the photo, these “longhairs” appear to be more concerned about getting several people into a tree than they are with anything music related.

This broadening of the fan base may also have correlation with the entrance of more “newgrass” type music during the ‘70’s. The interest of these newcomers was quite possibly sparked by the merging of bluegrass music with other, more familiar genres. On the other hand, the presence of these more “liberal-minded” people may have created a more open-minded atmosphere for the expansion of bluegrass to be more accepted. (See Rick Gentry, “Bean Blossom 1971” – softe2941005-5610632 – Kylie Anderson- Mar 29, 2018 233 PM – Rousseau Box 2 Folder 14ning of Monroe’s traditionalism, inclusion of “newgrass”). For other examples of bluegrass festivals during this time period, see Kaleigh Kemp, “Black Mountain 1984”

-Kylie Anderson

1)Goldsmith, Thomas.The Bluegrass Reader. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2006.

2)Rosenberg, Neil V.Bluegrass: A History. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005.

3)Graves, Bill. “Pickin’ and grinnin’.” Trailer Life, December 1992, 26+. General OneFile (accessed March 29, 2018).

1973 Union Grove Campground Unification

“Easter time is Music time”…according to the cover of the Picture album of the 1973 Union Grove Old Time Fiddler’s Convention, where the statement jumps out at the reader in bold font, serving as a call to any and all music lovers. That call was something that, as it becomes clear through perusing the album, was offered to and taken up on by a wide variety of music lovers; and while there were social aspects that could’ve been seen as causing a potential rift in the diverse festival goers, there is a palpable and inspiring togetherness at the festival that can be seen through this 1973 artifact. That togetherness achieved at this festival and others at that time pushed the music forward and helped shape bluegrass through the decade.                      The first page of the Union Grove album offers a short history on the festival, and focuses largely on the different areas in the country people would come from, such as New York, New Jersey, or “even Iowa.” The invitation and warm welcoming to from this small town in North Carolina is made crystal clear from the simple ending sentence: “YA’LL COME.” (1)                     The rest of the artifact consists of pictures from the festival, and this is where the concept of the growing and different audiences for bluegrass festivals during this time period becomes so clearly apparent. One picture seems to be taken from a stage inside one of the main event tents, and the crowd is almost entirely comprised of young adults with long hair, thick rimmed glasses, and most of all an apt attention to whatever music was being made on the stage. While there are certainly still cowboy and trucker hats on heads with cleaner haircuts to be spotted mingling in the crowd, the overwhelming number of audience members clearly not from the area attest to just how much attention bluegrass festivals were getting from other areas.                                                         In an interview with Fred Bartenstein, Carlton Haney addressed the development of bluegrass festivals saying, “It’s just like somebody inventing a new style of clothes or food. If they like it, they’re going to go after it.” (2)                                                                                                         While bluegrass music was certainly not brand new at this point, it was just getting discovered by the “longhairs,” and they were certainly going after it, and being welcomed in by the “hillbillies,” creating a novel social togetherness not typically found in other social settings. Differences, backgrounds, religion and politics were put aside to unify in a mutual interest and fascination with the music. Folklorist Roger D. Abrahams spoke to this, how festivals constituted cultural pluralism in operation, being held on neutral ground: “there are numerous times when the festival feeling insists that such (existing social) structure be ignored, inverted, or flatly denied.” (3)                                                 All the pictures in this 1973 album attest to that “festival feeling.” Another picture in the album features a sticker on the back of a jacket that reads “Enjoy Life – Fiddle Around.” This seemed to be a Union Grove motto, as the photos show all different types of people coming together to quite literally fiddle around, and enjoy the mountain music known as bluegrass.

-Sophia Chambers


Sources:                                                                                                                                                          1. Archives of Appalachia, Rousseau collection, box 2, Pictorial album of Union Grove Old Time Fiddler’s Convention, 1973;                                                                                                      2. The Bluegrass Reader, edited by Thomas Goldsmith, “The Carlton Haney Story;” 3. Bluegrass, a History, by Neil Rosenberg, pg. 275;

Crowd Diversity

Where can you find people of dissimilar ages, gender, and race looking passed social stigmas and integrating for enjoyment?  Notice what you see in the pictures.  A middle-aged, clean-shaven, suburban man holding a young boy that appears to be his son.  He is standing amid a very well dressed older man in a suit and a bearded, college-aged photographer.    You can notice an Black person with an impassive face right behind an older couple who give the impression to be laughing at some joke that had been told on stage.  As you scan through the crowd, you notice a heavier set man that appears to be singing along with a song as a young boy sitting two rows in front of him is engulfed in pure fascination.  What are these people’s stories?   Why are they there?  Where did they all come from?  Were they looking for a new tradition?

These are images of some of the individual personalities that represent the crowd of Indian Springs Bluegrass Festival in Hagerstown, MD around 1979-1980.  According to an article in The Washington Post from 1978, it was “inevitably the most friendly, well organized, and pleasant festivals hereabout.”  “The crowds really love it and they come from all over (Phillips).”  People who had grown up in different states and communities had found a mutuality with the Bluegrass festivals of this era.  Like other festivals, the crowd in the photos at Indian Springs Bluegrass Festival shared an experience that allowed for so many different people to come together.  The festival created a chance for people from radically diverse backgrounds to overlook the social stigmas of race, generational gaps, and social status resulting in a “friendlier” audience.

So why were they together?  Was it a desire for tradition?  People have had tendencies to want to belong to traditions.  Festival-going tends to turn to habit; but traditions start from delight.  They were composed by the enjoyment and pleasure of a common factor.  The music.

The music is what organized the people.  Though their upbringings differed, the music sounded the same in every part of the country; as was their love and desire for it.   In an interview on National Public Radio, Jon Weisberger reflected on his ethnic difference from where he grew up in contrast to Appalachian culture.  Why his diaspora through cultures was accepted?  “What I found was that for me personally, as somebody who was not from an Appalachian migrant background, that my cultural background and leanings put me in one milieu, but my musical passion put me in another one.  Musically I felt I belonged completely, but socially I was an outsider.  The way you become an insider is by listening and learning (Hight).”

By attending the festival, they immediately had an icebreaker with practically every patron on the festival grounds.  They could converse about how they got into the music and favorite bands, or simply jam in the background.  It wasn’t tradition that brought these people together and they were not necessarily attending the festival because of the chance of meeting new people, they were following the music.

-Tyler Griffith




Hight, Jewly. “A Bigger Tent: A Frank Conversation About Diversity And The Future Of Bluegrass.” National Public Radio – The Record 28 December 2017. Website. <;.

McIntyre, Leon. Bluegrass Performances, (black and white), 1979 – 1980, undated. Indian Springs Bluegrass Festival, Series 6, Box 19. East Tennessee State University, Archives of Appalachia, Johnson City.

Phillips, Angus. “Bluegrass: The Friendliness Festival of All.” The Washington Post 2 June 1978. Newspaper.



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