Bluegrass Bluesman

Bluegrass Bluesman

A Memoir

Book - 2012
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A pivotal member of the hugely successful bluegrass band Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, Dobro pioneer Josh Graves (1927-2006) was a living link between bluegrass music and the blues. In Bluegrass Bluesman, this influential performer shares the story of his lifelong career in music.

In lively anecdotes, Graves describes his upbringing in East Tennessee and the climate in which bluegrass music emerged during the 1940s. Deeply influenced by the blues, he adapted Earl Scruggs's revolutionary banjo style to the Dobro resonator slide guitar and gave the Foggy Mountain Boys their distinctive sound. Graves' accounts of daily life on the road through the 1950s and 1960s reveal the band's dedication to musical excellence, Scruggs' leadership, and an often grueling life on the road. He also comments on his later career when he played in Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass and the Earl Scruggs Revue and collaborated with the likes of Boz Scaggs, Charlie McCoy, Kenny Baker, Eddie Adcock, Jesse McReynolds, Marty Stuart, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, and his three musical sons. A colorful storyteller, Graves brings to life the world of an American troubadour and the mountain culture that he never left behind.

Born in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, Josh Graves (1927-2006) is universally acknowledged as the father of the bluegrass Dobro. In 1997 he was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.
Publisher: Urbana : University of Illinois Press, [2012], ©2012.
ISBN: 9780252078644
0252078640
Branch Call Number: 782.42092 GRAVES
Characteristics: xiii, 133 pages, [16] pages of plates : illustrations ; 23 cm
Additional Contributors: Bartenstein, Fred - Editor

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DWIGHT A GREEN
Mar 11, 2016

Josh Graves (1927–2006), the legendary Dobro player, gave several interviews over the last ten to fifteen years of his life, several specifically for an “as told to” autobiography. Fred Bartenstein compiled these interviews, allowing Graves to tell the story of his life in an extremely fun format, full of anecdotes and ruminations. It’s a loose, rambling presentation I think works extremely well.

After kicking around the bluegrass circuit and building a name for himself, Graves joined The Foggy Mountain Boys, the backing band for Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, as a bass player in 1955. He switched to Dobro, adding to the group’s distinctive sound since no other bluegrass group used the instrument. The rest, as they say, is history as Graves became known as a Dobro pioneer.

Included in Graves' ruminations are some things in (the then) modern bluegrass world that had been lost over the last few decades. An area he relishes talking about is the comedy routines he and Jake Tullock performed as Uncle Josh and Cousin Jake. While he doesn’t feel shows need to keep a comedy act, he does lament the general lack of interaction between performers and audience. As part of that interaction, Graves places a lot of emphasis on performers encouraging their fans, recalling how when he was about nine years old he almost wet his pants when meeting Cliff Carlisle (a Dobro player for Jimmie Rodgers and other groups). Carrying on that tradition, Graves fondly tells about meeting and encouraging a twelve-year old Jerry Douglas. The final chapter provides testimony from Graves’ contemporaries and many people he influenced, including Douglas who recalls the meeting and getting to play “the Holy Grail of Dobros” when Graves takes time to give him a lesson around a campfire after a show.

Bluegrass is definitely an acquired taste, but this is a memoir I thoroughly enjoyed and have no hesitation in recommending.

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