BLUEGRASS SOURCES (4th Edition: 9/14/2010)by David E. Wunsch
[Note: This material is copyrighted by David E. Wunsch, and may not be reproduced without his permission. If you have any corrections or comments, contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org or me at email@example.com.]
Bluegrass began in about 1938, when Bill Monroe organized the Bluegrass Boys. Bluegrass music as a genre didn’t yet exist, because it wasn’t yet named. Older songs and tunes couldn’t have been “Bluegrass” when they were written; there was yet no Bluegrass. We have come to call songs and tunes “Bluegrass” if they are, or have been, recorded by a “major” bluegrass band (say Bill Monroe or the Stanley Brothers or Reno and Smiley). This poses the question: What is a “major” Bluegrass band? It is my opinion that a “major” bluegrass band should meet the following criteria:
1. The band must use approximately Bill Monroe's
instrumentation. Which is: 5-string banjo, picked Scruggs style,
fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and upright bass, all acoustic. No keyboard,
no drum, no electrics, no brass, no woodwinds, and no accordion.
There is much room for argument about the proper criteria. There are probably other equally serviceable (or better) lists of criteria than this.
Below is a short list of songs, randomly picked from my memory. It is probably less than 1% of today’s still growing list of Bluegrass songs and tunes, but I think it’s more or less typical. For each song in this list, I looked up some major bluegrass band that has recorded the song, and listed the band here. Most of the tunes listed have also been played and recorded by other major bluegrass bands (sometimes dozens or more), as well.
In the column headed “Original Type of Music” usually I put how I would classify the original type of music, using today’s classifications. In some cases I have shown both how I would classify it today, and how I would have classified it when it was written.
Quite a few of the songs I’ve listed were recorded by the Carter Family in their era, 1927-1941. The Carter Family was NOT a bluegrass band; for one thing bluegrass hadn’t yet been invented nor named, nor did the Carters use what has come to be the proper bluegrass instrumentation. Most of the Carter Family songs were NOT written by A. P. Carter (even though he copyrighted them)! A. P. (or Ralph Peer} apparently knew the value of copyrights, even if many of his hillbilly contemporaries didn’t. Most Carter Family songs are listed (for example) in the book Ballads and Songs Collected by the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, (copyright 1940) by H. M. Belden (ed.), and were collected in about 1909, by Prof. Belden and his students at the University of Missouri, 10 to 18 years before the Carters started to record in 1927. I have a copy of this book.
Several web sites list every song the Carter Family recorded (282 total). See, for example, wwbnews.worldwidebluegrass.com/article32.html and wwbnews.worldwidebluegrass.com/article34.html. The recorded Carter Family songs were a favorite source of Bill Monroe, The Stanley Bros, Flatt and Scruggs, Reno and Smiley, and other early bluegrass bands.
and Date.(As well as I can say.)
|Ain’t Nobody Gonna Miss Me
When I’m Gone
|Jimmy Martin(?)||Bluegrass||Jimmy Martin|
|Are You Tired of Me My Darling||Cook and Roland, 1877||Carter Family||Del McCoury|
|Arkansas Traveler||S.C. Faulkner, about 1846||Folk||Byron Berline|
|Beaumont Rag||Possibly George Peacock
of Smith’s Garage Fiddle Band,
Dallas, Texas, about 1928
|Fiddle Rag||Bill Monroe
(with Richard Greene)
|Beautiful Life, A||William Golden1918||Gospel||Bill Monroe|
|Big Sandy River||Bill Monroe and Kenny Baker||Bluegrass||Bill Monroe;
Reno & Smiley
|Billy in the Low Ground||Trad before 1800;
in the Gow Collection, 1790,
under two other titles
|Scottish Fiddle tune||Flatt and Scruggs|
(unrelated to Irish tune of same name.)
|Trad, before 1900.
Was signature tune of the great
old-time fiddler (blind) Ed Haley
|Fiddle tune||Tony Rice Unit|
|Black Mountain Rag
(Curly Fox’s 1947 record
sold more than 600,000 copies.)
|Based on Scottish tune,
The Lost Child.
|Fiddle tune||Dixie Travelers;
|Blue Moon of Kentucky||Bill Monroe||Bluegrass||Bill Monroe|
|Buffalo Gals||J. C. Hodges, about 1844||Christy Minstrel song||Reno and Smiley|
|Bury Me Beneath the Willow||based on trad. song, per Belden||Carter Family||Stanley Bros.|
|By the Mark||Gillian Welch, about 2006||modern Folk||Daily and Vincent|
|Carry Me Back to Old Virginia||James Bland, 1875||old pop song||Reno and Smiley|
|Chinese Breakdown||Widely played traditional
American Fiddle tune before 1900
|Trad. Fiddle tune||Reno and Smiley, 1965|
|Colored Aristocracy||Gus Bernard, 1899;
Not to be confused with
1911 song of same title.
|Then, a cakewalk,
a form of Negro dance.
Now, Bluegrass fiddle tune
|Columbus Stockade Blues
[Not a blues.]
|Thomas Darby & Jimmy Tarlton, 1927||Country||Bill Monroe|
|Darlin Corey||Trad. thought to be of English origin||Folk||Bluegrass Cardinals|
|Devil’s Dream||Trad. Scots before 1800||Scots fiddle tune||Bill Monroe|
|Done Gone||Matt Brown (?) Dallas, Texas,
|Fiddle tune||Don Stover; M. Lynch;
1960s Monroe radio
show (not recorded).
|Don’t That Road Look Rough and Rocky
(Similar songs have other titles.)
|Trad. before 1930.
Shares some common lyrics
with some other recorded songs
No known recordings
|Flatt and Scruggs|
|Down in the Willow Garden
(has many other titles).
|Trad, before 1810||Now, old time.
Then, murder ballad
|Faded Love||Bob and Johnnie Wills, 1950||Country Ballad||Ronnie Reno,
w/Glenville State College
|Farewell Blues||Paul Mares, about 1930||Dixieland Jazz||Flatt and Scruggs|
(Fischer was a member of Handels Orch.)
|Written by a German oboe player,
and Chris Thile
|Flop-Eared Mule||Possibly Ukrainian||Fiddle tune||Kentucky Colonels|
|Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss||Trad. Appalachian before 1920||Old time||Charley Moore|
|Foggy Mountaintop||Trad., before 1916, Per Cecil Sharpe||Carter Family song||Vern Williams|
|Fraulien||Lawton Williams 1957||Country||Bill Monroe|
|Little Annie (Based on Steven
Foster’s Gentle Annie, 1856.)
be based on Annie Laurie.
I don’t hear it.
and Laurie Lewis
|Get Along Home Cindy||Possibly of Negro origin, before 1900||Folk||Bill Monroe,
with K. Baker
|Goodby Lisa Jane||Edward Fox, around 1900||Minstrel dance tune||Reno and Smiley|
|Gold Watch and Chain||Apparently based on 1879 song
Is There No Kiss for Me Tonight, per Belden
|Carter Family||Doug Dillard|
|Hello Stranger||Trad. before 1900||Carter Family||Flatt and Scruggs|
|Homestead on the Farm||I Wonder How The
Old Folks Are At Home
by Lambert and Vandersloot. 1909
|Carter Family||Flatt and Scruggs|
|Home Sweet Home||W. Howard Payne
M. Henry Bishop 1823
Now, Old ballad.
|Flatt and Scruggs|
|I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry||Hank Williams, about 1949||Country||Bill Monroe|
|I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes||Trad, before 1800||Carter Family||Jimmie Martin
with J. D. Crowe
|I Never Will Marry||Based on 1864 song
Oh, My Love's Gone, per Belden
|Carter Family song||John Duffey
of Seldom Scene
|I Saw The Light||Hank Williams 1948||Country gospel||Bill Monroe|
|I Still Miss Someone||Johnny Cash 1958||Country ballad||Earl Scruggs|
|I Wonder How the Old Folks Are at Home||W. Lambert; M. Lincoln 1922||Now Bluegrass||Kentucky Colonels|
|I’m Using My bible for a Roadmap||Don Reno, about 1952||Bluegrass Gospel||Reno and Smiley|
|Jimmy Brown the Newsboy||William Shakespeare Hays 1875||Carter Family||Flatt and Scruggs;
|John Hardy (Was a Desperate Little Man )||John Hardy,
Eckman, W VA, 1893
|Old-time ballad||Bill Monroe;
|Keep on the Sunny Side||Gospel song by Ada Blenkhorn
and J Howard Entwisle. 1899
|Carter Family||Flatt and Scruggs|
|Kentucky Waltz||Bill Monroe, before 1945||Bluegrass||Bill Monroe|
|Last Thing on My Mind, The
||Tom Paxton 1963||modern Folk||Kentucky Colonels.
Navy Bluegrass Band
|Little Darlin' Pal of Mine||Trad. lyrics. Melody is the spiritual,
When The World's On Fire. 1900s
||Flatt and Scruggs|
|Long Black Veil, The
||Danny Dill & Marijohn Wilkin,
|Imitation folk||Bill Monroe|
|Lorena||Rev. H.D.L.D. Webster, 1856.||Pop then, now Old time||Seldom Scene|
|Louise||Paul Siebel 1970||modern folk||Goldrush Bluegrass Band
|My Dixie Darling||Based on Gillispie and Weinrich
song, Dixie Darlings. 1907
|Carter Family song||Byron Berline|
|Nellie Kane||Tim O’Brien 1989?||Bluegrass||Hot Rize|
|Old Home Place||Albert Brumley||Now, bluegrass.
|Reno and Smiley.|
|On the Rock Where Moses Stood.
(AKA Crying Holy Unto The Lord)
|Based on Trad spiritual,
||Flatt and Scruggs|
|Ragtime Annie||Trad. American, before 1900||Trad fiddle tune||Frank Wakefield|
|Rank Strangers To Me||Albert Brumley, about 1937||Now, Bluegrass
or Old time.
|Red Clay Halo||Gillian Welch, about 2000||modern folk||The Nashville Bluegrass Band|
|Remington Ride||Herb Remington, about 1950||Today, bluegrass.
|Reno and Smiley|
|Rosin the Beau
(More than a dozen other titles and lyrics,
including Old Settler’s Song, and Lincoln
and Liberty Too.)
|Trad. Irish melody, can be
traced back to before 1760
|St. Anne’s Reel||Trad in Quebec before 1937||Fiddle reel||Country Gazettes|
|Soldier’s Joy (More than
a dozen titles and sets of lyrics)
|Trad. Earliest mention I found in print is 1778.
Also has French and Swedish names.
|Fiddle tune song||Bill Monroe|
|Some Old Day||John Duffey||Bluegrass||J. D. Crowe
& New South.
|Time Changes Everything||Tommy Duncan 1941||Country||Bill Monroe|
|Under the Double Eagle||Josef Wagner, about 1882.
Don’t confuse with Richard Wagner
|Austrian March||Reno and Smiley|
|Wayfaring Stranger||Traditional black?||spiritual||Bill Monroe|
|Wheels||Think I got it from a Danish guitar player in the 50s||?||Chet Atkins 1950s|
|When the Roses Bloom In Dixieland||George "Honeyboy" Evans. 1913||Carter Family||Osborne Bros|
|When You and I
Were Young Maggie
|Words, 1864, G. W. Washington
Music, about 1890, James Butterfield
|Whiskey Before Breakfast||Trad.||Trad. Irish Fiddle Tune||Tony Rice|
|Whistling Rufus.|| Recorded on wax cylinder in 1899 by
Vess Ossman, on 5 string banjo. He got it from ?
with Ron Stewart
(Original title was
I'll Twine 'Mid the Ringlets)
|Copyright by W. Maude Irving &
M. J. P. Webster 1859.
|Then, pop ballad,
then Carter Family song.
Now, Bluegrass or Old Time
|Flatt and Scruggs;
|Will the Circle be Unbroken||W. Ruth Habershon & M. Charles Gabriel 1907||First Gospel,
then Carter Family
|Will You Miss me When I’m Gone||H. P. Danksabout 1864||Gospel,
then Carter Family
|You Are My Flower||A. P. Carter 1938||Carter Family song||Flatt and Scruggs|