"The Music That Belonged to Everybody”: Tradition and Innovation in Western North Carolina Bluegrass

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
John Wyatt Martin (Creator)
Institution
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: http://www.library.appstate.edu/
Advisor
James R. Goff

Abstract: This paper examines the experiences of four musicians from Western North Carolina: Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, George Shuffler, and Doc Watson. All four made contributions to the art of acoustic lead guitar playing. This thesis examines their individual accomplishments and seeks to find what made this geographic region such fertile ground for flatpickers. The musicians in this study lived through the period in American music history known as the folk music revival. This event changed and reforged the idea of American roots music, affecting the perception and definition of tradition within American society. Each of the musicians in this study underwent changes as a result. This thesis submits that North Carolinians were able to create innovative new approaches to playing the guitar because they had older traditions to call on. The most helpful of these were the banjo playing techniques that many musicians translated onto the guitar. However, simply drawing on tradition was not enough for some participants in the folk music revival. They demanded an exact representation based on an anti-commercial, anti-establishment interpretation of the past. As such, they cared little for accurate representations of southern music, preferring an idyllic pre-commercial southern life that had in fact never existed.

Additional Information

Publication
Thesis
Martin, J.W. (2010). "The Music That Belonged to Everybody”: Tradition and Innovation in Western North Carolina Bluegrass. Unpublished master’s thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2010
Keywords
Bluegrass, Guitar, Folk Revival, Tradition, Doc Watson, George Shuffler, Earl Scruggs, Don Reno