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The University of Hartford

Bluegrass "First Generation" Ceremony at IBMM
by Kevin Lynch, Host of UH Bluegrass Saturday
 9am to 1pm

If you read the previous WWUH Program Guide you know that Thursday, April 11, 2002 marked the grand opening of the International Bluegrass Music Museum (IBMM) at the River Park Center in Owensboro, Kentucky. After two years of complete renovation the museum now consists of two floors of Bluegrass memorabilia, history, interactive displays, and even a glimpse into the bright future of Bluegrass music.
On this day one could find Kentucky's Governor Paul Patton and the Mayor of Owensboro mingling with Bluegrass fans, artists, festival promoters, radio personalities, recording company representatives, International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) officials, board members of The Bill Monroe Foundation, and nearly 2,000 Bluegrass music fans. All gathered in anticipation of the ribbon cutting ceremony and the opening of the doors to the museum. All of the IBMM events were exciting - from the rush of people toward the doors as the opening ceremony drew to a close, to the various concerts and organized jam sessions on the stage of Woodward's Cafe next door to the IBMM. This day was a great success and an extremely proud feeling for anyone who cares about Bluegrass music.
As fantastic as all this seemed to be, perhaps nothing was as emotional and historic as the gathering of Bluegrass pioneers in attendance for a very special moment. That moment being the official dedication of a plaque honoring Bluegrass music's "First Generation" of men and women. At the 2001 International Bluegrass Music Awards, the industry paid tribute to the First Generation - the individual artists who were the first creators and practitioners of Bluegrass music. This special honor, bestowed by the 2,500 members of the IBMA, is in recognition of their collective contributions and achievements, which have proven to be the foundation for the music's success. Between 1940 an 1954, every person whose name is being recognized on this plaque helped to establish the vocal, instrumental and entertainment styles of Bluegrass. Their artistry, in live performances and on the earliest recordings, set the standards for the music's distinct sounds.
This "First Generation" plaque was the brainchild of Bluegrass pioneers Sonny Osborne (of the Osborne Brothers), Mac Wiseman, and Eddie Stubbs (Bluegrass historian; former fiddler with the Johnson Mt. Boys and The Kitty Wells Show; currently a DJ at WSM radio and announcer at the Grand Ole Opry). I visited with Eddie before the ceremony and he was visibly nervous. "This day is long overdue. You and I are not likely to see some of these people all in one place, ever again. I'm a little choked-up...I hope I can make it through reading all their names", said Stubbs. Later, as he looked out at the faces of those in attendance, Eddie did break down emotionally during the proceedings for about a minute - maybe more - as he neared the end of the list of names. There is possibly no one person in the music business as knowledgeable, emotional, nor as dedicated as Eddie Stubbs when it comes to praising the pioneers of Bluegrass music.
Indeed there were some very famous faces staring back at Eddie in that silent room of some 800 people hanging on his every word. A partial list of the pioneers who were in attendance, and whose names appear on the plaque, include Kitty Wells & Johnnie Wright, Curly Seckler, Charlie Bailey, Patsy Stoneman, Jim & Jesse McReynolds, Bobby Osborne, Mac Magaha, Eddie Adcock and Art Stamper. Also Bob & Grace French, J.D. Crowe, and the McCormick Bros. - Haskell, Kelly and Lloyd. There were also family members of deceased Bluegrass pioneers such as Carter Stanley (represented by his daughter), Don Reno (represented by his son, Ronnie Reno), Paul Warren (represented by his widow, now Mrs. Curly Seckler!), and the Stanley Brother's first mandolinist Pee Wee Lambert (represented by his wife & daughter). There were many others as well. It was an amazing feeling to be in the same room as all of these people. It's no wonder Eddie could not hold back his tears of joy and respect.


Sonny Osborne listens while an emotional Eddie Stubbs speaks directly to the Bluegrass pioneers, their family members, and fans attending the plaque ceremony.

When you visit the IBMM you will find the "First Generation" plaque on permanent display on the second floor. Some of the names will be very familiar to Bluegrass musicians and fans in the northeast: Joe Val (MA), Bob & Grace French (ME), Tex Logan(NJ), Don Stover, the Lilly Brothers - Everett and Bea, and Toby Stroud. The plaque currently includes 232 names and a special committee, upon request, will consider additional persons whose contributions to Bluegrass music fit the criteria. The board members of the IBMM welcome your suggestions. I hope you will find the time to visit the International Bluegrass Music Museum in the near future. All of us in attendance that weekend were proud of the IBMM for taking on the monumental task of preserving America's Bluegrass history, for providing such a state-of-the-art presentation to the "outside" world, and for its depiction of a bright future for Bluegrass music. As we drove across the Ohio River Bridge toward home we were content knowing this musical heritage and its archives, after nearly 60 years, now has a permanent residence in that northern region of Kentucky now known (as proclaimed by the Governor of Kentucky himself) as the "Official Home of Bluegrass Music".

NOTE: Another Bluegrass destination while in the region would be the home base of The Bill Monroe Foundation (only thirty minutes south of Owensboro) in Rosine, KY. Look for the big "Monroe Homeplace" sign on the right as you follow Hwy. 62 east toward Rosine from Hwy. 231. It will guide you toward the dirt road, past Charlie Monroe's home, and on up to Jerusalem Ridge and the newly restored homeplace of the Monroe Clan. In town you'll find the two churches where Bill Monroe learned his Bluegrass Gospel harmony structure and the small cemetery where the Monroe family graves are located. You may even meet up with Monroe's niece, Rosetta, who spends a fair amount of time up at the old homeplace.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

International Bluegrass Music Museum
207 East Second Street
Owensboro, KY 42303
Tel: (270) 926-7891
Website: http://www.bluegrass-music.org

The Bill Monroe Foundation
P.O. Box 429
Rosine, KY 42370
Website: http://thebillmonroefoundation.com

-Photo & article by Kevin Lynch

Copyright©WWUH: September October Program Guide, 2002

 

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