With the passing of bluegrass banjo legend Earl Scruggs, it’s apropos to consider why Florida Crackers and bluegrass music go so well together.
Although as you’d expect there’s much more to the discussion, part of the connection is easy to trace.
The folks who became Florida Crackers walked down the Appalachian Trail from New England and brought their music and folkways with them all the way through Georgia, down into Florida and then westward.
So part of the reason we’ve stuck to each other is that we’ve been together so long.
Musicians Speak The Language Of Diplomacy
Here in northeast Florida, often in the course of 500 or so years, the locals have had need of a certain kind of diplomacy – that which can bridge languages.
What we now call traditional bluegrass is the folk music that came with the Scots and the Irish who immigrated to the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries.
With it came tropes and figures of European music which were recognizable to Spaniards, and Frenchmen and the Dutch and Portuguese who had already landed on the First Coast.
What better way to learn to get along than by passing musical traditions back and forth between bands of musicians who could also carry news of the day à la European troubadours?
Bluegrass Reinforces Our Celtic Heritage
Through content and form and instrumentation, bluegrass reminds of our roots in Celtic culture.
The Celtic influence in Europe was and is farther flung than most people realize.
In Greater Jacksonville, these go back at least to the first Spanish governors, who came from the Celtic region of northern Spain.
Not only does traditional bluegrass use old Celtic harmonies and song forms, it also uses Celtic acoustic strings in more contemporary forms – dobros and autoharps, guitars (came to the UK by way of Spain), fiddles, mandolins and dulcimers (from Italy and points east).
Many, many other uniquely American musical forms evolve from bluegrass – gospel, Dixieland, blues, jazz, rock and roll, etc.
In all of it is a weird mix of banjo pickin’ and bagpipes that can have come from only one place and grown up only in the United States.
As influences from Cajun music, Punjabi music and other folk music come into more mainstream American culture, bluegrass grows and changes with them.
Bluegrass is what it is today because we have made it so. It is now ours.
Bluegrass Tells Stories About Our Daily Lives
Like what we now call country music, the subject matter of bluegrass is everyday experience: , drunken philandering, the birth of a child, religious conversion, a new pickup truck.
If you’ll think about the bluegrass than speaks most to you – traditional, progressive, bluegrass gospel, neo-traditional bluegrass or “new” grass (a Punk rock-bluegrass crossover that’s developed in southern California) – you’ll know what kind of stories you want the music to tell you.
Maybe it’s the old acoustic instruments and new themes.
Maybe it’s the old-timey words and an electric bass for a good rhythm line.
Get To Know Northeast Florida Bluegrass
The go-to guys for bluegrass in Greater Jacksonville are the North Florida Bluegrass Association.
Whether you want to hire a band, find out where the festivals and jam sessions or take lessons you can find what you need.
All of the schools of bluegrass are represented in their membership.
Use Easter weekend to get your feet wet in bluegrass at the Florida State Bluegrass Festival.
Need to book some bluegrass for a wedding or family reunion?
Here’s a list to get you started:
- Back Porch Bluegrass –Vine Ripened Bluegrass – Ready for Pickin’ – Contact: Fred Fortenberry or Jack Piccalo, Phone: 904.771.4412 or 904.531.9212, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- BackWater – Contemporary Bluegrass at it’s Finest – Contact: Bill Taylor, Phone: 352.629.9765 or 352.816.0462, E-Mail: email@example.com
- Big Cypress Bluegrass – Contact: Randy Slaughter, Phone: 352.463.6425
- Blue River Travelers – Bluegrass, Old Country & Gospel – Contact: Jeff Reynolds, Phone: 352.568.2406, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.reverbnation.com/thebluerivertravelers
- Boilin’ Oil – Pickin’, High-Energy Bluegrass, “New”Grass & Blues – Contact: Max Williams or Chris Demers, Phone: 352.271.7929 or 352.337.2687, E-Mail: email@example.com, Website: http://plaza.ufl.edu/cdemers/boilinoil.htm
- BriarPickers – Bluegrass/Celtic/Swing/Jazz – Contact: Jack Piccalo or Frank Lorenz, Phone: 904.531.9212 or 904.476.4848, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: http://www.geocities.com/briarpickers
- Grass Country – Bluegrass, OldTime, Traditional – Contact: Harry Bowen, Phone: 904. 259.4682, E-Mail: email@example.com
- Grassroots Gospel – Pure Bluegrass & Country – Contact: Ben Wentworth, Phone: 904.343.2645, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Moose & Friends – Long-time NFBA Band – Contact: Moose Wacker, Phone: 904.262.3619
- Nassau Grass – Bluegrass – Contact: Javy Absher, Phone: 904-879-2804 , Phone: Tim 904.879.5152 or Phone: Ronnie 904.813.1761, E-Mail: email@example.com
- Orange Blossom Ramblers – Contact: Roger and Doris Branham, Phone: 352.245.4958, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Restless Rebels – Down-Home Bluegrass Featuring Wash-Tub Bass – Contact: Wayne Loggins, Phone: 904.272.2336, E-Mail: email@example.com, Website: http://www.reverbnation.com/restlessrebels
- Roscoe CanadyBand – Hard Driving – Bass Slappin’ Bluegrass – Contact: Roscoe Canady, Phone: 386.325.3719
- Southern Lite –Traditional & Contemporary Bluegrass – Contact: Ernie Evans, Phone: 904.886.8378, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: http://www.southernlite.com/
- The Scott Anderson Band – Swampgrass. That’s what they call it. – Contact: Scott Anderson, Phone: 352.331.7855, E-Mail: email@example.com, Website: http://www.scottandersonmusic.com/
- The Swanson Family – Traditional & progressive bluegrass – Phone: 352.795.1223, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,Website: www.swansonfamilybluegrass.com
- The Wilson Family Band – Family-Style Bluegrass Music – Contact: Robert or Clint Wilson, Phone: 912.496.7962, E-Mail: clint@wilsonfamilyband, Website: http://www.thewilsonfamilyband.com
- Up the Creek – Contact: Pamela Curtis, Phone: 386.497.4345, E-Mail: email@example.com, Website: www.utcbluegrass.com
- Wayne and Wanda – Gospel, Bluegrass & Classic Country Duet – Contact: Wayne Worley or Wanda Worley, Phone: 904.282.8708, E-Mail: Wanwrly@aol.com
- Wire & Wood – Family-Friendly, Traditional Style, Bluegrass & Bluegrass Gospel – Contact: George Robinson, Phone: 386.326.0641, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: http://www.wirewoodbluegrass.com
- Woods and Bridges –Acoustic Instrumentals – Tight Harmonies – FOR ALL OCCASIONS – Contact: John Rose or Steve Davenport, Phone: 904.215.2243 / 904.223.6852, E-Mail: HAMMEL1@prodigy.net or email@example.com,
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years, most recently in Texas, is a successful grant writer, knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design and wants to work in the public sector. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org