(A flash from the past…Geoff Sargent from ten years ago.)
I recently came across an account of an archeological expedition to ancient ruins in Kentucky and Tennessee that unearthed a glass mason jar stuffed full of paper towels covered with difficult to decipher handwriting. The best guess is that the texts were well preserved due to the remaining alcohol in the jar…which might also explain the bad handwriting. Dating of the alcohol by SIP analysis puts the age of the jar, and the paper towels, at approximately 50 years. The authors of the text are unknown, but they are believed to be witnesses to the birth of bluegrass and this is their account as best can be reconstructed:
Bluegrass Genesis: The Gospel According to Monroe
In the beginning, Bill created the Ryman and Bluegrass.
And the Bluegrass was without form, and music-less; and silence deafened the ears. And the spirit of Bill moved across the strings.
And Bill said, Let there be sound and there was sound.
And Bill heard the sound, that it was good: and Bill divided the sound from vocals.
And Bill called the sound music and vocals he called a high lonesome. And the evening and morning were the first day.
And Bill said, Let there be the Ryman in the midst of music, and let it divide the music from the other music.
And Bill made the Ryman, and divided the music which was under the Ryman from the music above the Ryman; and it was so.
And Bill called the Ryman Heaven. And the evening and morning were the second day.
And Bill said, Let the music under the Ryman be gathered together in one place, and let the roots music appear, and it was so.
And Bill subdivided the roots music into Bluegrass, old time, and country; and the gathering together of other music, pop music: and Bill saw that it was good.
And Bill said Let the Bluegrass music bring forth the mandolins, the fiddles, the guitars, the basses, dobros and the banjos.
And the mandolins brought forth chops and arpeggios, the fiddles brought forth long bows, guitars brought forth g-runs, basses brought forth slaps, dobros brought forth all manner of sounds, and banjos brought forth rolls. And Bill heard that it was good.
And the evening and the morning were the third day.
And Bill said, Let there be structure to the bluegrass to divide the choruses from the verses, and let there be signs for the kicks, the breaks, and the endings.
And Bill said Let there be meter, let there be keys, flats, and sharps, let there be the 1, the 4, and the 5 chord.
And let there be all manner of minor chords with their various suspensions, diminishments, and augmentations. And it was so.
And the evening and morning were the fourth day.
And Bill said, Let the festivals bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath desire for bluegrass, and jammers that may immerse in the bluegrass in the firmament of Ryman.
And Bill created great creatures to drive golf carts, and every living creature that moveth which the festivals brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every jammer after its kind, and Bill saw that it was good.
And Bill blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the festivals, and join the CBA, and let the jammers multiply in the festivals to bring forth more jammers.
And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
And Bill said Let Bluegrass bring forth the instrumentalists after his kind, and vocalists after their kind, and every banjo player that creepeth upon the earth after its kind; and Bill saw it was good.
And Bill said Let us make the Bluegrass Boys and musicians in our image, after our likeness and let them have dominion over the sound of the music, over the notes in the keys, over the tempo in the tunes, and over all the chords, melodies, and lyrics played in Bluegrass. And so Bill created musicians in his own image, in the image of Bill he created male and female musicians.
And Bill blessed them and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply and replenish Bluegrass, and subdue it; have dominion over the mandolins, the guitars, the fiddles, and basses, and dobros, and banjos, and over all the sounds that come from Bluegrass.
And Bill said, Behold, I have given you every note and key and tempo, and all the instruments to make music, and the lyrics to populate your songs.
And Bill saw everything he made and behold it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Thus the Ryman and Bluegrass were finished and all the host of them.
And on the seventh day Bill ended his work, which he had made. And he jammed.
These are the generations of the Ryman and Bluegrass when they were created in the day that Bill made music.