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Pluckin’ away

JD Rhynes first heard Bill Monroe, popularly known as the “father of bluegrass music,” one morning over the radio during World War II. According to Rhynes, the experience “blew me away.”

Now, nearly 66 years later, Rhynes is still hooked on bluegrass music. The 69-year-old resident of Calaveras County is one of the regular attendees of the four-day annual Bluegrass festival that started Thursday at the fairgrounds in Grass Valley for the 32nd year.

“Bluegrass music came out of the Appalachian mountains and the Blue Ridge mountains when the Scottish and the English brought their traditional music over with them,” said Rick Cornish, chairman of the board of directors of the California Bluegrass Association. “They brought their fiddles, guitars and mandolins. There was the influence of Celtic music.”



By the turn of the century, the music had gained a distinctive character of its own, the lyrics influenced by the harsh lives of people in the Appalachians, Cornish said.

This year, about 22 bands are performing at the Bluegrass festival, Cornish said. Performers include nationally renowned bluegrass artists such as Rhonda Vincent, Cherryholmes, the Dale Ann Bradley Band and the Del McCoury Band. Bluegrass bands from Northern California also will participate, Cornish added.




The festival is growing bigger, in terms of the attendance. “We had a 32 percent increase in advance ticket sales,” Cornish said.

Each day of the festival, musicians perform from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Cornish said.

About three-fourths of the festival’s performers play the traditional style of bluegrass music, Rhynes said. The remaining one third also play some traditional numbers, he added.

“People who play bluegrass don’t change their path,” Rhynes said. “Their hearts lie with the music they love.”

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To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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