Hooked on Bluegrass

Jim Hurst

I was kind of born into bluegrass. I grew up in Toledo Ohio, even though I was born in Kentucky. My dad went to war in the South Pacific during World War II, and when he came home, he did not want his kids to be coal miners, so he courageously moved the family to Toledo. He wanted to give us the opportunity for better schooling, better jobs, and a multi-cultural environment. For a lot of folks that moved away from Appalachia, bluegrass was their connection back home. Memories of home through the radio. It was vital that people could connect back to their roots through the music.

Toledo Ohio was not a hotbed of bluegrass, and there wasn’t bluegrass anywhere near there. Bluegrass was my dad’s favorite, and he and my uncle used to play a lot of Louvin Brothers, Johnny and Jack, Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs, and many others. They didn’t play out anywhere; they played at home. We would also listen to those legends on the record player and we could listen to the Opry on WSM on the weekends. The radio came through pretty clear, and we would hear legends like Bill Monroe.

My dad would have to order the records, and then pick them up at the local record store because bluegrass music was such a rare thing in Toledo. This was back before the telephone left the wall, and of course nowadays you can get that music anywhere. So I grew up listening to a lot of great bluegrass on records, the radio, plus my dad singing and playing guitar and mandolin. He wasn’t necessarily a soloist, he played to sing. I got my first guitar the Christmas after I turned four years old, and I haven’t looked back since.

As a young man I ran away from bluegrass for a while. I was listening to bands like The Dave Clark Five, The Ventures, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Cream, etc., and I played in a lot of different bands and different kinds of music. It wasn’t that I didn’t like bluegrass; I was looking for new ways of growing as a musician, and something different. So for a while I played everything but bluegrass.

My wife and I moved to Nashville in 1988 and I made a hard move back towards bluegrass. I started working with Holly Dunn, then Trisha Yearwood, and I played a little with Travis Tritt, and Sara Evans. The big country buses were posh and everything, but I didn’t really get a chance to talk to people. I love hanging out and getting to meet folks.

In 1995, through Keith Little, I got the opportunity to audition for Claire Lynch and The Front Porch String Band. I was with that band until 1999. I played in a duet with Missy Raines until 2006. I then started back with Claire Lynch and the Claire Lynch Band, and have been there ever since.

My style of music comes from a diverse background and many different influences, but the traditional bluegrass music has always been part of my core value of music. The sincerity and heart I have in my music today comes from being immersed in bluegrass from my dad’s generation. I also know that there has already been a Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, and Rose Maddox. Nobody can do their music better than they do. It’s not going to happen. I use their music to help make me better and inspire me to play well, to play melody, to play sincerely, and from the heart. My style of playing is also influenced by other types of music including Motown, show tunes, jazz, country, and various kinds of blues.

I use other’s music to make me better, but yet be different.

(posted 8/15/2009)

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