Hooked on Bluegrass

Billy McBee

I was 'raised' on bluegrass as opposed to being hooked on it. My grnddaddy's brothers, Sam, Ben, and Herb McBee, played fiddle, mandolin and guitar on the porch of the family homeplace there on Straight Creek at the foot of Lone Mountain in the hills of East Tennessee. This was when there wasn't any other (or better!) form of evening entertainment. Uncle Sam later played on radio station WROL in Knoxville and introduced a young Buster Turner to the bluegrass world there. Buster, who has written many great songs such as "Beautiful Altar of Prayer", is Jimbo Whaley's cousin. What a small world that Jimbo and I would now be playing bluegrass music together and touring the country in a bluegrass bus full-time. My dad also played some guitar and fiddle. This is what first got me started on guitar. Later, I tried some banjo and dobro but settled on the bass as my instrument of choice.

Like so many others in our neck of the woods, our family tuned in to the Opry on Saturday nights with the hope of hearing Mr. Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys. Of course, I was a huge fan of Flatt and Scruggs and was amazed not only at Earl's banjo but his picking the guitar up close to his ear. And then along came Sonny and Bobby Osborne and I thought it'd never get any better than them. The sounds of The Stanley Brothers, Jimmy Martin, Red Allen, Reno and Smiley, Jim and Jesse, to name a few, were other greats who filled my childhood. And still do.

Today, as we tour around the country playing this music we love, it thrills my soul to have been able to meet and get acquainted with bluegrass legends like Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, Jesse McReynolds, Sonny Osborne, Uncle Josh Graves, Bashful Brother Oswald, Kenny Baker, Bobby Hicks, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Charlie Waller, the great Lilly Brothers and so many more....my, oh my, my great uncles, dad, and granddad would be jumping off the porch!

(posted 2/3/2008)

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