Hooked on Bluegrass

JD Rhynes

I guess you could say that it was preordained for me to love and play Bluegrass music. All of my father’s brothers as well as my Dad could play one or more instruments. Also, they were born and raised in Tennessee/Arkansas, a part of our country that was and still is, rich in acoustic music. My fathers oldest brother William Oscar Rhynes was one of the best fiddler's in northwest Arkansas, and he played it left handed, over the G string. (Left hand fiddles were practically nonexistent in the late 1800's, early 1900's.)

I can still remember the first time I heard Bluegrass music on the radio. It was during the war years of WW2. The year was 1943 or 1944. Back then, every radio station in the central valley of Calif. had either live or "canned" country music to cater to the "Okies" that had come to the Golden State in large numbers as a result of the “dust bowl days", or to work in the war effort in the ship yards/ aircraft factories. It was around 4:30 in the morning, my mom was cooking breakfast and as always I was right in front of the big console radio listening to some REAL country music. The disc jockey announced; Folks, here’s the latest record from Bill Monroe! A hot fiddle kicked it off, and needless to say, I was absolutely hooked for life!

For the next month I was right there every morning listening to that same disc jockey until he played that Bill Monroe record again! Even then, before Bill had Earl Scruggs in his band, his music stood out from all the rest, when it came to that driving, rhythm and stellar musicianship that was a hallmark of Bill’s music!

From that time on I was determined to learn to play the music of my soul! I pestered my parents to get me a fiddle for 3 or 4 years until my dad spent $25.00 for one, from a co-worker. In the 1940's, that was half his weekly pay check and he assured me that I WOULD learn to play that fiddle! Learn to play it I did, which led me to learn how to play the guitar, and also the Bass.

How could I possibly know the Consequences of hearing that first Bill Monroe record in the years to come? I was fortunate to play music with some of the finest Bluegrass Musicians ever to come out of the Golden State! The band "the San Joaquin Valley Boys", Vern and Ray, The Vern Williams Band, and of course the one and only Rose Maddox. Who would've known that a young boy from Arkansas would one day be able to call Bill Monroe the father of Bluegrass Music a personal friend? I've often wondered how many years down the road it would've been for me to discover Bluegrass Music had I not got up to have breakfast with my Dad that morning.

I think my dear friend Vern Williams put it best when we compared the first time we heard Bill. Vern said: I heard Bill the first time he was on the Grand Ol Opry in 1939. All I can say is, I ain't been the same since! There's not a thing I can add to that, because I know my life changed forever too when I heard that first Bluegrass record, and I'd like to think it has been for the good. For if I'd never heard this music we all love I would have never met all of my Bluegrass Family. The music is wonderful, but the people are the real treasure!

(posted 4/16/2006)

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