Author: Ramos, Jean

On My Fatherís SideÖ

Have you noticed that folks in the CBA often refer to their fellow musicians and friends as The Bluegrass Family? The mutual love of Bluegrass Music makes us a subculture that can trace its beginnings back at least to Bill Monroe. When you add Old Time Music and Gospel, the roots go even deeper.

One of my Facebook friends recently posted that she and her husband have traced their ancestry back to Adam and Eve. I jokingly responded by saying that Iím pretty sure I descended from them also, therefore we are distant cousins. Since that time, Iíve been thinking about genealogy a little and wondering why it is that some folks take a mild interest in their ancestry and for others it becomes an obsession.

I found that there are many reasons for tracing family histories; to determine if family legends are true, to locate long lost relatives, for legal reasons such as the disposition of property, to research family traits or genetic diseases, or for membership in organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Mayflower Society. For some, when they read the tales of hardship, perseverance and bravery of those who have gone on before, it puts their lives into perspective. For others, when they go back and walk where their ancestors walked or touch things that their ancestors have touched, it brings a sense of connectedness and continuity, gives them a sense of belonging. It may help others to come to terms with their own mortality.

To put a Bluegrass spin on this, I will say that before I became interested in the music, I only knew a few names of people associated with the genre; Doc Watson, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs and some of the Hee Haw performers. I had some of their recordings on vinyl, along with a couple of Johnson Mountain Boys and Born Again Bluegrass Band records. You could say, my ďbluegrass family treeĒ wasnít much more than a stump. I had no idea who Del McCoury, JD Crowe, or Doyle Lawson were. The names Russell Moore, James King, and Rhonda Vincent didnít mean a thing to me.

Similarly, I could tell you the names of all my aunts and uncles, grandparents and great grandparents but that was as far as it went. Other relatives have done much more research and shared their findings with me. Itís wonderful to read about them and learn a little of the family history. It enables the ancestors to live again. As one person (Russell Baker) so eloquently put it; ďIt keeps the people of the past alive long after we have carried them to the church yard.Ē

Since joining the CBA and attending many festivals and camp-outs, I know quite a bit more about my bluegrass roots. I have a cabinet full of Bluegrass CDís; Iíve added a number of Bluegrass songs to my repertoire and have made many friends through this adventure. Iíve learned the names of many of the top musicians, and have seen many of them in live performances. Names like Tony Rice, Rob Ickes, Phil Ledbetter, Roland White, Michael Cleveland and Alan Bibey now have meaning to me.
When I first began attending festivals, I was paying attention to the names of the bands and who played what instrument. I have since given up on that. It didnít take long for me to realize that the bands are in a continuous state of flux and going through many transitions. For instance, Dalton Mountain Gang is no more but you see familiar faces in the Central Valley Boys. OMG went from OMG to OMGG then AJ joined the Tuttles and the OMG boys added Alex and are now Them Boys. A friend of mine who does photography told me he did a recent photo shoot of a band and the banjo player was replaced before the proofs were ready.

I mentioned a group called the Born Again Bluegrass Band. I heard their Dobro Player, Leroy (Mack) McNees at the Sunday church service at Grass Valley. He started out with the Country Boys, playing along with Clarence, Roland and Eric White and Billy Ray Latham. This group morphed and went through changes and later became the Kentucky Colonels. Leroy later joined up with Steve Hatfield and his brother Dave and others and did Gospel Music. This group eventually became known as Born Again Bluegrass Band, and later the group included Craig Wilson on mandolin. Aha! Thereís a name many of us are familiar with. Craig left the band around 1990. He now plays in a band called The Roustabouts and is a CBA member of longstanding. Iíve had the pleasure of jamming with him.

Much of this information, I got off the internet, which is the source that many people use for genealogy research. It takes them down many rabbit trails and twists and turns as name changes take place and new names are added to the family, very much the same as trying to keep up with the bluegrass bands. The thrill of the hunt is sometimes the driving force and sometimes thereís an ďAha!Ē moment when someone finds out that they are descended or connected in some way with royalty or a Hatfield or McCoy. They search for something in their history that they can connect with and enjoy the part that somehow relates to them.

Because I spent the first fifty years of my life strongly influenced by country music, I feel more like an adoptee into the Bluegrass Family. I have grown to love my adoptive family and look forward to the next re-union.
Posted:  7/22/2012

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