Author: Rhynes, J.D.

Will The Circle Be Unbroken

That is the title of a familiar song that was written back in 1907, by
a man and a woman as a gospel song, and later made popular by the
famous Carter family of Virginia, known as the first family of country
and bluegrass music.

I would be willing to bet that most everybody that is reading this
column can at least hum the tune to Will The Circle Be Unbroken, and
more often than not sing the words to at least one verse and chorus
as well. That song has been on my mind a lot here lately, prompted
by the loss of dear friends and acquaintances. We all wonder if the
circle will be unbroken, especially when it comes to our immediate
family and close friends. To be honest with you, I started wondering
about this back in September of 1996 when we lost the founder of our
music Bill Monroe. It took me about six months to realize what a
profound impact Mr.Monroe and his music had on my life. I realized
that bluegrass music had influenced every area of my life up to that
point, and what was going to happen to the music now that Bill was
gone? Vern Williams and I both asked the same question when Lester
Flatt passed away in May of 1979.

In the past years, we have lost a lot of the first-generation
bluegrass artists, including Rose Maddox, Vern and Ray,Red Allen,
Jimmy Martin, Joe Val, Don Stover, the Lily brothers, Josh Graves,
and more recently, Hazel Dickens and Earl Scruggs. Each time we lose
one of these stalwarts of bluegrass music, someone always asks the
same question, what is going to happen to the music?

On a more recent note, it has grieved my heart heavily to mourn the
passing of my dear friend Warren Hellman, the originator of the
hardly strictly bluegrass Festival in San Francisco. Even though we
had not known each other personally for a long period of time, we
had become very close friends. Also My dear friend Don Tucker the
guiding force behind the Huck Finn Festival in Victorville,

California, who was a man of his word, and whose handshake I trusted
more than any written contract in this world. Also our beloved
retired editor Suzanne Denison, whom we all will miss more than
words can tell. Each time after the initial shock of grief subsides,
in my mind I can hear the words to that song drifting in and out of
my mind every waking hour. I go to sleep with it and I wake up with
it. It has been a wonderful spiritual poultice to my soul at this
very trying time. And always in the back of our mind is the
question, what is going to happen to the music and Will the Circle
be unbroken?

Well, let me tell you my friends, it has taken me many years to come
to a conclusion to this question in my mind. Some of our family and
friends may be taken from the circle, but it will never be broken,
it will only get bigger and stronger. As long as a G run on a Martin
guitar will raise goosebumps on somebody's arm, or a hot Earl
Scruggs solo on the banjo raising the hair on the back of your neck,
there will always be someone playing bluegrass music. Every time I
see the young kids on bluegrass learning to play this music, I know
the music is in good hands, and the circle has just got a little
younger and bigger. As long as we have older folks who just suddenly
discover bluegrass music and can't wait to learn to play and sing
it, the circle just got a little bit bigger, wiser, and a lot
closer. As long as there is somebody like me who almost has a heart
attack every time he hears Earl Scruggs pick Dear Old Dixie, along
with Benny Martin on the fiddle, just absolutely fiddling the hell
out of those hot breaks, the circle will remain strong, only get
bigger as time goes along, and will never break.

Our musical circle gets bigger and stronger, in a lot of other ways
too. The recent election for the California Bluegrass Association is
a prime example. By a stroke of Providence, I happened to be one of
the six people that was present when the idea of this Association
was first brought up. Those six were as follows; Jack Sadler, Carl
Pagter, Jake Quessenberry, Vern Williams, Ray Park, and myself
JDRhynes. That discussion among those six people has evolved into
the world's largest, bluegrass Association. The circle has only
gotten bigger and stronger as the years have progressed. The
strength has come from the dedicated people that have served the
Association for many years unselfishly. In my memory,there have only
been three, chairman of the board of the directors; those being Carl
Pagter, Rick Cornish, and now Tim Edes. The circle is not only
getting bigger but it's getting stronger and closer together at the
same time.

Although in years past we may have lost a lot of our family and
friends and our musical heroes, we can all take solace in the words
of this wonderful song, and glory in the knowledge that the circle
is NOT broken, just merely interrupted for a little while. So let us
go forth with a happy heart, a smile on our face, and a song for all
those who will listen, and if they profess an interest in learning
to play a musical instrument, let us do our utmost to supply them
one no matter how young or old they may be. After all, isn't that
our manifest destiny, to enlarge and strengthen the circle?

May God bless and keep the souls of our dearly departed.

Posted:  10/25/2012

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