On April 17th, the area was treated with a true bluegrass treat when Peter Rowan, Tony Rice and the Travelin’ McCourys shared the stage to celebrate Bill Monroe at The Music Center at Strathmore. Tony Rice is well regarded to be one of the best flat picking guitarists around. Peter Rowan is living musical history having played with Bill Monroe and Jerry Garcia among others during his long career. However, the Washington area has turned out quite a few bluegrass musicians of note.
The Country Gentleman made their start in Washington in 1957. Doyle Lawson join them for a few years before he formed Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. I first discovered Seldom Scene performing at the Reston Town Center in the early 1990s. They began playing n Bethesda and Arlington in the 1970’s and had a few members from The Country Gentleman in their band.
I was reminded this weekend the area is still producing great bluegrass music as I just received the latest offering from Larry Keel and Natural Bridge called “Classic.” Keel combines bluegrass with Americana music to create his own unique style. Larry has worked with Keller Williams, Leftover Salmon, and Jorma Kaukonen to name a few. His guitar playing has garnered complements from Tony Rice. Larry Keel was born in Manassas, Virginia.
There are many other bluegrass bands in the area that have not made it big. The same is true for so many other musical genres as well. However, there are plenty of blue grass bands playing venues across the area. There are several bluegrass bands playing fairs, events, and festivals in and around the DC area.
About 60 miles west of Washington in Berryville,Virginia, there is a park called Watermelon Park. They have a huge bluegrass festival every September on the banks of the Shenandoah River. It is the site where the first bluegrass festival in the country possibly could have happened. It was August 10, 1960, and back then it was called “Bluegrass Day.”
Bluegrass has had a long, rich history in the Washington area. The area has venues such as The Birchmere, Strathmore, and Wolf Trap to attract Bluegrass’s biggest stars. There is also a strong local bluegrass scene to help the scene continue to flourish in the area. Keep your ears open to the flat picking guitar sounds, the banjo music, the mandolin runs, and the fiddle. It might be a tune from a band from out on the hollows of the mountains, or it might be a band from inside the Beltway.
Listen to and watch The Country Gentlemen sing “Fox on the Run.”
Listen and watch Larry Keel & Natural Bridge sing “Buffalo Creek.”