Kentucky-based mandolinist Bill Monroe,
who had started a duo in 1934 with his guitarist brother Charlie,
popularized the "bluegrass" style with Kentucky Waltz (1945),
Blue Moon Of Kentucky (1945) and Footprints in the Snow (1945),
by his new band, the Blue Grass Boys, that eventually came to include virtuoso
musicians such as
Earl Scruggs on banjo, Chubby Wise on fiddle, Howard Watts on bass,
and Lester Flatt on guitar, which were in turn replaced in the Sixties by
a new generation of virtuosi (fiddler Richard Greene, guitarist Peter Rowan,
banjoist Bill Keith).
Their classic recordings include:
Mother's Only Sleeping (1947),
My Rose Of Old Kentucky (1948),
Molly and Tenbrooks (1949),
Uncle Pen (1950).
Monroe's spectacular mandolin style was documented on instrumental pieces such
as Rawhide (1951) and Roanoke (1954).
At the peak, Monroe's band was so focused on improvisation and technical skills
that it sounded like a jazz group performing country music.
Flatt and Scruggs
formed their own act in 1948, that, thanks to pieces such as
Foggy Mountain Breakdown (1949),
Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms (1950),
Pike County Breakdown (1952),
Flint Hill Special (1952),
and eventually the hit The Ballad of Jed Clampett (1962), competed with both Bill Monroe
and new acts such as the Stanley Brothers (much more focused on the vocal
harmonies than on the instrumental counterpoint and solos),
and the Osborne Brothers (Sonny on banjo and Bobbie on mandolin), perhaps
the most innovative of the new generation, as displayed in Ruby (1956).
Flatt and Scruggs were also instrumental in introducing the dobro guitar
(since 1955, played by Buck Graves), a variant of the Hawaian steel guitar,
into country music.
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