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Bluegrass Bluesman

A Memoir

JoshGraves, FredBartenstein

Publication Year: 2012

A pivotal member of the hugely successful bluegrass band Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, Dobro pioneer Josh Graves (1927-2006) was a living link between bluegrass music and the blues. In Bluegrass Bluesman, this influential performer shares the story of his lifelong career in music._x000B__x000B_In lively anecdotes, Graves describes his upbringing in East Tennessee and the climate in which bluegrass music emerged during the 1940s. Deeply influenced by the blues, he adapted Earl Scruggs's revolutionary banjo style to the Dobro resonator slide guitar and gave the Foggy Mountain Boys their distinctive sound. Graves's accounts of daily life on tour through the 1950s and 1960s reveal the band's dedication to musical excellence, Scruggs's leadership, and an often grueling life on the road. He also comments on his later career when he played in Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass and the Earl Scruggs Revue and collaborated with the likes of Boz Scaggs, Charlie McCoy, Kenny Baker, Eddie Adcock, Jesse McReynolds, Marty Stuart, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, and his three musical sons. A colorful storyteller, Graves brings to life the world of an American troubadour and the mountain culture that he never left behind._x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Music in American Life

Title Page

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pp. i-iii


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pp. iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

In 1955 Burkett Howard “Uncle Josh” Graves changed the sound of bluegrass music when he added a new instrumental voice, that of the Dobro,1 to the five instruments—fiddle, guitar, mandolin, bass, and banjo—first...

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Editor's Introduction

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pp. ix-xii

This book began in an unexpectedly twenty-first-century way. In late 2008 my grandson Zachary had just set up a Facebook account for me. In one of my first posts, I mentioned that I was looking for some new...

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Author's Introduction

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pp. xiii-xiv

There’s a story on me, I guess—where I come from and why. There’s nothing fake about me. I just play it the way it comes down; I wouldn’t hype nobody. And I think you’d rather have it that way. I’m just an ol’ country...

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1 1927-1942, A Tennessee Childhood

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pp. 1-11

Josh Graves’s birthplace of Tellico Plains, in southeastern Tennessee, is close to North Carolina and Georgia and not too far from Alabama or South Carolina, all hotbeds of the driving string-band styles that formed the roots of bluegrass...

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2 1942-1955, A Musical Apprenticeship

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pp. 12-21

As a music-obsessed teenager in East Tennessee, Josh Graves had to educate himself on how to make a living with his Dobro. He embarked on what turned out to be a lifetime of touring, but, more important, he was learning about...

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3 1955-1969, Part 1, Foggy Mountain Boy

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pp. 22-33

When Josh Graves took a job with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in 1955, he was stepping into a vortex of change in the bluegrass universe. Flatt, the great singer, songwriter, and front man, and Scruggs, revolutionary of the five-string...

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4 1955-1969, Part 2, Life on the Road and the Breakup

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pp. 34-44

Traveling thousands of miles on the preinterstate highways of the South was full of danger and exhaustion for travelers in the 1950s. But just as the Beatles did in their prestardom days, Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys...

Illustrations follow p. 44.

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5 1969-1994, King of the Dobro

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pp. 45-57

After Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs split in 1969, Josh Graves went on to play with both men in their new bands. Flatt maintained a traditional sound, including several Foggy Mountain Boys in his Nashville Grass and playing many of the former band’s...

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6 A Man of Many Talents

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pp. 58-68

For country and bluegrass stars from Hank Williams to Bill Monroe, songwriting was a key part of what it meant to be an artist and a professional. Almost all the early bluegrass stars were prolific composers, thereby increasing their...

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7 Reflections on Bluegass Old and New

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pp. 69-78

There’s a touch of the curmudgeon in Josh Graves as he talks about the old days, the way he and the other founders did it back then. The “classic” bands would often play at breathtaking speeds and push or slightly accelerate certain phrases...

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8 A Family Musical Legacy

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pp. 79-88

Nothing seemed to mean more to Graves and his wife, Evelyn, than daughter Linda, granddaughter Bambi (whom they reared), and three sons who also became involved in music: Josh Jr., Billy Troy, and Bryan. Even during their inevitable teenage rebellion...

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9 Testimony from Josh Graves's Contemporaries and Those He Influenced

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pp. 89-112

Josh Graves lived another twelve years after recording the interviews upon which this book is based. In order to convey his remaining story and the lasting impact of his personality and musical innovations, this chapter presents...

APPENDIX A: Josh,"Julie," and "Cliff" (with the Seahorse Inlay), the Two Main Instruments Played by

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pp. 113-114

APPENDIX B: Josh's Repertoire: Tunes and Songs He Featured While a Member of the Foggy Mountain Boys

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pp. 115-116


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pp. 117-126


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pp. 127-142

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252094736
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252078644

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Music in American Life

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Subject Headings

  • Graves, Josh.
  • Guitarists -- United States -- Biography.
  • Bluegrass musicians -- United States -- Biography.
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