Minnesota Bluegrass Evolution
(b) Statewide Historic and Cultural Grants. (i) $2,250,000 in 2010 and $4,500,000 in 2011 are appropriated for history programs and projects operated or conducted by or through local, county, regional or other historical or cultural organizations; or for activities to preserve significant historic and cultural resources. Funds are to be distributed through a competitive grants process. The Minnesota Historical Society shall administer these funds using established grants mechanisms, and with assistance from the advisory committee created herein.
The model for Minnesota bluegrass has changed from attending stage shows to community involvement. Once a part of Country Music, it became allied with the folk music revival, and the repertoire changed. Eleven experienced bluegrass music participants were interviewed who reflect on the evolution of Minnesota Bluegrass music, as well as the changes in how the music is accessed. The interviews reveal specifics of the structure of bluegrass performance, business and sociability as they evolved from the end of WWII to the current scene.
This project creates a lasting reference point regarding the history of bluegrass in Minnesota. Bluegrass participants are aware that bluegrass music has a national history as well as a regional history that relates to Minnesota. The collection will be a record of Minnesota bluegrass as told by those who helped create and are today creating the scene.
The collection contains important reference points of Minnesota bluegrass, to help orient readers wanting to know more about Minnesota bluegrass. The collection of interviews also serves as original source material for anyone choosing to write about Minnesota bluegrass history for a publications such as Inside Bluegrass, the publication of MBOTMA.
Those who remember the country music connection and who worked with or remember the Sunset Valley Barn Dance, or Minneapolis clubs such as the Flame are advanced in years. Only they can tell us about how the barn dance played to local taste by including more accordion and less banjo than other regions’ barn dance shows, or about “Norwegian cowboys” such as Slim Jim, who was heard over WCCO.
Most of those who remember the ferment of bluegrass as a part of folk music, particularly around college campuses, are their 60’s and 70’s. In the 50’s and 60’s where live bluegrass performances were rare, this group supported bluegrass and other grassroots forms. The scene was a mixture of socializing, striving for musical excellence, spreading the word about traditional music through any means necessary, and competition for both what playing opportunities existed, and for the esteem of contemporaries.