Biblioteca de la Guitarra y Cuerda Pulsada

Biblioteca de la Guitarra y Cuerda Pulsada

A History of Bluegrass Guitar in Western North Carolina

 

When folklorists like Cecil Sharp came to the mountains of North Carolina they found an enduring musical culture of Scotch-Irish fiddle tunes and ballad singers as well as some of the only black banjo and fiddle players in the country.  In the 1940s western North Carolinians helped produce a new form of music: bluegrass. Earl Scruggs popularized the regional three-finger banjo style that in many ways defined bluegrass, and the state also made many contributions to guitar playing.  While the acoustic guitar began as a rhythm instrument, North Carolinians Don Reno, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, and George Shuffler all pioneered the use of the guitar as a lead instrument in the 1950s and early 1960s.  This paper identifies the region as one that is important to the development of lead guitar and traces musical antecedents in the region to see why lead guitar emerged from that area as an important instrument in bluegrass.  At the same time, this article provides the first ever biographical sketch of Stanley Brothers guitar player George Shuffler (based on interviews conducted from April 2009 through Dec. 2009), who came out of a “traditional” background and drew on the experiences and traditions of his community to create his lead guitar style, called...

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