The Roots of Bluegrass

billmonroeST. JOHNSBURY - On Thursday at Catamount Arts, local bluegrass musician Bob Amos lead a discussion about the life of Bill Monroe, one of the genre's most significant influencers. According to Amos, many describe bluegrass as a tree, with Bill Monroe serving as the trunk.

"He's the main guy, and he mentored a lot of great other first-generation people, like The Stanley Brothers, you might of heard of Ralph Stanley, he just passed away a year or two ago, or Flatt and Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, and The Osborne Brothers. All of these other great first-generation acts were all mentored by Bill Monroe, directly or indirectly."

 Amos lead the audience through Monroe's life by playing the different kinds of music he would've heard growing up, all of which contributed to his creation of bluegrass. Amos intended for people to walk away from the presentation knowing what bluegrass is, and where it came from. "Today bluegrass has a much wider definition, a lot of people will call any country-tinged music with a banjo and a fiddle bluegrass, but to me it's a very specific kind of sound. It's a certain kind of singing, a certain type of harmony structure, and a certain type of instrumentation. But there's certainly room on the edges and that's where some interesting stuff happens.

Amos himself has been successful within the bluegrass music scene, touring internationally for 15 years with the band Front Range, and currently playing regionally in his band Bob Amos and Catamount Crossing. Amos has produced 12 CD's throughout the course of his career, and he too credits the foundation of his craft to the road Monroe paved for the music industry.

Recalling his initial infatuation with bluegrass, Amos discussed his childhood in the 1960's, reminiscing on the days he would watch the Beverly Hillbillies. "Flatt and Scruggs, Earl Scruggs who is a really famous banjo player, they did the theme music for it, and occasionally appeared on the show. So I remember hearing that as a kid and just being entranced by the music and the banjo."

As a teenager, Amos pursued that interest and began investigating the music scene, eventually beginning to play the guitar and banjo with a local band in Delaware where he grew up. "From there I really caught fire with it. Not only in playing music but also in learning about it. So I became a fan of all the major performers, and read as much as I could. And over the course of my earlier years I met most of the first generation really famous bluegrass guys, and I actually got to play on stage with a couple of them briefly."

Today Amos resides in St. Johnsbury, where he plays in a six-piece bluegrass band, which includes one very important member, his daughter Sarah. "It was only more recently, 10 or 12 years ago, that we were singing one of my songs together on our front porch, and she just nailed the part and it was sort of like this lightbulb went off. So this was after Front Range had broken up, and she said if I ever wanted to start another band, she'd sing with me. And we've been performing together for over 10 years now, since she was about 13."

Amos described his gratitude for being able to share his passion with his daughter and with the area he now calls home. "There's a big acoustic music scene in Vermont, there has been for a couple generations. And whether that's folk music or folk-tinge bluegrass, or actual bluegrass, it varies, but there are a lot of acoustic musicians up here so there's definitely a home for it."

Amos hosts eight bluegrass nights each year at Catamount Arts, the next of which will be taking place on April 14th.

 

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One local group taking donations to cloth the needy.

 

School Music Wall

6th graders are asking for community donations of pots and pans so they can build a music wall for all students in the school to use on the playground.

 

Village Donations

The Village sports store donated some cleats to Lyndon Institute