The Bluegrass Bible | 'Bluegrass - A History' by Neil V. Rosenberg

Part of the Bluegrass Trails series, on the trail of bluegrass history & its pioneers/early protagonists.

The bluegrass bible? Quite possibly.

The most authoritative and comprehensive account of the music yet written.

– Joseph Sasfy, Washington Post Book World

I first picked (no pun intended) up a copy of Neil V. Rosenberg’s seminal Bluegrass – A History in the gift shop of Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum during the summer of 2003. It was my first visit to Nashville. I wasn’t much of a bluegrass fan back then. I was younger, clearly not as wise as I am today, but still savvy enough to buy the book. Winner of the Country Music People Critics’ Choice Award for Favorite Country Book of the Year and of the International Bluegrass Music Association Certificate of Merit, I’ve read the book a few times since. It warrants a few reads.

The bluegrass bible. Bluegrass – A History by Neil V. Rosenberg. First paperback edition, 1993.

The definitive history of bluegrass is here. Noted bluegrass historian Neil Rosenberg has written a book so rich in detail and so thoughtful in its analysis it is almost misleading to label it a ‘history’… A must-read for anyone with the slightest interest in bluegrass.

– Jon Hartley Fox, Bluegrass Unlimited

Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys. Bluegrass – A History by Neil V. Rosenberg. First paperback edition, 1993.

Cantwell & Rosenberg
Part of the ‘Music in American Life’ series by publisher the University of Illinois Press, Bluegrass – A History was first released in hardback in 1985, a paperback edition following in 1993 (a twentieth anniversary paperback edition, updated with a new preface, was published in 2005). It was published 1 year after Robert Cantwell’s 1984 release of Bluegrass Breakdown: The Making Of The Old Southern Sound. There is, of course, considerable overlap between both publications as both authors describe Bill Monroe’s founding influence and the contributions of pioneers such as the Stanley Brothers and Flatt and Scruggs. But while Cantwell’s release was more a scholarly study of the music and its cultural roots, Rosenberg offers many more biographical details and discusses the musical impact of many more bluegrass protagonists than does Cantwell: in Bluegrass – A History Rosenberg expands the reader’s appreciation by focusing on the performers while tracing the genre through its pivotal developments during the era of Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys in the forties; the early bluegrass role in post-war country music; the genre’s trials following the appearance of rock and roll; its embracing by the folk music revival; the invention of bluegrass festivals in the mid-sixties; and the transformation of this genre into a self-sustaining musical industry in the seventies and eighties.

It is, and as Jon Hartley Fox has already stated herein, a must-read for anyone with even the slightest interest in bluegrass.

“Music Blue Grass Style.” Bluegrass – A History by Neil V. Rosenberg. First paperback edition, 1993.

Neil V. Rosenberg
Grammy Award winner Neil V. Rosenberg, originally from the western US, was Professor Emeritus of Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland where he taught from September 1968 until his retirement in September 2004.