'BLUEGRASS IN BALTIMORE' The Hard Drivin' Sound and Its Legacy by Tim Newby BOOK-NEWBY
By Tim Newby (McFarland & Co., 236 pages, softbound). Even though most Bluegrass fans are aware that the Baltimore/ Washington area was an important place in the spreading of the music from rural to urban settings, did any of us really think that there was enough to write a 236-page book about? Well, author Newby covers the scene in detail, relying on Russ Hooper and many others for a fascinating rundown on most of the rough clubs where Bluegrass could be seen and heard, and where serious fights (some of them fatal) broke out on a regular basis. This went back to the 1950s and early 60s, and the music was good enough to attract a younger, more impressionable crowd of listeners like Mike Seeger, Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard among many other college age students who appeared regularly and eventually became players themselves. They got to hear and learn from a notable group of musicians that included Earl Taylor, Walt Hensley, Del McCoury, Jack Cooke and dobro pickers Russ Hooper and Kenny Haddock. And who can forget the Stanley Brothers’ frequent radio appearances at Johnny’s Used Car lot, hosted by the late Ray Davis. Newby also mentions some of the peripheral musical happenings, such as the country and Bluegrass shows at Sunset Park and New River Ranch—Sunday family type venues that included regular performances by Ola Belle Reed (Alex and Ola Belle) –the parks—though actually in Pennsylvania and Maryland— were close enough to attract fans from Baltimore, Washington, and even New York City. There are lots of photos scattered through the book, and lots of interesting facts to discover or be reminded of (if you happened to be part of the Baltimore scene in those days. Fascinating and well done.