The short and quite cute -- they didn't call him Cuddles Newsome for nothing, after all -- mandolinist from Kentucky was part of the early history of bluegrass in the '50s. He was a member of the important 7 Flat Mountain Boys in the mid-'50s, a group under the rare leadership of its bassist and bass singer Estil Stewart. The sound of the group's music indicated that the latter player at least could count time when it came to music, even if his counting abilities could be questioned in other capacities. The 7 Flat Mountain Boys never had more than five members, for example; great players one and all, including fiddler Kenny Baker, who later went on to great glory with Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys and with his own groups. Newsome was also a sideman with several other groups from the Kentucky and Ohio mountain region, such as Buster Pack and the Lonesome Pine Boys and various groups under the leadership of the brother duo of Melvin and Ray Goins. These groups all recorded for small regional labels, often simply to have records to sell off the stage at gigs, or more importantly to use in order to land the gigs in the first place. Some of the 7 Flat Mountain Boys material was distributed on a somewhat larger scale by the Starday label, and was eventually reissued on the Rounder label as part of its series entitled The Early Days of Bluegrass.
Listeners wanting to hear the mandolin expertise of Newsome were probably disappointed when they picked up the second volume of this series, however, as the tune "I Could Love You All The Time," although quite beautiful, features Newsome on guitar instead. It seems the group's regular guitarist was too drunk to play the song at the recording session, and a fill-in fellow brought in at the last minute couldn't figure it out, either. Newsome remained active into the '70s, appearing with various bluegrass festival lineups as well as sitting down to interviews with various representatives from the new generation of bluegrass researchers. He would often summarize his recording career in a manner that must seem quite familiar to a variety of journeyman players: "It didn't make no money." ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi