Museum Will Honor First Generation Bluegrassers

When the International Bluegrass Music Museum re-opens next Thursday (April 11) in Owensboro, Ky., one of the features certain to attract a lot of close attention — and debate — will be a plaque that lists “at least 231” of the most significant members of the “first generation” of bluegrass. That generation is defined as the singers, musicians and entertainers who, between 1940 and 1954, collectively created the style now known as bluegrass.

The list is published in the March/April issue of the International Bluegrass Music Association newsletter. Naturally, all the big names are there — Bill Monroe , Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs , Carter and Ralph Stanley , Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Sonny and Bobby Osborne, Don Reno, Jimmy Martin and the Stoneman Family — but there are some surprises, as well.

Among the names not generally associated with bluegrass are music publishing magnate Buddy Killen, who got his start as a bass player on the Grand Ole Opry and the Wheeling Jamboree; producer, performer and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Jack Clement; Boudleaux Bryant, a classical, country and jazz fiddle player before he and his wife, Felice, teamed up to become successful country and pop songwriters; innovative guitarists Hank Garland and Grady Martin; multi-instrumentalist and comic Roy Clark ; and country singer/guitarist/fiddler Sonny James.

Several pioneering women are also cited in this peerage, including Molly O’Day, Sally Ann Forrester, Bessie Lee Mauldin and Wilma Lee Cooper.

Students and long-time fans of bluegrass can use this honor roll as a test of their knowledge of the genre — and to speculate who else should be on it. More recent converts may plumb the list to discover such largely forgotten stylists as Hylo Brown, Clyde Moody and Charlie Moore.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to