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Publishing House: University of Illinois Press
Author: Josh Graves
Editor/Other: Edited by Fred Bartenstein;
Foreword by Neil Rosenberg
Pub Date: 9/1/2012
Pages: 176 pages
Dimensions: 6 x 9 in.
Illustrations: 41 black & white photographs
ISBN: 978-0-252-07864-4
Format: Paperback

Bluegrass Bluesman
A Memoir, by Josh Graves

The life and music of a bluegrass pioneer, in his own words.

A pivotal member of the hugely successful Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, Dobro pioneer Josh Graves (1927-2006) was a living link between bluegrass music and the blues. He maintained lifelong ties with black artists and comported himself with the gold tooth, snappy headgear and independent attitude of a classic bluesman. Fred Bartenstein, drawing upon his own deep knowledge of bluegrass and country music history, crafted the posthumous autobiography from three sets of interviews conducted by others.

In lively anecdotes, Bluegrass Bluesman describes Graves’s upbringing in East Tennessee and the climate in which bluegrass music emerged during the 1940s. Deeply influenced by the blues, he also adapted Earl Scruggs’s revolutionary banjo style to the Dobro resonator slide guitar. Graves added a distinctive sound to bluegrass music and created patterns followed by subsequent generations of players. His accounts of the Foggy Mountain Boys in the 1950s and 1960s reveal the band’s dedication to musical excellence, Scruggs’s leadership, and an often grueling life on the road. He also comments on his later career when he played in Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass and the Earl Scruggs Revue and collaborated with the likes of Boz Scaggs, Charlie McCoy, Kenny Baker, Eddie Adcock, Jesse McReynolds, Marty Stuart, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, and his three musical sons.

A colorful storyteller, Graves brings to life the world of an American troubadour and the mountain culture that he never left behind. Also included are tributes from twenty-four of Josh Graves’s musical contemporaries and disciples, along with material on his instruments and repertoire.

“An excellent autobiography of a highly creative musician. Graves was a first-rate storyteller with a discerning sense of what was important in his many memorable experiences.” – John Wright, author of Traveling the High Way Home: Ralph Stanley and the World of Traditional Bluegrass Music

“Josh Graves inspired hundreds of musicians to pick up the steel bar and slide it over the strings of the Dobro.... It’s good and fitting that the story of this talented and influential musician is being preserved in his own words.” – from Neil Rosenberg’s foreword to the book

Born in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, Josh Graves (1927-2006) is universally acknowledged as the father of the bluegrass Dobro. In 1997 he was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.

Fred Bartenstein teaches country and bluegrass music history at the University of Dayton. He is the editor of Bluegrass Bluesman: Josh Graves; Roots Music in America; Lucky Joe’s Namesake, and coauthor and editor of Industrial Strength Bluegrass and The Bluegrass Hall of Fame: Inductee Biographies, 1991–2014.