Monroe, Jerusalem Ridge
Around the Fourth of July, I like to turn to something with American roots. “Jerusalem Ridge” was written by Bill Monroe (1911-1996), known as the father of bluegrass. The musical style, and Monroe’s band the Blue Grass Boys, take their name from Monroe’s home state of Kentucky. He grew up on Jerusalem Ridge, a couple of miles west of Rosine, Kentucky.
Bluegrass became a definable style rather recently. It drew from a variety of folk influences from the Appalachian region, including traditional mountain music, country, gospel, work songs, and blues. Much of traditional Appalachian music was unknown outside the region until musicologists like John and Alan Lomax began making field recordings, primarily in the 1930s.
Monroe formed the Blue Grass Boys in 1939. When banjo player Earl Scruggs joined Monroe’s band in 1945, he brought the three-finger picking style that characterizes music of bluegrass, and all of the elements had finally come together. In the late 1940s, Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys recorded many of the tunes now considered standards. Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt formed a separate band in 1948. The term “bluegrass” was not applied to the overall style, however, until the early 1960s.
Mark O’Connor has become a leading figure in traditional American music, playing bluegrass, country and jazz. He also has credentials in the Classical music world and has made appearances with concert artists like Yo-Yo Ma and numerous symphony orchestras. O’Connor has also developed his own teaching method (the O’Connor Method) based on teaching both Classical and American folk techniques.