Their bluegrass performance at Sylacauga’s B.B. Comer Library Wednesday, Jan. 22 will feature the story, the music and the songs of what the legendary Bill Monroe called “that high lonesome sound.”
The Johnson Grass band includes family patriarch, Doyle Johnson on vocals and lead guitar; daughter, Pam Johnson on stand-up bass and vocals; granddaughter, April Sargent on vocals; and grandson, Drew Bivin, who plays mandolin. The band will also feature the father and son duo Corky Vincent on the dobro and Jimmy Vincent playing the banjo.
Johnny Ray Watts, a featured award winning fiddler from Shinbone near Lineville, will be a special guest at the program. Watts has played the fiddle since he was boy and he has won numerous competitions over the years.
He placed in the Top 10 in The Grandmasters Fiddling Competition in Nashville, Tenn. with fiddlers worldwide. Some of Johnny’s major awards in recent years are 2003 Kentucky State Fiddle Champion, 2011 Fiddle Champion of the 45th Annual Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention at Athens State University, three time winner of the Randall Franks Trophy at Ringold’s 1890s Days Old Time Fiddle Convention in Georgia for 2003, and in 2011, won the Georgia State Fiddle King at Hiawassee, Ga.
Johnny has been playing since he was 4-years-old and is rumored to have the song “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” written about him after playing in a competition at a young age in Georgia.
Johnny is the son of the late J T Watts who wrote the country song, “I’m Settin’ You Free,” which was later recorded by the Amazing Rhythm Aces.
“Our brown bag audience loves music and they enjoy hearing the songs and the history as well,” said Dr. Shirley Spears, library director. “This program will have some of all of the above.”
We had a good time last year with Mr. Doyle and his talented children and grandchildren, so I thought “The Way It Used To Be” series would be the perfect time ask them to come back to celebrate this music that is loved by so many local people, Spears said.
Bluegrass music, a type of “American Roots” music, has origins in Scottish, Irish and English music with immigrants bringing their music to Appalachia.
The earliest accompaniment to bluegrass was the fiddle with the bass, banjo, guitar and mandolin added later. Bluegrass, like jazz, has one instrument featured on the melody (taking turns as lead) with the other instruments as accompaniment.
Over the years, bluegrass music has been categorized as folk music, hillbilly, as well as country and western.
The term “bluegrass” did not appear until the late 1950s and many believe that the label was derived from the name of the Blue Grass Boys band formed in 1939 with Bill Monroe as its leader.
Monroe is often referred to as the “father of bluegrass.”
His band created the sound and instrumental configuration that remains the model to this day. Bluegrass has a distinctive vocal harmony, a style called “a high lonesome sound” by Monroe. The tunes lament lost love and hard times in Appalachia.
Variations can be found in the instrumentation, the vocals and the themes as bluegrass cycled through generations of musicians. But the appeal has lasted and many of the present day fans have been won over by the likes of Allison Krauss, an award winning singer and fiddler and various groups who bring their own technique and talent to the bluegrass venue.
The “The Way It Used To Be” brown bag lunch series is sponsored by SouthFirst Bank. The refreshment room opens at 11 a.m. and participants are invited to bring a sandwich and enjoy drinks and desserts provided by the library.
Working people are invited to come by on their lunch break to enjoy the programs which will begin promptly at noon in the Harry I. Brown Auditorium.
Seating is limited, so groups must have approved reservations. You may call 256-249-0961 or e-mail email@example.com to check on availability of space for groups.