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May 2024
Vol. 23, No. 8

Bluegrass Corner

Why Is Bluegrass Music so Popular?  

by Dwight WordenJuly 2023

Kids and their instructors perform on Bluegrass Day. Photo by David Cupp.

Bluegrass Day at the Fair Report. Sunday, June 11, was Bluegrass Day at the Del Mar Fair from noon to 5pm, and what a great day it was. The action started on the Paddock Stage with a presentation by about 50 youngsters sawing away on their fiddles and cellos under the tutelage of their teachers Jane Frey and Jennifer Dolkas. We heard classic fiddle tunes, artfully arranged, with soloing and harmonies from this talented bunch.

Next up was a band scramble where names were drawn from a hat to form bands, with each band given about 15 minutes to work up two songs to perform on stage. Skill levels ranged from beginner to performing pro, and contestant ages ran from eight to 80, and that’s the fun of it. Selecting a clever band name was also part of the drill. The stage performances were judged by our two volunteer judges and prizes were awarded for the best on each instrument, best vocalist, and best youth. The winning band was Spoonful of Bluegrass.

Philly & the Cheese Steaks. Photo by David Cupp.

Spoonful of Bluegrass. Photo by David Cupp.

Emma’s Gut Bucket Band was next up, presenting the SDBS free music outreach program that provides bluegrass music to assisted living facilities, schools, community centers, and the like, with fiddle tunes and classic bluegrass numbers.

Three top bands also graced the stage to showcase the real deal bluegrass music. First up was Philly and the Cheese Steaks, then Sunnyside Strings, and Prairie Sky closing out the event. Enjoy these great David Cupp photos of Bluegrass Day at the Fair 2023.


Why is Bluegrass Music so Popular?  That’s a great question! With rare exceptions you don’t find it on the radio, on TV, in movies, or in commercials where most other music genres are popularized. So why do more than 15 million people in the US report they are bluegrass music fans, with millions more around the world? Here are my thoughts:

  • It’s participatory. All players are welcomed to join in. You come to a bluegrass event to jam and play, not just to listen. At concerts it’s tradition for even the biggest stars to meet and greet the audience for a “shake and howdy.”
  • It’s authentic. No electric instruments or studio effects, just solid “for real” music. This is appealing at a time when so much else is gussied up.
  • It has history. Its mix of acoustic instruments and its basic sound have stayed consistent since the 1940s when it all started with Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys and later Flatt and Scruggs, both of whom still top bluegrass charts.
  • It’s fun! Try it, and you’ll know what I mean.

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