The Commonwealth of Kentucky is music. We are soaked in it, it is part of us. Birthplace to an inordinate number of famous musicians, namesake for song titles, fodder for ballads, origins of that high and lonesome sound, you would be hard pressed to name another state with such rich musical heritage.
Legendary names like Bill Monroe, Roscoe Holcomb, Jean Ritchie, Hylo Brown, The Osborne Brothers, John Prine, Lionel Hampton, John Jacob Niles, The Everly Brothers, J.D. Crowe, Larry Vincent, Jackie DeShannon, Rosemary Clooney, and Skeeter Davis all called Kentucky home. From one single rural highway winding through Eastern Kentucky was born the likes of Loretta Lynn, Dwight Yoakam, The Judds, Crystal Gale, Tom T Hall, Ricky Skaggs, Billy Ray Cyrus, Patty Loveless, Keith Whitley, and Gary Stewart. Hoping to secure their name in the history books are a new breed of Kentucky musicians like Adrian Belew, Jim James and My Morning Jacket, Sam Bush, Cage the Elephant…
Calling back to locations like Rosine, Muhlenberg County, the Cumberland Gap are song titles like Monroe’s seminal Blue Moon of Kentucky, Kentucky Waltz, Paradise, Rose of Old Kentucky, I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky, On My Way Back to the Old Home, The Everly Brothers’ beautifully harmonized Kentucky, and perhaps most famous of all, Kentucky’s state song, penned in Bardstown, Stephen Foster’s My Old Kentucky Home. Kentucky is even the home of “The Most Recognized Song in the English Language” according to Guinness, Happy Birthday, written by sisters Patty and Mildred Hill in Louisville, 1893.
And then there’s Bluegrass. The music born from Bill Monroe’s lightning fast mandolin leads, listening to his Uncle Penn’s fiddle on their Rosine porch. Hammered out at the weekly Barn Jamboree, and let loose on the hills of this beautiful rolling countryside. What can be more Kentucky than Bluegrass?
Kentucky is music.
I’ve been driving around my home state, music turned up, trying to find what is left of the stories, the sites and sounds that inspired countless artists before me. It’s an ongoing project that could very well take my whole life, but what a wonderful way to pass the time.