27 January 2021


Thanks to Richard Thompson for the sad news of the death, two weeks ago, of Robert 'Red' Cravens (b. 1932), one of the leading pioneers of bluegrass in the Mid-Western USA. Red Cravens was best known as guitarist and singer together with the three Bray brothers. They made one studio album, under the name 'The Bluegrass Gentlemen'; two other albums, Prairie bluegrass and 419 West Main, were compiled from live tapes and issued by Rounder Records. Their music was hard-core bluegrass in the lineage of Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers. More details, together with two audio tracks and a discography, are on Bluegrass Today.
The BIB also notes with regret the death three days ago (23 Jan.) of Colleen Trenwith (née Bain), musician, teacher, and an undoubted pioneer of bluegrass in her native New Zealand as fiddler with the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band. The HCBB were the second band from outside the USA to appear on the cover of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine (Sept. 1969; the Bluegrass Specials from Vienna, Austria, were the first in Feb. 1969). BU published two articles on them by their mandolinist Dave Calder, who wrote 'as far as we know we're the only bluegrass group around with a female fiddler' - very likely true at that time. The band became full-time professionals after Christmas 1968, and in the '70s were among the first bands from outside North America to tour in the USA. Colleen married the HCBB banjo-player, Paul Trenwith. During the last ten years she became a respected teacher at East Tennessee State University. More details, together with a tribute video and photos from the band's history, are in the obituary by John Curtis Goad on Bluegrass Today.
The September 1969 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited also included a photo and feature on the English bluegrass pioneer Pete Sayers (1942-2005), who was then working in Nashville as a music presenter on WSM TV.

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