28 July 2021

New book - and a mammoth classic - from Barry R. Willis

The BIB editor writes:

It was a very pleasant surprise to find a comment by Barry R. Willis added to the BIB post two weeks ago on the death of Byrone Berline. Barry Willis is a banjo-player, airline pilot, radio presenter, and novelist. He has also made a major contribution to bluegrass historiography: America's music: bluegrass. A history of bluegrass music in the words of its pioneers, first published in 1997, with over six hundred pages. I reviewed it in the December 1997 issue of the Irish Bluegrass Music Club Newsletter, beginning with the words 'This is a great nourishing Christmas pudding of a book, stuffed full of all sorts of good things.' To pick one example: the chapter on Carlton Haney, published the year before Haney was inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

The first edition is long out of print but can still be found, for instance, on Amazon.co.uk. Moreover, it can be downloaded from Barry's website, where the audio interviews on which the book is based can also be accessed. I strongly advise any reader to use also the voluminous section of the website with a wealth of additional research material, which includes important corrections to the published text - for instance, Jimmy Martin's vigorous defence of his reputation.

As well as the magnum opus of America's music, Barry has published two novels drawing on his own life experiences: The banjo pilot (2018) and Icy Strait, which appeared earlier this year. A feature by Richard Thompson on Icy Strait appeared two weeks ago on Bluegrass Today. The photo on the right above shows Barry at the launch of The banjo pilot.

He has also launched a blog for discussion of controversial issues in bluegrass music; the first (July 2021) issue concerns the credit for 'inventing' bluegrass (a subject that evoked conflicting views when it was raised on Bluegrass Today at the end of 2020), and the second (August 2021) is on Bill Monroe's early fiddlers. Don't miss the coming episode on Bill Keith's part in creating the book Earl Scruggs and the 5-string banjo.

© Richard Hawkins

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home