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Bluegrass Bluesman: A Memoir (Music in American Life) Paperback – September 20, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Mesmerizing . . . especially for lovers of bluegrass."--Booklist


"One comes away from this interesting read with a keen understanding of a man who influenced country music, dobro playing in particular, in a way few have.  Recommended."--Choice



"A fascinating look at the musical culture of the South. . . . Thoroughly Southern, spicy, real, and lots of fun."--Library Journal


"The legendary musician provides interesting insight into the ways of his long-time boss, Earl Scruggs."--MountainTimes.com



"Graves's name won't ring a bell for many outside musicians' circles, but Burkett "Uncle Josh" Graves helped take bluegrass from southern Appalachia to college campuses and beyond, to the world-music status it enjoys today. . . . Bluegrass Bluesman is unfiltered, off-the-cuff oral history."--The Wall Street Journal

"In this welcome memoir, Graves proves himself a born storyteller. . . .   Rarely is a guitarist's memoir such a rich read."--Vintage Guitar



About the Author

 
Fred Bartenstein has performed many roles in bluegrass music, including magazine editor, broadcaster, musician, festival MC, talent director, scholar and consultant. He lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

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Product Details

  • Series: Music in American Life
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (September 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252078640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252078644
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,330,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an opportunity to hear the iconic musician speak his piece in his own words long after his passing. Fred Bartenstein has edited Josh's memoir interviews with an oh so light touch.

Josh speaks in a matter of fact, unapologetic tone as a kid that just happened to choose his own destiny and manage to ride a 60 year career to a legendary status. He did it as a side man with the most beloved bluegrass band of all time and he did it following his muse wherever it led him.

You learn of Josh Graves the man and musician of course but, Graves is fascinating when he details the business of early country and bluegrass music. He details the economics,pitfalls and real danger of being on the road during that time. Not for the faint of heart.

So much has changed of the years in some respects. So much hasn't changed at all.

Fred Bartenstein has given us a compact memoir Of "Uncle Josh", compact and straight forward. Josh speaking his mind, straight as an arrow, no frills. No apologies. Josh Graves telling us the way it was.

I'm going to read this again.
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By John Sparks on October 26, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a general rule, I can't say I care for memoirs. They are the least dependable of all historical writings in terms of chronology and objectivity--and yet, they're often vitally important historical records if for no other reason simply as the representation of an individual's own "take" on what he or she experienced. And with the help of some friends, tape recorders, and editors, "Uncle Josh" Graves created a gem of a memoir. I could wish perhaps that the legendary dobroist's interviewers had prompted him more about specifics in an effort to gete him to explain himself further and more clearly at various points, but as it is, this book is perhaps the best "insider's" history of Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and the Foggy Mountain Boys that we are likely to see. For what it's worth, the aspects of the narrative that touched me the most personally were Graves' recollections of how incredibly petty and tightfisted that both Lester Flatt and Bill Monroe could be (he characterizes Earl Scruggs, heartwarmingly, as a fairer, and scrupulously honest, man). Uncle Josh even recalled a time, after Lester Flatt had fired him for getting too much studio work in addition to his band duties, that he had to threaten Flatt with a lawsuit for telling an audience that he (Graves) had died. (And karma proved to be a lulu, too; though Graves does not mention this particular followup incident, Flatt had to make exactly the same threat to Esquire Magazine, for referring to him in a 1974 article as "the late Lester Flatt.") But there is perhaps something to be said for Monroe's and Flatt's quirks: their bitternesses, pettinesses, and miserliness actually, I think, reveal their rural roots all the more. Raised up from "the hardest" to a position of fame and importance...Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This is quite simply one of the most important books on bluegrass to be published in the last twenty years. The life and importance of Buck "Uncle Josh" Graves to bluegrass goes beyond his introducing the dobro into the music. He was a consummate showman, musician, comedian, songwriter, and singer. This memoir was lovingly assembled and edited by renowned bluegrass polymath Fred Bartenstein and a host of knowledgable people.

I have a fuller review in [...]

But basically, buy it and read it. The voice and memories of Josh Graves are worth hearing.
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Format: Paperback
I stumbled into bluegrass by way of an interest in the dobro and the music of Jerry Douglas. It was only after peeling back the layers of modern players like Douglas that I discovered who Josh Graves was. Pretty soon I realized that Josh Graves was to the modern dobro what Robert Johnson was to modern blues guitar.

I find that music is much richer when I can understand something about the musician. So, I relished learning more about the musical hero of one of my musical heroes. What's clear throughout the book is Graves' humility surrounding his status as a musical pioneer. That, itself, has made me a bigger fan of his. He lived a sometimes-gritty life, and it's amazing that he persevered to build the career in music that he did.

My complaints are few; I expected a linear story, but Graves' tales skip around a bit. Also, I hoped that he would elaborate a little more on the development of his style and the teachings of Earl Scruggs. Toward the end of the book, Graves gets on a bit of a soapbox about the irreverence of a newer generation of musicians, too. However, I can appreciate that it's all part of the fuller picture of Graves that I now have-- thanks to this book.

It's an easy, enjoyable read, and if you're a dobro player, it's required reading. Not all of us were lucky enough to cross paths with Graves while he was alive, so this book is the next best thing.
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Format: Paperback
What an enjoyable book! Uncle Josh created the role played by Dobros (or resophonic Guitars) in bluegrass music today because of the prominence he enjoyed in the influential band of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs after 1955. I was surprised to learn that Earl taught Josh the three-finger banjo-style roll when he was still playing with Esco Hankins in the late `40s.

Graves' memoir offers forthright views of the music, other personalities and his own place in that world. Without saying anything hurtful, Josh diplomatically lets us know where he stands. He's candid about the F&S breakup in 1969, spelling out details without casting aspersions on the principals. It's the first time I've seen the story spelled out so clearly. It's been convenient to blame their differences on Louise & Earl, but clearly Lester had a role as well.

I can only guess at the work that went into assembling, editing, transcribing and unifying the tape interviews that made this book possible. Congratulations to Fred Bartenstein on a first class job!
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