Ohio Bluegrass Musicians



Fieldworker: Katie Laur

Rusty York arrived in Cincinnati in 1952 from Hazard, Kentucky, and he believes he may well have been the first bluegrass banjo player in town.  Due to the city's reaction against anything hillbilly, he was ashamed to carry his banjo on the street and devised several clever ways of disguising it, such as carrying it in a guitar case. -- Katie Laur, "Bluegrass in Southwestern Ohio," 1977

Bluegrass is chic.  What was once derided as hillbilly music is now au courant.  Enclaves of fans continue to spring up in academe.  Middle-class youths who formerly embraced folk music and the blues, today are devotees of bluegrass. -- Cliff Radel, the Cincinnati Enquirer, October 17, 1976

The Ohio Bluegrass Musicians collection offers a unique snapshot of the Southwestern Ohio bluegrass scene in the 1970s.  "The Bluegrass Triangle" was the area bounded by Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati, Ohio; a hotbed for various kinds of revivals and innovations in string band music at the time of the collection in 1977.  Fieldworker Katie Laur was a member of the scene herself, and the leader of the Katie Laur Band.  Her collection offers extensive musings -- in recorded interviews and in various print media  -- on a genre of music that seems to exist in a constant state of revival.  The collected print materials suggest ways that dispersed and mobile "scenes" are sustained in part through the circulation of texts (articles, photos, advertisements, notices, etc.).  The interviews and recorded performances, on the other hand, document practitioners' personal thoughts on how old time music is -- in the words of the Hot Mud Family Band -- "current to us."

Katie Laur recording Suzanne Edmundson of the Hot Mud Family band, playing a version of "John Henry" at a gathering at the Edmundson home in Spring Valley, Ohio on September 8, 1977.