Welcome to African Bluegrass

Being of the African American persuasion I had found myself in the minority a lot when in the world of Bluegrass. To my knowledge (at the time) there were not any other African Americans involved in Bluegrass Music. In the field of Country Music there was always Charley Pride, but not much else that I was aware of. 

I guess in this realm I was a bit of a trail blazer though this was not my intention when I got involved with the Unity Bluegrass Band. It was more like "Steve is quitting, do you want to learn to play the bass and replace him?" This was my introduction to becoming a Bluegrass Musician.

Back in the mid-1970s I had heard of Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs... Had heard the music in "Bonnie and Clyde" and even watched an episode or thousands of "Beverly Hillbillies" so Bluegrass wasn't completely foreign to me. 

The first "non-traditional" instrument I took up was banjo. Previous to that in school I learned how to play baritone, trombone and tuba which made me no stranger to performing music and being involved with Unity Bluegrass provided me with the opportunity to become more familiar with this style of music.

A couple of years before I was invited to join Unity Bluegrass I studied banjo with John Carbo at Old Town School of Folk Music on Armitage Avenue in Chicago. There I socialized with many who had a love of music, both domestic and foreign and learned a great deal about our shared traditions including learning of the influence people of color had on these art forms which now have become mostly Caucasian in expression. But again (to my knowledge) at that time there were not many people of color who knew or supported this, even in the Chicago area.

But with time comes change, and when I look I am finding more people of color coming and being involved in our long lost traditions and that is why I wish to try to accumulate links, sources and other information pointing to organizations and people who are recapturing and re-expressing our African American Heritage.

Adrian McKee