In my imagination, there is a big room full of doors. Each door represents an entry spot for most bluegrass pickers and fans. I’d see a door with The Kingston Trio on it. Another two with the movies Bonnie and Clyde and Deliverance on it. Still others with the recordings Old and In the Way, Oh Brother Where Art Thou? and Will the Circle Be Unbroken on them. There have certainly been others, some are television shows like the Beverley Hillbillies and the Andy Griffith Show or perhaps radio shows like The Grand Old Opry, Bluegrass on a Sunday Night on WBFO or Bill Knowlton’s show in Central NY.  All are significant in that they have brought others into the fold. The latest major door I see is engraved, Billy Strings.

The Kingston Trio (1957-1967) door opens to a hallway of other doors like, The New Lost City Ramblers and Pete Seeger and the Weavers. The folk music revival swept the country with hits like “Tom Dooley” and “The MTA”.





The television show, The Beverly Hillbillies, brought the theme song “The Ballad of Jed Clampet” into the public’s ears and eyes. Occasional visits by cousins Lester and Earl (Flatt and Scruggs) always featured up-tempo bluegrass played right on the small screen! Another noteworthy TV show was The Andy Griffith Show. On several episodes, Andy would have to deal with the hillbilly family known as the Darling family. This band was actually The Dillards. They were a great young band from Missouri that the       producers discovered at a show in Los Angeles in the 1960’s. And let us not forget the TV show Hee Haw with many bluegrass stars appearing and often being featured in comedy skits.  I watched every week for appearances by Grampa Jones, String Bean, the late, great Ronnie Stoneman, Buck Trent and the incredible Roy Clark!

Three of these doors have the names of significant motion pictures on them.  The movie, Bonnie and Clyde (released 1967) had a soundtrack featuring the instrumental “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” by Flatt and Scruggs.  The movie Deliverance (released 1972) had a very memorable scene where a city guitar player plays a speechless duet with a local banjo player.  The tune “Dueling Banjos” introduced a new generation of Bluegrass.  The third movie, Oh Brother Where Art Though released in 2000) was set in the hills of Appalachia with appearances and songs by the top bluegrass artists of the time.  Bluegrass stars Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas, Dan Tyminski and Dr. Ralph Stanley of the Stanley Brothers were some of the musicians in this movie by the Cohan Brothers.  The songs, “Man of Constant Sorrow” and “Down to the River to Pray” found their way into the repetitious of many bluegrass pickers through this movie.

A trio of landmark recordings certainly have served as doors into further exploration of bluegrass and its roots. One that has done just that is a series of recordings by The Bluegrass Album Band, a bluegrass super group founded by Tony Rice (guitar and vocals) and J.D.Crowe (banjo) in 1980. This group included Jerry Douglas (dobro), Vassar Clements (fiddle), Doyle Lawson (mandolin and vocals), Todd Phillips (bass) and in some of their eight CD’s released between 1981 and 2002, they also had Mark Schatz (bass) and Bobby Hicks (fiddle) playing with them. In these recordings, they recorded songs previously recorded by the commonly acknowledged first generation of bluegrass pioneers, Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, The Stanley Brothers, Jim and Jessie McReynolds, Reno and Smiley and The Osborne Brothers.


Another series of recordings, Will the Circle Be Unbroken volumes I, II and III were released by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with collaborations by the old guard of country and bluegrass artists available in Nashville at the time which was 1972. Roy Acuff, Mother Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Merle Travis and Jimmy Martin were among the stars that the members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (considered long haired hippie pickers at that time) recorded with. Later the group gathered other well-established artists in a second (1989) and then a third collaborative recording (2002). In this last one, Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash were joined by Del McCoury, Willie Nelson, Sam Bush and Ricky Skaggs to name a few.



The third one is marking 50 years since the band’s last major gig. Old and in the Way (active 1973-1974) was a bluegrass band of west coast super pickers and songwriters including Peter Rowan on guitar and vocals, Vasser Clements on fiddle, David Grisman on mandolin and vocals, John Kahn playing string bass and Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead on banjo and vocals. The group played traditional bluegrass songs by Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers and Flatt and Scruggs but also played Grateful Dead and New Riders of the Purple Sage mixed with original compositions by Garcia, Rowan and Clements.

As I was delving deeper into bluegrass music through my love for banjo music, it was sometimes a topic of conversation between pickers and fans just which of these doors were the first one opened by each of us. If you have read this far and are inspired to write a response to me telling me which door or doors brought you into bluegrass music, I am curious, and my email is

Nothin' Fancy

On April 19th and 20th, The St. Lawrence Valley Bluegrass association will present a Spring Bluegrass Get a Way at the Riveredge Resort in Alexandria Bay, NY. Plenty of jamming opportunities and two Friday music sets by the national band, Nothin’ Fancy highlight the event. Call 315-482-9917 for room rates and more info is available by calling Patty at 315-778-0320



Also, we are happy to announce the “Cherry Hill Pickin’ Party” – A halfway to Folkfaces Fest celebration of Bluegrass, Old-time & Stringband music! June 1st, 2024, Noon-11pm at the Cherry Hill Campground, 1516 Sumner Road, Darien Center, NY 14040.  We are so excited to welcome the amazing Tony Trischka as our headliner! A legendary educator, producer and innovator of the banjo! “Tony Trischka is known as the father of modern bluegrass” – NEW YORK TIMES

The full line up for June 1st is:

Tony Trischka


Dirty Blanket

Benny Bleu & Charlie Coughlin (of The Brothers Blue)

Tyler Bagwell & Sally Schaefer

Clinton’s Folly

Lydia Garrison & Tyler Westcott

#cherryhillpickinparty #folkfacesfest #tonytrischka #folkfaces #bluegrass #banjo #cherryhillcampground

Australian guitar wizard, Tommy Emmanuel is teaming up with Cris Jacobs, Baltimore singer songwriter at Babeville on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. Emmanuel has been called the best Acoustic guitar player in the world and speaking as someone who’s seen him live and up close, I agree with the compliments and would add that he is one of the best entertainers I’ve ever seen too! Those who attend on May 21 will see Emmanuel using every corner and surface of his guitar to fill out his guitar and vocal performance.

Bluegrass Shows Coming Up

Sunday, Apr. 14, 2PM-7 PM – The Bennington Lanes Bluegrass Jam – Bennington, NY

Thursday, Apr. 18, noon- 2:15 PM – The Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars – Sportsmen’s Tavern, Buffalo, NY

Saturday, Apr. 20, 6-9 PM- The Panfil Brothers Trio- East Eden Tavern, Eden, NY

Friday and Saturday, Apr. 19th and 20th, 4 PM-Spring Bluegrass Get-A-Way-Riveredge Resort-Alexandria Bay, NY

Saturday, Apr. 20, 7-9 PM- The Nothin Fancy Bluegrass Band- Sodus Central Jr. Sr. High School, Sodus NY

Sunday, Apr. 21, 4-7 PM -Old Time String Jam Session- 42 North Brewing Company, East Aurora, NY

Thursday, May 2, 12- 2:15 PM- The Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars- The Sportsmen’s Tavern, Buffalo, NY

Friday, May 3, 7-9:30 PM- The Stars of the Grand Old Opry Tribute with opening act, members of the           Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble- West Falls Center for the Arts, West Falls, NY

Tuesday, May 21, 7-9 PM – Tommy Emmanuel and Cris Jacobs – Babeville – Buffalo, NY

Saturday, June 1, noon-

A Few non-Bluegrass events happening in April

 Saturday, Apr. 13, 7-9:30 PM- Queen City Tribute Band featuring Scott Panfil- the Hollywood Theater- Gowanda, NY

Sunday, Apr. 14, 7-9:30 PM- John Prine Tribute night- the Sportsmen’s Tavern- Buffalo, NY

Wednesday, Apr. 17, 7-9 PM- The Back Room Jazz Dixieland Band- Wallenwein’s Hotel-East Aurora, NY

Until next time, Keep on Pickin’!

Mark Panfil;

Angela Hastings

Author Angela Hastings

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