Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem

Shining afar through shadows dim

Giving the light for those who long have gone

Guiding the wise men on their way

Unto the place where Jesus lay

Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem shine on.

“Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” was written in 1938 by a Tennessee farmer. Robert Fisher operated a small dairy farm just south of Murfreesboro. He was a religious man and served as a deacon at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. One summer afternoon, Mr. Fisher felt inspired to sit down and write the words to “Oh, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” Although he was a farmer, he did not write this song sitting on his back porch overlooking a pastoral setting. He didn’t write the words sitting under a starry sky thinking about Christ’s Advent. No, he wrote the words inside his dairy barn while seated on a milk stool. His daughter later helped him compose the music to this song, and it has been recorded by several well-known artists including The Judds, Patty Loveless, Ralph Stanley and this version by Dailey and Vincent.

As Christmas approaches, I think of the amazing Bluegrass music recorded and much of it written that is now available to enjoy. I thought that I would point out some of it that may not have been on your listening lists.

(The Country Gentlemen’s ‘Folk Songs & Blue Grass’ album art.)

The Country Gentlemen was a Bluegrass band that broke many barriers from the 60’s through the 90’s, based in Washington, DC. They did traditional Bluegrass, but also joked around about how severe the old songs sounded and added newer material by artists like Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan. Watching them was entertaining, and often funny. The classic line up of the band was John Duffy- mandolin, Tom Gray- upright bass, Eddie Adcock- banjo and leader, lead singer and guitarist, Charlie Waller. Here’s a Christmas favorite written by John Duffy and Ann Hill Streeter, Back Home at Christmas Time

Who hasn’t heard of the SteelDrivers, the Bluegrass band that Chris Stapleton started out in.? They’re a bluegrass band from Nashville, Tennessee. Members include fiddler Tammy Rogers, bassist Mike Fleming, guitarist/vocalist Matt Dame, mandolinist Brent Truitt, and banjoist Richard Bailey. Past members include Kelvin Damrell, Chris Stapleton, Gary Nichols, and Mike Henderson. The band has recorded four albums on the Rounder Records label and one independent live album, recorded at The Station Inn. TheSteelDrivers have received several Grammy nominations and won a Grammy for the album The Muscle Shoals Recordings.

(Tammy Rodgers and Thomm Jutz.)

Tammy Rogers and her co writing partner, Thomm Jutz, released this next personal favorite of mine in 2021. I hope you enjoy “Dancing in the Snow”

There has been a tradition of taking popular songs of the day and ‘Bluegrassing’ them, ever since Bluegrass first emerged, in 1945. The songs above are originals by Bluegrass artists, but here are some Bluegrass versions of popular Christmas songs.

Larry Sparks started out his long Bluegrass career in the Stanley Brothers band. Here is his version of “Go Tell It On the Mountain”

Becky Buller is a newer, fresh force in Bluegrass. Here is fiddler, clawhammer banjoist, singer/songwriter Buller singing “Last Christmas,” originally recorded by Wham.

If you are a Spotify streamer, here is my entire Buffalo Bluegrass Christmas playlist for you to explore and hopefully lift your holiday spirit.


(The Bluegrass AllStars.)

The Bluegrass Calendar for December 2023

Thursdays, Dec. 7 and Dec. 21, noon to 2:15 PM – The Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars at the Sportsmen’s Tavern

Saturday, Dec. 9, 7-9 PM – A Bluegrass Christmas Show – Creek Bend – The West Falls Center for the Arts

Saturday, Dec. 9, 7-10 PM – The Workingman’s String Band – Hawley’s Grove, Lockport, NY

Sunday, Dec. 10, 2-7 PM – The Western New York Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association monthly jam session – Bennington Lanes in Bennington, NY

Thursday, Dec. 14, 7:30-10:30 PM – Chris Panfil – Taltys – Buffalo, NY

Friday, Dec. 15, 7-9 PM – A Bluegrass Christmas Show – Creek Bend with Bill Ward – The Art’s Cafe in Springville, NY

Friday, Dec. 15, 4-7 PM – Chris Panfil – Talty’s Irish Pub – Olean, NY

Saturday, Dec. 16, 6-9 PM, – The Panfil Brothers Trio – The East Eden Tavern in Eden, NY

Sunday, Dec. 17, 1-4 PM, – The Old Time String Jam – Hosted by the Brothers Blue – 42 North Brewing Company, East Aurora, NY

Saturdays, Dec 23 and 30, 4-7 PM – Chris Panfil – The Shore House Bar and Grill in Derby, NY

Bluegrass Shows Coming Up in 2024

Wednesday, Jan. 3, 7-9 PM – Creek Bend – The Pizza Plant Italian Pub – Transit Rd, Williamsville NY

Friday, Jan. 5, 7-9 PM – Creek Bend – Lee Whedon Public Library – Medina, NY

Wednesday, Feb. 7, 7-9:30 PM – Greensky Bluegrass Band – Town Ballroom – Buffalo, NY

Saturday, Mar. 23, 7:30-9:30 PM – Chris Thile and Nickel Creek – UB Center for the Arts

Wednesday, Apr 3, 7:30-9:30 PM – Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn – Kleinhans Music Hall

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

In closing, I wanted to wish anyone that reads my monthly blogs and those that listen to and support live music especially Americana and Bluegrass, a wonderful holiday season and a great New Year.

Hope to see you soon and as always, keep on pickin’!

Mark Panfil


Mark Panfil

Author Mark Panfil

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