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Arts & Culture

A New Home For The 'World Of Bluegrass'

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

The World of Bluegrass event is underway in Raleigh.  It's the first year the five-day convention has come to the Triangle after having a home in Nashville for eight years, and it's a place for musicians, agents and music lovers to hear the best of Bluegrass every year.

ERIC HODGE: Craig Havighurst is here to talk about the World of Bluegrass.  He's a music journalist who has worked for NPR and the Wall Street Journal.  He now produces a weekly music roots show from Nashville, and he's a board member of the International Bluegrass Music Association, which puts on the festival every year.  Good morning, Craig.

CRAIG HAVIGHURST: Hi, Eric. Good morning.

HODGE: I wonder if you can tell us, what is the World of Bluegrass for somebody who might not know?

HAVIGHURST: It's just the blanket name that IBMA gave to its convention when it launched it in 1990, when it started in Owensboro, Kentucky. It overarched a variety of things that included the classic collegial meet-and-greets, expos and seminars, and also showcases where hand-picked bands - bands picked by IBMA for various reasons - got to perform in a performance environment for talent buyers. It's grown and evolved, but it still holds that name.

HODGE: Why the move from Nashville to Raleigh? How did that come about?

HAVIGHURST: Well, World of Bluegrass has had four homes. It went from Owensboro to Louisville when it needed to get bigger, then it came to Nashville when it needed to get bigger still. Also, it felt right to come to the hub of where the bluegrass business was and where the Ryman Auditorium was, the place where bluegrass had virtually been born on the Grand Ole Opry stage in 1945 and '46. After eight years in Nashville, the venue began to not seem quite right. The atmosphere never kind of clicked for a lot of us.  I think that there was just a general desire for a refresh.  This is the first World of Bluegrass that will be in the last great bluegrass state. It's been in Kentucky and Tennessee, and North Carolina fits in the triangle of original states of bluegrass as well as any other, so it's appropriate, too.

HODGE: The World of Bluegrass starts with the business side of things done behind the scenes.   A lot of industry leaders are here. I was wondering what it is they're doing before it sort of opens up to the public.

HAVIGHURST: Yes, there's first this kind of conventional seminar, as you might expect. They range from staying healthy on the road to negotiating contracts and understanding the rules of publishing, and then one of the real popular things is called Gig Fair, where artists do a kind of "speed dating" with talent buyers and bookers from shows, festivals and prominent venues so they can drop their CD, make their pitch and get to have a little face contact with the people they most need, which are the people that can hire them for shows. 

HODGE: So you know Craig, WUNC is producing a simulcast from Raleigh with WAMU Bluegrass Country tonight.  We have Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, The Grasscats and Big Medicine.  I wonder if you can help our listeners put these bands into context with where bluegrass is today.

HAVIGHURST: Well, you've named kind of a cross-section of styles. Doyle Lawson is the one that jumped out at me. Doyle Lawson came right out of the band Country Gentlemen, working in a thread that really goes right back to Bill Monroe. In the vocal styles, a lot of heavy emphasis on gospel songs, real fine musicianship, and also stage presence; the beautiful outfits. They're one of the best-dressed bands in the business. I think in all those respects, Doyle Lawson kind of sets the tone for what traditional bluegrass sounds like today.

HODGE: Craig Havighurst is a music journalist and board member of the International Bluegrass Music Association.  He will join us again tomorrow morning as the World of Bluegrass festival continues through Saturday.  Thanks for being here, Craig.

HAVIGHURST: It's been a pleasure.

WUNC's live broadcast of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver starts Wednesday at 8 p.m.

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