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Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Series: Music in American Life
Editor: Fred Bartenstein and Curtis W. Ellison
Foreword: Neil V. Rosenberg
Pub Date: 1/26/21
Pages: 288 pages
Dimensions: 6.125 x 9.25 in.
Illustrations:112 black & white photographs,
3 maps, 1 chart
ISBN: 978-0-252-08560-4
Format: Paperback

Industrial Strength Bluegrass
Southwestern Ohio’s Musical Legacy

Edited by Fred Bartenstein and Curtis W. Ellison, with a Foreword by Neil V. Rosenberg

In the twentieth century, Appalachian migrants seeking economic opportunities relocated to southwestern Ohio, bringing their music with them. Between 1947 and 1989, they created an internationally renowned capital for the thriving bluegrass music genre, centered on the industrial region of Cincinnati, Dayton, Hamilton, Middletown, and Springfield. Fred Bartenstein and Curtis W. Ellison edit a collection of eyewitness narratives and in-depth analyses that explore southwestern Ohio’s bluegrass musicians, radio broadcasters, recording studios, record labels, and performance venues, along with the music’s contributions to religious activities, community development, and public education. As the bluegrass scene grew, southwestern Ohio's distinctive sounds reached new fans and influenced those everywhere who continue to play, produce, and love roots music.

Revelatory and multifaceted, Industrial Strength Bluegrass shares the inspiring story of a bluegrass hotbed and the people who created it.

Contributors: Fred Bartenstein, Curtis W. Ellison, Jon Hartley Fox, Rick Good, Lily Isaacs, Ben Krakauer, Mac McDivitt, Nathan McGee, Daniel Mullins, Joe Mullins, Larry Nager, Phillip J. Obermiller, Bobby Osborne, and Neil V. Rosenberg.

"My family left Jackson County, Kentucky, in the late 1950s to find work in Ohio. The sounds and songs from home naturally tagged along with us. Riding around in Dad’s truck there as a kid, the first music I remember hearing was the Osborne Brothers and Flatt and Scruggs on WPFB. Industrial Strength Bluegrass brings to life how bluegrass developed in the Cincinnati/Dayton region. I love the vivid stories of how the genre came of age and all the fascinating characters who catapulted it onto the world’s stage."– Dan Hays, former Executive Director of the International Bluegrass Music Association

"Essential reading for any bluegrass fan. What a cast—from flawed geniuses, raucously liberated women, and gun-toting business proprietors to Eagle Scouts, professors, and creative artists of the highest order, all mixed together in the same petri dish, all true to themselves and their music. The setting for the first bluegrass college concert, Antioch, as well as where Mike Lilly rode his Harley into the Living Arts Center; Moon Mullins professed, promoted, and ad-libbed commercials with colorful epithets surpassing Barnum’s; motley barrooms became famous nationwide for the quality of the music played there; and, true to their work ethic, bluegrass professionals sprouted everywhere and many rose to national fame. The barroom bluegrass of Southwest Ohio spawned by Appalachian transplants who had taken the 'trail of the bologna rinds' was just as good and often more exciting than the bluegrass of the traveling professionals who first developed the music. When the two met here, it split the bluegrass atom."– Ron Thomason, founder and leader of the Dry Branch Fire Squad

Publication supported by a grant from the Judith McCulloh Endowment for American Music.

Fred Bartenstein teaches country and bluegrass music history at the University of Dayton. He is the editor of Bluegrass Bluesman: Josh Graves; Roots Music in America; Lucky Joe’s Namesake, and coauthor and editor of Industrial Strength Bluegrass and The Bluegrass Hall of Fame: Inductee Biographies, 1991–2014.