Old-time to Bluegrass: The Emergence of a Fiddle Style


Old-time fiddle has been a part of American music since the first settlers brought the instrument from Europe and developed it into a tradition that continues to this day. However, following the advent of recording and the consequent commercialization of old-time or “hillbilly” music, fiddling styles began to change and evolve into a variety of new styles. As bluegrass music began to formulate beginning in the 1940’s, a distinctive bluegrass fiddling style emerged incorporating elements of old-time fiddling but also elements of jazz, blues and western swing. The purpose of this pathfinder is to provide an overview of research materials pertaining to the emergence of bluegrass fiddling available in the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection at Appalachian State University.

Introductory Text: 

Willis, Barry R. America’s Music, Bluegrass. Franktown, CO: Pine Valley Music, 1992 ML3520.W55 1992 See “Chapter One: Roots of Bluegrass” p 3-35 and “Chapter Ten: Bluegrass Fiddle” p 325-26.

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

Highly relevant:

  • Bluegrass Music – History and Criticism
  • Bluegrass Musicians – Biography
  • Bluegrass Musicians – Blue Ridge Mountains Region Biography Dictionaries
  • Country Music – Bio Bibliography Dictionaries
  • Country Music – Dictionaries
  • Country Music – Discography
  • Country Music – History and Criticism
  • Country Music – Radio Stations United States History
  • Country Musicians
  • Fiddlers – Biography
  • Fiddlers – North Carolina Biography
  • Fiddlers – Tennessee Biography
  • Grand Ole Opry Radio Program
  • Old-time Music – Discography
  • Old-time Music – History and Criticism

Also relevant:

  • Baker, Kenny, 1926-
  • Bluegrass Music – To 1951
  • Country Musicians – Biography
  • Fiddle Tunes – History and Criticism
  • Fiddle Tunes – North Carolina
  • Fiddle Tunes – United States
  • Fiddlers – Biography
  • Fiddlers – West Virginia
  • Fiddlers – West Virginia Biography
  • Forrester, Howdy, 1922-1987
  • Monroe, Bill 1911-1996 – Criticism and Interpretation
  • Monroe, Bill 1911-1996 – Discography
  • Wise, Chubby

More general:

  • Bluegrass Music
  • Bluegrass Musicians
  • Country Music
  • Country Music – Southern States
  • Country Musicians – Biography Dictionaries


  • Bluegrass – Directories
  • Fiddle Tunes
  • Fiddle Tunes – Georgia
  • Fiddle Tunes – Texas
  • Folk Music – United States
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Fiddlers’ Conventions and Music Festivals
  • Folk Music
  • Music - Fiddle Music
  • Music - Appalachia
  • Musicians - Appalachia
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • ML 3520
  • ML 3561
  • ML 420
  • ML 106
  • ML 102
  • ML 3524
  • ML 68
  • ML 3790
  • ML 156
  • ML 3545
  • ML 3551
  • ML 156.2
  • ML 156.4

Cantwell, Robert. Bluegrass Breakdown: The Making of the Old Southern Sound. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984. ML3520 .C36 1984

Journal of American Folklore, Vol 78, No 309, Hillbilly Issue. (Jul. - Sep., 1965), pp 267-286. ASU Periodicals 78 1965

Rosenberg, Neil V. Bluegrass: A History. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993. ML3520 .R67 1993

Wolfe, Charles K. The Devil’s Box: Masters of Southern Fiddling. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press: Country Music Foundation Press, 1997. ML3551.7.S68 W65 1997

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Abramson, Rudy and Jean Haskell, ed. The Encyclopedia of Appalachia. edited by Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006. (Subject “Music” p1108-1222) F106 .E53 2006

Carlin, Richard. The Big Book of Country Music: A Biographical Encyclopedia. New York: Penguin, 1995. ML102.C7 C28 1995

Larkin, Colin, ed. The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. edited by Colin Larkin. New York: MUZE: Oxford University Press, 2006. ML102.P66 G84 2006 v.1-10

McGee, Marty. Traditional Musicians of the Blue Ridge: Old-time, Early Country, Folk and Bluegrass Recording Artists, With Discographies. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co, 2000. ML106.U4 B66 2000

Stambler, Irwin. Country Music: The Encyclopedia. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. ML102.F66 S7 2000


Cohen, Norm. Traditional Anglo-American Folk Music: An Annotated Discography of Published Sound Recordings. New York: Garland Pub., 1994. ML156.4.F5 C64 1994

Ginell, Cary. The Decca Hillbilly Discography: 1927-1945. compiled by Cary Ginell. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989. ML156.4.C7 G56 1989

Meade, Guthrie T., Jr. Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Southern Folklife Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries in Association with the John Edwards Memorial Fund, 2002. ML156.4.F5 M43 2002

Mendelson, Michael. “A Bibliography of Fiddling in North America.” JEMF Quarterly, (part 1) Vol 11, No 2, 1975, pp 104-111; (part 2), Vol 11, No 3, 1975, pp 153-160; (part 3) Vol 11, No 4, 1975, pp 201-204; (part 4) Vol 12, No 1, 1975, pp 9-14. ML1 .J55

Miller, Terry E. Folk Music in America: A Reference Guide. New York: Garland Pub., 1986. ML128.F74 M5 1986

Russell, Tony. Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. ML156.4.C7 R87 2004

Abstracts and Indices: 

America: History and Life http://www.abc-clio.com/
“Provides citations with abstracts to over 1,800 journals and citations to book/media reviews and dissertations. In addition to covering all key English-language historical journals, America: History and Life coverage includes selected historical journals from major countries, state and local history journals, and a targeted selection of hundreds of journals in the social sciences and humanities.”

Search subjects: “Fiddle, Bluegrass, Folk music, Folk songs”

International Index to Music Periodicals (IIMP). http://chadwyck.com/
“IIMP provides citations with abstracts to more than 300 international music periodicals from over 20 countries. IIMP also includes retrospective coverage from 99 periodicals”

Search subjects: “Country and Western Music” and “Folk Music.”

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature. http://newsfirstsearch.oclc.org
“Includes citations on international music corresponding to the printed International Repertory of Music Literature . Offers citations in 202 languages, including original language titles; title translations in English; full bibliographic information; abstracts in English; author, journal and in-depth subject indexes. Includes all formats of scholarly works--articles, books, bibliographies, catalogs, dissertations, films and videos, and conference proceedings. Alos provides concert reviews, recording notes, and pedagogical manuals if they are of scholarly interest.”

Search subjects: “old-time fiddle” or “bluegrass fiddle” or “country fiddle” (highly relevant) or “old-time music” or “bluegrass music” or “country music” (more general).


Bluegrass Unlimited. Broad Run, VA: Bluegrass Unlimited, V.3-, 1968- .Monthly (ML1 .B86)

JEMF Quarterly. Los Angeles, CA: John Edwards Memorial Foundation, V. 8-21, 1972-1985. Quarterly (ML1 .J55)

Old-time Herald. Galax, VA: Old-Time Music Group, V.1-, 1987- .Bi-monthly (ML1. O35)

Old-time Music. London, V.1-45, 1971-89. Quarterly (ML1. O53)

Whisnant, David E. “Thicker Than Fiddlers in Hell: Issues and Resources in Appalachian Music.” Appalachian Journal, Vol 5, No 1, 1977, pp 103-115. F216.2 .A66

Wilgus, D.K. “Current Hillbilly Recordings: A Review Article.” Exerpted from The Journal of American Folklore, Vol 78, No 309, Hillbilly Issue. (Jul. - Sep., 1965), pp 267-286. ML420 .W41



Bluegrass Unlimited Webpage. www.bluegrassmusic.com

Old-time Music Webpage. www.oldtimemusic.com

Roots of American Fiddle Music. www.1001tunes.com

Other Sources: 

Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith
Bill Monroe
Chubby Wise
Jim Shumate
Art Wooten
Paul Warren
Benny Martin
Howdy Forrester
Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers
Clayton McMichen
Eck Robertson
Fiddlin’ John Carson
J.E. Mainer
Clark Kessinger
Vassar Clements
Kenny Baker
Elvin Rouse
The Coon Creek Girls
Art Stamper

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Doug Sharkey, 4 December 2007