Shortly before the Kentucky Senate voted on a measure to establish the Bluegrass Beaten Path Music Trail, Don Rigsby and Midnight Call promoted Kentucky’s music culture in the State Capitol.
Don Rigsby and Midnight Call, special guests of Senator Robin Webb and Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Bob Stewart, celebrated Bluegrass music with a performance in the Capitol rotunda. While they were at the Capitol, the band also performed on the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives, were recognized on the Senate floor and members were presented Kentucky Colonels from Senator Webb and House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 188, sponsored by Senator Webb, D-Grayson, petitions the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet to create and promote the Beaten Path Bluegrass Music Trail that would allow tourists and traditional music enthusiasts to readily identify and locate venues, festivals, concerts, museums, schools, and historic and noteworthy sites that feature Bluegrass music.
It was fitting that Don Rigsby and Midnight Call could perform at the Capitol just prior to the bill’s approval because Rigsby and the band were the inspiration for the legislation. Senator Webb, herself a fan, grew up listening to Bluegrass and claims many friends in the industry – including Rigsby. She said this legislation would not only benefit the state, but also Kentucky’s Bluegrass musicians. “Full-time musicians have a hard life,” she said. “Don and I agree that this has the potential to create new opportunities for Kentucky’s performers.”
Not only would this trail promote Bluegrass music, but it could be a tool for economic development and tourism.
“Tourism is one of Kentucky’s top industries,” said Senator Webb. “In 2012, tourism had an economic impact of $12.3 billion. Bluegrass music is a big part of our culture and an established attraction to our state. We need to build on that culture by working to grow the opportunities for visitors to see and do more related to the Bluegrass music industry. This would not only be good for our tourism industry, but would also promote Kentucky’s culture and traditions.”
Bluegrass music adds to the individuality of the commonwealth and its earliest traditions. “The roots of Kentucky’s Bluegrass music can be traced back to the earliest English, Irish, and Ulster-Scots immigrants settling in Appalachia,” she explained. “The traditional folk melodies and instrumentation of Continental settlers in Appalachia readily blended with Southern gospel music and African-American spirituals and blues to create a unique sound that is immediately identified throughout the world as Bluegrass music.”
Kentucky is the birthplace of many of the most original, accomplished, and recognized Bluegrass musicians – from the founders of the Bluegrass music such as Bill Monroe and the Osborne Brothers, to contemporary, cutting-edge musicians such as J.D. Crowe, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs and Patty Loveless.
Senator Webb said the impact of Bluegrass music can be seen throughout the commonwealth at internationally-known festivals such as the Festival of the Bluegrass in Lexington, the Rudy Fest in Grayson, the Olive Hill Shrine Festival, the Poppy Mountain Bluegrass Festival in Morehead, and the Goin’ Back to Harlan Festival at Southeast Community and Technical College.
Kentucky is also home to museums dedicated to preserving the heritage of Bluegrass music, such as the International Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro and the Bill Monroe Museum in Rosine and master luthiers such as Carter County’s Gary Cotton, whose guitars and mandolins are prized by professional musicians throughout the world. Furthermore, Morehead State University’s Kentucky Center for Traditional Music and the Hazard Community and Technical College’s Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music offer degreed programs for students pursuing advanced training or careers in music and entertainment.
“Bluegrass music — as are bourbon and Thoroughbred horse racing — is a fundamental and traditional component of Kentucky’s cultural heritage that people from all regions of America and throughout the world readily identify and seek out as uniquely appealing,” said Senator Webb.
Tourism in the commonwealth increased in 2012 by 4.4 percent from 2011, according to statistics from the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.
“We need to continue to grow the industry and build on the successes we already have,” said Senator Webb. “Tourism means jobs for Kentuckians. In 2012, around 174,000 jobs in the commonwealth resulted from tourism.
“Tourism impacts the state as well as the communities. Visitors spend money – new money — at our restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, shops and other establishments. It has been said that each dollar spent turns over seven times because those businesses then spend the money at other businesses and to pay employees.
“The Beaten Path Bluegrass Music Trail would give visitors another reason to spend money in our communities,” Senator Webb said. “It also would pay homage to a part of our Appalachian culture.”
SCR 188 now moves to the floor of the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Senator Webb represents the 18th Senatorial District, which consists of Boyd, Carter and Greenup counties.