Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

March 26, 2014

Webb's music measure passes Senate

Area group helps lawmakers celebrate all things bluegrass

FRANKFORT — Shortly before the state Senate voted on a measure to establish the Bluegrass Beaten Path Music Trail, Don Rigsby and Midnight Call promoted Kentucky’s music culture at the Capitol. The special guests of Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, and Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Bob Stewart celebrated bluegrass with a performance in the Capitol Rotunda.

The band also performed on the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives and were honored on the Senate floor, and members were named Kentucky colonels from Webb and House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 188, sponsored by Webb, petitions the 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 the group performed at the Capitol prior to the bill’s approval because Rigsby and the band were the inspiration for the legislation. Webb, a bluegrass fan, grew up listening to the music and claims many friends in the industry, including Rigsby. She said the 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 the trail promote bluegrass music, but it could be a tool for economic development and tourism.

 “Tourism is one of Kentucky’s top industries,” Webb said. “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 said. “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 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.

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.

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,” Webb said.

Tourism in the commonwealth increased in 2012 by 4.4 percent from 2011, according to statistics provided by the Cabinet.

“We need to continue to grow the industry and build on the successes we already have,” said 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. It also would pay homage to a part of our Appalachian culture.”

SCR 188 now moves to the floor of the House for further consideration.

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