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Sourwood Mountain

Updated: Jun 30, 2018

The years from 1967 to 1973 were great for bluegrass banjo. In 1967, Bonnie and Clyde came out, with Earl's Foggy Mountain Breakdown. In 1972, Deliverance came to theaters with a banjo-filled soundtrack, featuring a catchy banjo/guitar duet Dueling Banjos. The bluegrass banjo sound then became an important part of American country music. Prior to 1968, banjo players had to slow down 78s to 45 rpm, hoping to get close to what was being played by Earl.

I remember listening for hours to get one lick of Cripple Creek. In 1968 Earl's book, complete with note for note tabs of Earl's most famous banjo tunes, was finally released. In 1966 Bluegrass Unlimited, a monthly dedicated to bluegrass music, was published, but it did not feature any banjo tabs or written music.

Then, in 1973, Hub Nitchie published the first issue of BNL, the first printed material dedicated to the 5-string. BNL started as a 4 page stapled leaflet. I have every copy starting from Nov. 1974 and regret not having known about those earlier issues.

I first heard 'Sourwood Mountain' played by Sonny Osborne on the 'Cuttin' Grass' LP, 1963. The entire recording is filled with the incredible Osborne Brother's close harmony singing. Have fun with this song.

Banjo News Letter, Nov. 2013

Jack R. Baker


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