Last week we released Bluegrass Bluesman: A Memoir, by Josh Graves, and edited by Fred Bartenstein, a new book in our series Music in American Life. The book was a long time to press–the interviews took place in 1994, and were conducted by Barry Willis. Bartenstein tells more of the story in the editor’s introduction:
“This book began in an unexpectedly twenty-first-century way. In late 2008 my grandson Zachary had just set up a Facebook account for me. In one of my first posts, I mentioned that I was looking for some new projects. Barry Willis, author and compiler of America’s Music: Bluegrass (Pine Valley Music, 1989), who saw the post, knew of my sideline career—as a bluegrass historian, journalist, and broadcaster—pursued in fits and starts since 1965 when I attended the first multiday bluegrass festival at Fincastle, Virginia, at the age of fourteen.
Willis asked if I’d like to take up an endeavor he had begun years ago and never been able to finish. Over eight days in November of 1994, he had conducted extensive interviews with Josh Graves1 at Graves’s home in suburban Nashville. Their intention was to work these materials into an “as told to” Josh Graves autobiography. At the time, Barry Willis was a commercial airplane pilot based in Colorado. Mike Dow, a business associate there, had offered the services of his assistant to transcribe the tapes. The assistant was familiar with neither bluegrass nor the southern dialect and expressions used by Graves, but nevertheless she produced, to the best of her ability, a 113–page, single-spaced transcript.2
I agreed to review the material, and Barry Willis shipped from his present home in Hawaii a notebook containing the transcript and a handwritten cover note: “To whom it may concern: I, Josh Graves, hereby give my permission to Barry R. Willis and Mike Dow to write my official biography. Josh Graves 3/25/95.”
The rest of the introduction from the editor will be posted tomorrow. The book is on sale now at a 40% discount–only $13.17–from our website with promo code MAL40.