Bluegrass music is a musical form that incorporates elements of country, folk, jazz, and blues, and it is usually played on acoustic stringed instruments. Though it is influenced by Scottish and Irish folk music, it is a distinctly American form. The name "bluegrass" comes from the band name, the Blue Grass Boys, whose singer, Bill Monroe, is often considered the founder of this musical genre.
Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys became popular in the 1940s. Their group featured instruments such as the banjo, the mandolin, and two fiddles. In 1954, Elvis Presley recorded a cover of their "Blue Moon of Kentucky." The group was a fixture of the music scene for many years, with 150 changing musicians over the decades.
Perhaps the most mainstream outlet for bluegrass music was the Coen Brother's film, O Brother Where Art Thou?, released in 2000. The film, which starred George Clooney, featured the actor and his prison friends as a band called the Soggy Bottom Boys. The movie's award-winning soundtrack featured bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, along with other musicians like Gillian Welch.
In recent years, several modern country music artists have recorded bluegrass albums. These artists include Ricky Skaggs, Dolly Parton, and Allison Krauss, a female country singer who has won 20 Grammy Awards, more than any other female musician in history.
For bluegrass music fans, there are many summer festivals held annually throughout the United States, including Colorado's Telluride Bluegrass Festival, which draws mainstream country artists like Emmylou Harris and rock bands like Guster and Counting Crows; the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, and the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Ancramdale, New York.
In recent years, particularly since the release of O Brother Where Art Thou?, bluegrass music has increased significantly in popularity and become a major presence in American musical culture. Today, bluegrass bands and concerts can be found in every state in America.