In the spring of 1966, a group of Washington, D.C. area bluegrass fans came together for a very important meeting. They met to discuss producing a newsletter to keep the bluegrass faithful in the area up-to-date on band appearances. The group decided to include articles and record reviews and Bluegrass Unlimited, Volume 1, Number 1, a nine-page edition was published in July 1966. The newsletter’s first cover was a picture honoring Carter Stanley who had passed away that same year. By 1977 the magazine evolved from the stapled-in-the-corner mimeograph form to an offset press production. Today the magazine has a circulation of 12,000, has moved into the electronic age, and considered the foremost magazine for bluegrass music.
Bill Clifton was born William Marburg in Riverwood, Maryland, and at an early age became fascinated by country music. While in college he adopted the stage name of Bill Clifton and with friends formed a trio called the Dixie Mountain Boys. In 1955 he published a songbook, 150 Old-Time Folk and Gospel Songs, which circulated widely among bluegrass musicians. He began recording and released five albums during the late 1950s and early ‘60s. On July 4, 1961, Clifton organized an outdoor "Bluegrass Day" concert at Oak Leaf Park in Luray, VA. This all-day event featuring several top bluegrass acts and is considered the first bluegrass festival. In 1963 he and his family relocated to England and in 1967 he joined the Peace Corps and moved to the Philippines. Throughout this time he continued to write songs and perform in Europe, New Zealand and the US. In 1972, he played his first bluegrass festival circuit in the US and eventually returned to America. Clifton continued to perform at bluegrass festivals and concerts into the 1990s. BMI credits him with 111 published compositions, co-compositions, and arrangements.
The first Old Time Union Grove Fiddlers’ Convention was held at Union Grove School on the Saturday before Easter in 1924 to raise money for the school system. By the 1950s the convention was attracting over 8,500 attendees and many bands annually. In the 1960s, the Fiddlers’ Convention became an increasingly popular cultural event attracting people, fiddlers, and bands from all over the country. 1969 was the last convention at Union Grove School. In 1970 J. Pierce Van Hoy and Harper Van Hoy, decided to continue the tradition by each hosting their own fiddlers convention. Pierce held the “World Championship Fiddlers’ Convention” at his farm beginning in 1970 and on Easter weekend Harper and his wife, Wansie, hosted the Ole Time Fiddlers’ and Bluegrass Festival at the property known as “Fiddlers’ Grove.” The date moved to Memorial Day weekend in 1974 and has grown to a three day event. The program includes the certified Old Time Fiddler category, a variety of individual and band competitions, dances, storytelling and even children's programs. As of 2019, the tradition is now in its 96th year and is still going strong.
Chester Burton Atkins, nicknamed by throngs of fans as “Mister Guitar,” changed the world of guitar music, developing and elevating an innovative guitar playing style that has inspired scores of musicians. His style and sound are often duplicated but no one has completely captured the sound of Chet. He admired and was influenced by Merle Travis, Les Paul and Django Reinhardt. Working his way from low paying radio gigs to success in the business world at RCA Nashville, he discovered and signed many talented artists of his time. As one of the most prolific record producers of all times he was a driving force in the development of what was dubbed “the Nashville Sound.”