Like biscuits and fried chicken on Sunday afternoon, there were magical moments in the origins of bluegrass music, when two great things came together.
A Fateful Night
Such was the occasion when sometime around 1926 or ’27, a teenager named Bill Monroe was afforded the opportunity to play with Arnold Shultz for a local barn dance in Rosine, Kentucky.
“One time they [Arnold and his family] was up around Rosine, and they [the townsfolk] wanted us to play for a square dance there, so Arnold played the fiddle and I played the guitar.”— Bill Monroe
Arnold Shultz: Traveling Bluesman
Arnold Shultz was a black, old-time, blues, and ragtime musician from Ohio County, Kentucky. He and his family were coal and dock laborers who traveled all over the South looking for work. Wherever they went they brought their music along.
Arnold was well known for his innovative guitar picking style, in which he played rhythm, bass, and melody by thumbing the bass strings while picking the other notes with his other fingers. He was a major influence for players like Kennedy Jones, who first saw Arnold play back in 1918. Jones then taught the style to other guitar players, who in turn influenced the great Merle Travis.