Discover the Roots and Musical History of Kentucky’s Blues, Jazz and Bluegrass
The musical history of Kentucky is astounding! Soulful blues, soothing jazz, lively country and the fastest bluegrass pickin’ in the world are just a taste of the dynamic music scene in Kentucky. The state has produced many music greats including Mary Ann Fisher, the first female backup singer for Ray Charles, Helen Humes, a genre bridging vocalist known for swinging between jazz and blues, and some of country’s hottest stars such as Loretta Lynn and Chris Stapleton, and of course, the father of bluegrass himself, Bill Monroe.
Local haunts, international museums and world-class festivals all keep Kentucky’s music traditions alive for neighbors and newcomers alike. With 2020 marking the Year of Music for Kentucky, it is the perfect time to plan a trip to experience the diverse abundance of music shaping the musical history Bluegrass State.
The Kentucky Center for African American Heritage remembers the old Top Hat Club as a “legacy of black Louisville,” and though the Top Hat Club has closed, its legacy still vibrates through the city in these local venues.
- At Jimmy Can’t Dance local and touring artists take to the stage to innovate and entertain. This popular jazz joint is an homage to the rich jazz history of the city and is the epitome of underground, steamy jazz.
- Stevie Ray’s Blues Bar welcomes locals and travelers six nights a week for the best blues, rock and jazz music in Louisville. Weekly jam sessions uncover the city’s hidden talents and rocking, all-night events make Stevie Ray’s the place to jive like a true Louisville local.
Lexington’s dynamic music scene has produced musical genius in every genre from jazz to punk. Edgar Hayes, famed jazz pianist, carried a bit of Lexington with him through his career and echoes of his fast fingers can be heard at these long-standing jazz venues.
- The Big Band & Jazz concert series in the Moondance Amphitheatre is one of the city’s longest running and most beloved series. The audience is encouraged to bring a picnic and let the music wash away their cares every Tuesday from May through August.
- For those who think the blues sound best underground, Tee Dee’s Bluegrass Progressive Club has been the Monday spot for the last 30 years. This local staple is owned and named for guitar virtuoso and vocalist Tee Dee Young.
With legends like Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass and inductee of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, hailing from Owensboro, the Kentucky town has cemented itself as a premier stop for music lovers.
- The ROMP Festival every June bringsfriends and families together to celebrate the roots of bluegrass. The best of the best play in Owensboro’s 150-acre Yellow Creek Park each year to adoring bluegrass fans. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own instruments to jam throughout the weekend in artist-led workshops.
- The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum is the only international museum dedicated to preserving and showcasing the history and artifacts of bluegrass music. Visitors can learn the history of the greats with engaging videos and fascinating stories and try their own hand in the Pickin’ Parlor, where they can play a variety of instruments including mandolins and banjos.
Upcoming 2019 Festivals
With festivals taking place year-round, the Bluegrass State features genres extending well beyond its namesake. From country, blues, rock and roll to pop, hip hop and jazz, Kentucky welcomes a diverse lineup of music festivals that celebrate the state’s musical roots. A few upcoming festivals for 2019 include:
- Railbird is a brand-new festival on Keeneland racetrack’s stunning grounds. Marrying music, bourbon and equine culture, Railbird is elevating the festival experience with culinary delights such as a luxurious morning brunch in the Saddling Paddock and a bourbon tasting experience in The Rickhouse. World-class performances from Hozier, The Raconteurs and Brandi Carlile are expected to put this new festival on the map August 10-11.
- Hometown Rising is a music and bourbon festival featuring country music heavyweights like Tim McGraw, Little Big Town, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban and more. Bourbon authority and bestselling author Fred Minnick is the festival’s spirits curator and organizes what is known as the ‘Big Bourbon Bar’ – the centerpiece of the festival featuring two dozen hand-selected bourbons from top distilleries. The 2019 festival dates are September 14-15.
- Bourbon and Beyond offers the perfect blend of music, food and bourbon. Over 45 bands will take the stage throughout this three-day festival to celebrate the spirit and music culture of the Bluegrass State. The 2019 Bourbon and Beyond takes place in Louisville September 20-22 with headliners including Foo Fighters, Robert Plant, Zac Brown Band, ZZ Top and many more.
- Louder Than Life brings rock and roll to the heart of Louisville with legends like Slipknot, Guns N’ Roses, Disturbed and Rob Zombie headlining this weekend festival. Spanning September 27-29, the Louder than Life festival wraps up the Kentucky Exposition Center’s explosive festival season.
- Kentucky’s Edge will make its grand debut this October 4-5 as the quintessential bourbon event. Hosted by Covington and Newport, the weekend-long festival will feature a campus of venues throughout both Northern Kentucky cities and offer an immersive weekend of great music bourbon, food, shopping and conversation.
For more information about the musical history, festivals, and more, please visit www.kentuckytourism.com.
Kentucky offers a world of outdoor adventures, vibrant arts scene, expansive distilleries and micro-breweries, and an explosive culinary scene. From legendary Horse Country and the grandstands of America’s most storied thoroughbred racing tracks to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®, Kentucky invites you to come and explore. For information, please visitwww.kentuckytourism.com. Follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.