The sole, surviving 35mm print of Bluegrass Country Soul, an independent film originally released in 1972, has undergone extensive restoration and will premiere at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro, KY, on November 2, 2019.
This theatrically released documentary captures “the sights and sounds” of Carlton Haney’s 1971 Labor Day Weekend Bluegrass Music Festival in Camp Springs, NC. It features the who’s who of bluegrass music, with such notable performers as Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Chubby Wise, The Osborne Brothers, Jimmy Martin, Mac Wiseman, J.D. Crowe, The Lilly Brothers, Tex Logan and Don Stover, and The Country Gentlemen. It also shows many of today’s stars when they were starting their careers, such as Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury, Doyle Lawson, and Tony Rice. The beginnings of “New Grass” are represented by The Bluegrass Alliance, The New Deal String Band, and The Earl Scruggs Revue. Growing international popularity is seen with The Bluegrass 45 from Japan. Roy Acuff, “the King of Country Music,” appears as a special guest star from the Grand Ole Opry.
The Washington Post’s review of the film in July, 1972 called it “a new high,” and noted that Bluegrass Country Soul was the first bluegrass movie. It was released on DVD by Time Life Music in 2006, and sold out completely before going out of print.
Albert Ihde, Producer/Director, and his wife, Ellen Pasternack, Executive Director, have taken on this preservation as a labor of love.
Working on this project has been a joy. The artists and fans have been incredibly responsive. Albert and I met working in live, professional, nonprofit theatre and love working together, so that’s an added bonus – Ellen Pasternack.
After the new bluegrass museum asked me for film photos and posters for an exhibit, Ellen and I decided to donate an archival copy of our film to their permanent collection. When one of my original partners on this film, Robert Henninger, examined our one remaining print, he saw that the color had deteriorated badly and offered to oversee a digital restoration in 4K high definition, Dolby sound, and in the widescreen (Academy) format in which it was first shown in theatres. If we hadn’t restored it now, the film might have been lost forever – Albert Ihde.
To help cover some of the costs for the film restoration, a brand new “Golden Anniversary, Legacy Edition” in a multi-media box set will soon be available through the film’s website, BluegrassCountrySoul.com.
Even though Bluegrass Country Soul had a small budget, it boasted some top technical talent. Robert Kaylor, the filmmaker behind the critically acclaimed documentary Derby, was the Director of Photography. Noted sound engineer and folklorist John Dildine handled the sound recording, and Washington, DC, Lighting Designer William Eggleston did the lighting. Ihde shot second camera, and Robert Decker shot silent footage on the festival grounds. Joel Jacobson was the Editor, and mandolin player Doug McCash was the Assistant Editor.
Carlton Haney, a successful country music promoter, invented the multi-day bluegrass festival in 1965. He appears throughout the film. Ihde first met Haney at his 4th of July festival in Berryville, VA, in 1971.
That August, when we found funding for a feature, Carlton agreed to let us film his next festival and to have his performers sign contracts with our production company. Carlton told them, ‘If you don’t sign a release, you won’t be in the movie.’ In return, the production company agreed to give 10% of any profits to help build a bluegrass museum in North Carolina, a project which never came to fruition. And now, 48 years later, we’re able to donate a copy of our film to the bluegrass museum in Owensboro, Kentucky, where Carlton has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. This bluegrass story has come full circle – Albert Ihde.
Fred Bartenstein, a prominent bluegrass historian and chair of the IBMA Foundation, worked with Haney at that time and was the festival’s director.
I remember how excited and proud the musicians were when they learned that someone wanted to make a movie about their music. It was a very big deal in 1971, and it was a big deal recently at the IBMA’s ‘World of Bluegrass’ in Raleigh. The bluegrass museum put up an impressive exhibit of large stills from the film in the convention center’s main lobby – Fred Bartenstein.
Bluegrass Country Soul is an iconic documentary and provides a wonderful snapshot of the festival experience in the early 1970s. The music crosses all cultural boundaries in this film, and first-generation bluegrass artists are leading the charge inspiring a new generation of musicians and fans. It is an incredible film, and we are so pleased to host this premiere and to welcome the film maker and the wonderful artists who appear in the documentary Chris Joslin, Museum Executive Director.
Bluegrass Country Soul is our big family’s home movie; it’s our youth – Sam Bush.
A celebratory reception and dinner for the artists who performed at the 1971 festival, and the filmmaking team, will be held prior to the screening.
Screening: Saturday, November 2nd, 2019 at 7:00pm.
Place: Terry Woodward Theatre, Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum
Address: 311 West 2nd St, Owensboro, KY 42301
Tickets are free of charge but reservations are suggested. For tickets, please go to bluegrasshall.org or call 270.926.7891.
1 – Sam Bush and Tony Rice as seen in Bluegrass Country Soul. This was the final performance of The Bluegrass Alliance. Sam Bush started The New Grass Revival and Tony Rice joined J.D. Crowe to form The New South.
2 – Ralph Stanley and Keith Whitley as seen in Bluegrass Country Soul. Ralph Stanley sings “Man of Constant Sorrow” in the film, 29 years before O, Brother, Where Art Thou? rocketed the song to fame.
3 – Bluegrass Country Soul was filmed in Camp Springs, NC in 1971. Bob Kaylor, the Director of Photography, moves in for a close-up while filming J.D. Crowe and The Kentucky Mountain Boys.
4 – The Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum’s exhibit of stills from Bluegrass Country Soul in the convention center lobby at the 2019 World of Bluegrass in the Raleigh Convention Center.