cover of book

Bluegrass Ambassadors: The McLain Family Band in Appalachia and the World
by Paul O. Jenkins
West Virginia University Press, 2020
Paper: 978-1-949199-68-0 | eISBN: 978-1-949199-69-7
Library of Congress Classification ML421.M425J46 2020
Dewey Decimal Classification 782.4216420922

Bluegrass Ambassadors is the first book-length study of the McLain Family Band, which has spread the gospel of bluegrass for more than fifty years. Rooted in bluegrass but also collaborating with classical composers and performing folk, jazz, gospel, and even marches, the band traveled to sixty-two foreign countries in the 1970s under the auspices of the State Department. The band’s verve and joyful approach to its art perfectly suited its ambassadorial role. After retiring as full-time performers, most members of the group became educators, with patriarch Raymond K. McLain’s work at Berea College playing a particularly important role in bringing bluegrass to the higher education curriculum.

Interpreting the band’s diverse repertoire as both a source of its popularity and a reason for its exclusion from the bluegrass pantheon, Paul Jenkins advances subtle arguments about genre, criticism, and audience. Bluegrass Ambassadors analyzes the McLains’ compositions, recordings, and performances, and features a complete discography.
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