BOOK HIGHLIGHT


Bluegrass Unlimited - Banjo On The Mountain: Wade Mainers' First Hundred Years - By Dick SpottswoodBANJO ON THE MOUNTAIN: WADE MAINER’S FIRST HUNDRED YEARS
BY DICK SPOTTSWOOD WITH STEPHEN WADE
Univ. Press of Miss. Discography, index, 134 pp., b&w pictures, paperback, $30.
(Univ. Press of Miss., 3825 Ridgewood Rd., Jackson, MS 39211, www.upress.state.ms.us.)

Wade Mainer has a unique perspective on bluegrass since he saw it developed firsthand. Hailing from the fertile music-filled hills of North Carolina, he played on the same circuit as the Monroe Brothers before Bill formed the Blue Grass Boys. “Bluegrass,” Mainer says, “is show music instead of listening music.”

Dick Spottswood’s highly anticipated biography spans a century in which the genres of country and bluegrass music developed. Spottswood chronicles Mainer’s playing career, which started in the early 1930s with his brother, fiddler J.E. Mainer, and continues today with his wife (of 73 years) Julia. Wade played a key role in popularizing many familiar bluegrass standards including “Reuben” (his recording was the first to include banjo), “Little Maggie,” “Dream Of The Miner’s Child,” “Uncloudy Day,” and many more.

Banjo player Stephen Wade contributes a fascinating essay deconstructing Mainer’s banjo style, explaining his two-finger approach and emphasizing his attitude that “the music had to fit the story being told.” Mainer chose not to play clawhammer because “the tunes didn’t come out” in that style.

Pictures and memorabilia make up most of the book, captioned by entertaining and personal comments from Wade and Julia. Especially interesting are letters booking Mainer to play for the Roosevelts in the White House in 1941 and an effusive two-page epistle from Woody Guthrie. A complete discography follows the text. Few artists can boast a list of recordings that stretch from 78s through CDs, but Wade Mainer can, and that makes him a true country music treasure. CAH