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Musical coup brings one-of-a-kind Bluegrass Music collection to the mid-state

Center for Popular Music - MTSU

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (BRILEY)  --  For many years the late Marvin Hedrick ran an electronics repair shop in Brown County, Indiana, but that was just his job. His passion was Bluegrass Music.

As a young man Hedrick would take his recording equipment out to the annual Bean Blossom Music Festival. It was there that he captured the tunes being laid down by the artists with their consent and the permission of the festival owner, Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass Music.

Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Popular Music recently pulled off a musical coup by acquiring the priceless Hedrick recordings. The Center says it will now use a $19 thousand Grammy Foundation grant to preserve the one of a kind, live bluegrass recordings.

Center for Popular Music Director Greg Reish says Hedrick would also host impromptu jam sessions at his repair shop or even at his house.

“Marvin’s sons Gary and David talk about when they were little kids and just learning to play (and) there were Bill Monroe, Kenny Baker, Jimmy Martin, and a number of other very prominent and now legendary figures hanging around his house with his father having jam sessions in the kitchen, and they captured a lot of this on tape,” Reish said.

Credit MTSU
Gregory Reish, Director of the CPM and Professor of Music History, is a scholar, teacher, and performing musician with expertise in a wide range of American vernacular styles.

Gary and David Hedrick recently donated those recordings to MTSU. Reish says the Center will catalog the 167 open-reel tapes and their contents making them a more accessible research source for the university’s students and scholars from across the world.  

“Part of the conditions of the donation is that I promised Gary and David I would do everything that I could to see that the music on those tapes is shared with the world,” Hedrick said. “That was something that was important to them and that had been important to Marvin.”

MTSU sound engineer Martin Fisher has already begun the investigative and digitizing process of the tunes Hedrick captured. They include festival performances, backstage jam sessions and those impromptu sessions recorded at his electronics repair shop.

“I can’t speak with great authority about exactly who is on the tapes because we’re just starting that process of figuring it out but thinking about the artists who came every year to perform at the Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival it’s very, very likely that we’ll find live performances by iconic artist like the Stanley Brothers, Jim and Jessie, Jimmy Martin the list goes on and on,” Reisch said.

A Grammy Foundation report about the recordings concludes that the Marvin Hedrick audio collection is one of the most historically and culturally significant collections of live bluegrass recordings in existence.

“It includes most of the major bluegrass artists of the 1950s and 1960s,” Reisch said. “Starting with Bill Monroe himself who was the father of bluegrass, the originator of the style that’s now known as bluegrass music. In fact bluegrass music is named for his band,” he said.

The Center for Popular Music hopes to issue a Marvin Hedrick collection special on their in-house record label Spring Fed Records. But Reish says that will have to wait until his researchers can figure out exactly which artists stopped by to jam in Marvin Hedrick’s workshop and left behind so many musical gems.