Pickin’ and Winnin’: The IBMA Hosts the Annual World of Bluegrass

By Victoria Moon

It’s October, and in Louisville, anyway, people’s thoughts turn to bluegrass. Which is appropriate , of course — Kentucky is the home of that particular musical genre, and no matter how cosmopolitan Louisville officials would try to paint this fair city, our hearts beat a little faster and our smiles get a  little wider when we hear the first notes on a banjo or mandolin.

But in October, bluegrass has more than just nostalgic value — it’s big business and big names. In October, Louisville becomes the bluegrass version of Hollywood — with a little less scandal and fewer bared navels, of course. On October 16-22of this year, the International Bluegrass Music Association hosts the World of Bluegrass and Fan Fest, the traditional music lover’s version of the Grammys, the People’s Choice Awards and Woodstock all rolled into one. Whew. Of course, it’s just business as usual for the IBMA, which has hosted ten of these.

The James King Band will kick off the Sunday session of Fan Fest

When the IBMA began in 1985, it was with the lofty ambition to promote bluegrass music throughout the world. The World of Bluegrass trade show and Fan Fest followed in 1987. Originally, the events occurred in Owensboro, but since 1997 they’ve taken place in Louisville to accommodate the ever-growing number of participants. Currently, the organization has over 2500 members in all 50 of the United States and in over 30 foreign countries, and many of these members — as well as a host of music lovers and industry people — descend on the Galt House for a week of in-depth wheeling and dealing as well as seminars, exhibits, and music, music, music.

This year, seminars at the World of Bluegrass include event production, youth programs, better broadcasting, sponsorship development, use of the Internet for promotion, tax issues, international touring, health and wellness for the music professional, marketing plans, record retailing and legal issues for songwriters. Even newcomers are covered this year with a seminar titled “Crash Course for Artists,” which covers such essentials as “Winning Press Kits for Artists and Events,” “Preparing to Build the Team: Managers, Agents and Publicists,” “Radio Airplay & Marketing,” “Developing a Band Image Onstage,” and “Getting the Most Out of a Recording Session.” The Trade Show Exposition Center will feature over 100 exhibitors, and as for the music — well, twenty-four featured showcase performances are scheduled during the trade show and forty big-name acts will be appearing at the Bluegrass Fan Fest, a weekend event for not only music professionals but fans to gather for a 3-day concert.

The performance schedule for Fan Fest this year is:

Friday, October 20th

: The Del McCoury Band

IIIrd Tyme Out

Lonesome River Band

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

Rhonda Vincent & The Rage

Tim O’Brien

The Isaacs

The Lilly Brothers

New Vintage

Hazel Dickens

Robin & Linda Williams


Bill Evans/John Reischman Band

Linda Thomas & Dan DeLancey

A Tribute to Randy Howard featuring the Kathy Chiavola Band and special guests

Saturday, October 21st:

The Lynn Morris Band

Blue Highway

Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time

Mountain Heart

Dale Ann Bradley & Coon Creek

Dry Branch Fire Squad


The Jeff White Band

Bluegrass Ramble

Mark Johnson & Friends

Country Ham

Crooked Jade

Steve & Jefferson Louvat

Sunday October 22nd:

The James King Band

Karl Shiflett & The Big Country Show

The Chapmans

The Johnny Staats Project

Jerry & Tammy Sullivan

Lost Highway

US Navy Band Country Current

Mary Faith Rhoads-Lewis

Besides Fan Fest, the other big draw at the World of Bluegrass is the IBMA Awards show on October 19, held at the Kentucky Center for the Arts and broadcast by radio to an international audience. Country star Marty Stuart will host the awards show this year, and awards will be given to artists in 17 different categories, including Entertainer of the Year, Instrumental Group of the Year, Female and Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year.

This year, the nominees include Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Lonesome River Band, The Del McCoury Band, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder and IIIrd Tyme Out for Entertainer of the Year; J.D. Crowe & the New South, Lonesome River Band, The Del McCoury Band, Nickel Creek,  and Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder for Instrumental Group of the Year; Blue Highway, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Lonesome River Band, The Del McCoury Band,  and IIIrd Tyme Out for Vocal Group of the Year; Laurie Lewis, Claire Lynch, Lynn Morris, Dolly Parton and Rhonda Vincent for Female Vocalist of the Year, and Ronnie Bowman, Dudley Connell, Del McCoury, Russell Moore and Dan Tyminski as Male Vocalist of the Year. Album of the Year nominees include Blue Highway’s self-titled Blue Highway, Murder on Music Row by Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time, The Grass Is Blue by Dolly Parton, John & Mary from IIIrd Tyme Out  and Back Home Again by Rhonda Vincent.

Of special note is the induction of two new members into the IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Honor: Doc Watson and Lance LeRoy. Doc Watson, known for his cleanly melodic flat-picking, helped establish the guitar as a lead instrument in bluegrass. Lance LeRoy founded The Lancer Agency, a booking and management company that has become one of the longest-running organizations of its kind in bluegrass.

Finally, for fans who haven’t found enough music to go around already, a special moonlight cruise has been planned on the Spirit of Jefferson Wednesday, October 18. The Krueger Brothers from Switzerland will headline, and the Big Muddy String Band will open. Boarding for the cruise will start at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $12 a person.

(The gate for the Bluegrass Fan Fest’s Friday performances opens at 11:30 a.m., 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Performances run from 12:30-11 p.m. on Friday, 11 a. m. – 11 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $55 for all three days or $30 for Friday and Saturday only, $20 for just Sunday. For more information on tickets for the IBMA Awards, contact IBMA at 888-GET-IBMA.)