Antedating of "Blue Grass" Music

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Wed Mar 20 23:59:47 UTC 2013

The OED's first citation for "blue grass," in the meaning "A type of country music played on acoustic stringed instruments," etc., is dated 1955.  In the Christian Science Monitor, May 29, 1939, page 10 (ProQuest Historical Newspapers), in listings of radio programs, one of the programs on WEEI is listed as "'Bluegrass' music".  It seems odd that such a term would first be found in connection with a Boston radio station.  It is also possible that the term here is referring to some other kind of music emanating from Kentucky.

The OED quotes a reference to "Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys," dated 1942, in square brackets.  Monroe's group is widely considered to have inspired "blue grass" as the name of this musical genre.  ProQuest Historical Newspapers yields a mention of "the Blue Grass Boys" in the New York Times, Jan. 14, 1940.

Fred Shapiro

The American Dialect Society -

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