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Culture Couch is WYSO's occasional series exploring the arts and culture scene in our community. It’s stories about creativity – told through creative audio storytelling.

Dayton's Role In Southwest Ohio's Bluegrass History

(L-R) Dave Edmundson, Rick Good and Suzanne Thomas of the Hotmud Family at a Dayton Public School performance, 1973.
Chuck Good
(L-R) Dave Edmundson, Rick Good and Suzanne Thomas of the Hotmud Family at a Dayton Public School performance, 1973.

A new book and its companion CD celebrate the history of bluegrass music in Southwestern Ohio. Community Voices producer Dave Barber explores a corner of that history in East Dayton, where transplants from Kentucky and other southern states settled after finding factory jobs and bluegrass music provided a soundtrack.

High Res Cover Image.jpg
Industrial Strength Bluegrass and its companion CD celebrate the history of bluegrass music in Southwestern Ohio, including Dayton

Frank Wakefield on mandolin was the kind of high flying bluegrass music you could see and hear in the bars of Dayton in the 1950s and 60s, part of the vast history featured in the book Industrial Strength Bluegrass. Edited by longtime bluegrass advocate Fred Bartenstein and Miami University professor Curtis W Ellison, it tells dozens of stories about bluegrass music throughout southwest Ohio.

One of those stories took place in the mid 1970s. The Living Arts Center became a cultural hub for transplants in Inner East Dayton where one of the region’s most beloved bands, the Hotmud Family, played a central role. The popular country band fused bluegrass and old time music. Rick Good played banjo and sang in the Hotmud Family. He contributed a chapter in the book on the Living Arts Center

"When we just a trio, we’d done George Zimmerman’s tv show a couple of times," says Good. "George was director of music for the Dayton Public School system, and he loved what we were doing. Then he decided to write this grant to have us go into the public school system in Dayton especially the schools that were in East Dayton and had a lot of kids who were second and third generation Appalachian. He thought that this was important for them to hear this music live, and we were the closest thing in Dayton that was doing traditional Appalachian music. And doing that not only basically made us a band who could play together and understood from the inside out what that meant we were developing, it also started giving us a sense of where this music fit in Dayton society."

courtesy of Mac McDivitt private collection
Bluegrass music was performed in East Dayton from the 1950s through the 1970s.

The Hotmud Family would form the core backing band for The Weekly Country Jamboree where local East Dayton amateur musicians shared songs and stories from back home. WYSO, which was broadcasting its Rise When The Rooster Crows country program six mornings a week, would also play an active role.

"We kinda came up with the idea of having a live jamboree because there was this nice little theatre. That seemed like the way to serve the community because the community was so full of of transplants that played music… that had guitars and banjos and knew songs and just wanted to get together with like minded people from back home. This created an opportunity for that to happen….and boy did it happen," says Good.

Music featured in this story:
Marvin Cobb & Frank Wakefield and the Chain Mountain Boys - "New Camptown Races"
The Hotmud Family - "Girl On The Greenbriar Shore"
Bobby Osborne - "We'll Head Back to Harlan" (from Industrial Strength Bluegrass)

Special thanks to Al Turnbull

Support for Culture Couch comes from WYSO Leaders Frank Scenna and Heather Bailey, who are proud to support storytelling that sparks curiosity, highlights creativity and builds community.

Culture Couch is created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Dave Barber has hosted programs on WYSO dating back to 1977. A Dayton native, Barber got involved with the station after listening to YSO and learning about all kinds of music from programmers such as Art Snyder, Larry Blood, Jon Fox and many others. He's also a graduate of WYSO's Community Voices training program.