It was odd of you to claim that Mississippi is “famous for bluegrass” (“Painting by numbers”, November 5th). That is rather like saying England is famous for bagpipes. Bluegrass comes from Kentucky, home of Bill Monroe, the creator of that particular musical style. Mississippi is famous for the blues, spawning musicians such as Muddy Waters (pictured) and Robert Johnson.
"Famous for bagpipes" is right on, but I'd differ on the detail. In the first place, while Bill Monroe is from Kentucky, he is not from "the Bluegrass." He was born in Rosine over in the coal belt of this complex little state. The heart of the Bluegrass is Lexington, near 150 miles away. The Appalachians, provenance of Bluegrass music's "traditional roots" are even further away--the epicenter is perhaps Big Stone Gap, VA, where there is a justly well-placed museum. Monroe undoubtedly chose the name more for its marketing appeal than for any direct connection.Bluegrass is a form of country music, inspired by the traditional music of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish immigrants living in the Appalachians. Blues is rooted in African-American traditions of the Deep South, especially the Mississippi Delta.
More: the letter-writer undertakes to contrast the traditional music of the Appalachians from the African-American music of the Deep South. But the whole point of Bluegrass is precisely that it marries the English/Scots-Irish folk tradition together with African-American music, particularly Dixieland. Indeed, Monroe's contribution lies precisely in his development of vocabulary whereby mountain folk musicians could present thir material in the style of a Dixieland band.