40: Thomas Goldsmith

Tommy Goldsmith writer, musician, record producer, historian and raconteur has just released “Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown The Making of an American Classic”. Sure there are musicians who have left their mark on music. Will anyone ever play the cornet like Louis Armstrong, the cello like Pablo Casals, the saxophone like Charlie Parker, or the electric bass like Jaco Pastorius ? Earl Scruggs not only excelled at his chosen instrument, the 5 string banjo but created a music that can’t be played without his style. Goldsmith tells the story of Scruggs development and of Bluegrass Music itself from the inside. His 30 years of writing on music and culture for newspapers in N.C. and Tenn. along with producing over 20 records for various artists in Nashville give him a unique perspective. As a musician himself Goldsmith understood exactly what Earl was talking about when he interviewed him over several years of their friendship. Goldsmith also edited “The Bluegrass Reader” which won the Best Journalist award from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

At last we have a sit down with a fellow tar heel and it’s nothing but fun. Who knew that King Records artist, The Stanley Brothers recorded their label mates, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters hit “Finger Popping Time” ? This is the kind of detail true music enthusiasts are eager to share.

Spotify Playlist for songs in this podcast

You will need a Spotify account to listen to the full versions of the referenced tunes.

Bluegrass Canon or Cannon Fodder ?

We presented the following LPs to Tommy for his reaction..almost all were Canon almost no fodder.

in 1972 Earle Scruggs released “Earl Scruggs His Family and Friends”. It featured his sons Gary and Randy, The Byrds, Doc Watson, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan among others. “Nashville Skyline Rag” from this LP is one of 4 tunes recorded with the Scruggs featured on 2019’s “Bob Dylan Travelin’ Thru The Bootleg Series Vol. 15.

The 5 string is not Mr Goldsmith’s instrument of choice but he looks so good here I couldn’t resist posting this

After you’ve gotten your copy of “Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown The making of An American Classic” then you can shop for “Speed Bumps On A Dirt Road When Old Time Music Met Bluegrass”, John Cohen’s magnificent new book of photos that overlaps the subject of Tommy Goldsmith’s podcast perfectly.

© John Cohen
© John Cohen

2 thoughts on “40: Thomas Goldsmith

  1. Thanks for another most excellent interview, this time with Thomas Goldsmith. Great stuff John, and your love for music shines through every time. As a guitar player since 1965 I still rely on people like you to nudge me in other directions for more inspiration. I am so grateful to you for your work. As you know, these days true musicologists are very rare to find. I hope you don’t object to that term.
    I listen to your podcasts on your blog.
    Thank you again.

    Bill O’Haire


    1. William: Thank you so much for going to the trouble of thanking me. I really appreciate your comments. I do get the sense that people enjoy them (the podcast). I have a few guiding principals. The first one I learned early…Don’t cut anyone off if they start to get too specific, in fact that’s what listeners seem to like the most. I don’t know if you’ve viewed the Bloomfield Tele video I did with G. E. Smith. Since you started playing in ’65 you might enjoy it, You Tube>G.E.Smith>Bloomfield. BTW there is a new biography (450 pages!) out on Bloomfield. IMHO it’s really good. Thanks for listening and responding.


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