BITTERSWEET, Ky. — During a recent trip to our nation’s capital, I found myself doing more people-watching than being a tourist. And while all the museums and monuments are truly amazing, the people who visit and live in Washington, D.C., are amazing in their own right.
First off, there are so many of them. I mean, there are people everywhere. There is also a great diversity among all those who come to this place. It is interesting to hear the different languages spoken everywhere you go in the city and to know they have come from all over the world to be there.
One thing I noticed, that somewhat surprised me, was the number of people who walk around with their earbuds or headphones on listening, I would assume, to their favorite music. The hustle and bustle of one of the largest cities in the country goes away once those headphones go on, and while I prefer to hear what’s going on around me, these folks seem completely lost in whatever they are listening to.
I’m sure the music being heard is as diverse as the listeners themselves. But in doing all that people-watching, I also noticed that music seemed to be everywhere I went – in the shops and hotels, and often simply on the streets. Who knew Washington was such a musical place?
I really should have known that. Some of my favorite performers came from this area. The great Duke Ellington is probably one of the most famous of all the musical icons who called D.C. their home. And jazz seems to fit this modern but historical city.
It may come as a surprise that one of the best-known bluegrass bands hailed from the area. Members of The Seldom Scene began their careers more than 40 years ago playing here. In fact, one of their best recordings, a live set, was recorded at the famous Cellar Door music club. The venue is gone but the band lives on and still tours extensively.
Another great voice to come from Washington belonged to Eva Cassidy, who is my favorite female vocalists ever. She was actually a native of D.C. and performed in local venues until her untimely death in 1996.
And who could forget Country Joe McDonald, a 1960s performer who blended country and bluegrass with rock and folk? Joe was born in D.C., but his musical career began on the West Coast.
One thing is for sure: No matter what all those people walking around Washington are listening to, they certainly have plenty of homegrown talent to choose from.
Bluegrass Johnson comes from a long line of country music performers and enjoys a passion for the rhythm and melody. From the hills of Kentucky, he will offer his opinions on a variety of new country music each week. Readers with questions or comments may write to Johnson in care of this publication.