While many believe that bluegrass music began in the late 1930s with Bill Monroe, the roots of bluegrass go much further back to the 1600s. Those who migrated to America from places such as England, Scotland and Ireland brought their ballads and dance music to the new country. African-Americans added their own brand of blues and gospel. They also brought to the new country the idea for the instrument that became an integral of bluegrass–the banjo.
Those early settlers began to move out to other areas of the new land that became Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky and Tennessee. As they pioneered the new land they created songs built on what they experienced in their daily lives. It took the invention of the phonograph and the radio in the early 20th century to transport the music from the mountains.
With Monroe and others bluegrass became a recognizable music form by 1945. However, it took Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt, who came onto the scene in the 1940s, to take bluegrass music to a wider audience. Scruggs and Flatt popularized bluegrass music to audiences from university students and television audiences to large venues and movies. Their popular song “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” became the Bonnie & Clyde movie soundtrack.