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Scene 35, a Documentary on the Seldom Scene Being Produced

The Seldom SceneG.T. Keplinger, from Towson, MD, is a full-time assistant professor at Stevenson University where he teaches narrative and documentary production and editing. He is working on Scene 35, a documentary about the Seldom Scene, Washington DC's own nationally-known bluegrass band. The Seldom Scene began as a non-touring bluegrass band back in 1971 in Bethesda, Maryland. The basement jam sessions at the home of Ben Eldridge started the whole thing. Who would have thought that 40 years later, this band would have become one of the single largest contributers to the progression of bluegrass from the early days of Flatt and Scruggs and Bill Monroe to the more contemporary sounds that they founded.

Appropriately named, Scene 35, chronicles the 35 year history of the group. The documentary will include film footage, recordings, many photographs and live performances as the story of this highly influential band comes to life.

G.T. Keplinger, the historian behind the project, is also the filmmaker and has been a fan and friend of the band. He has collected works, documentation and archives of the band which he is compiling to put the story of the band into a documentary. Scene 35 is a project that G.T. says is a commercial cut of his M.F.A. thesis project. A final production date has not been announced.

Bluegrass reached a second peak in popularity in the early 1970s, and the progressive bluegrass style played by The Seldom Scene was particularly popular. Original Seldom Scene mandolin player John Duffey's stratospheric tenor anchored the group, but the vocal blend of The Scene set a new standard that attracted new audiences to what had been a niche music.

The Seldom Scene's weekly shows included bluegrass versions of country music, rock, and even classical pop. The band's popularity soon forced them to play more than once a week—but they continued to maintain their image as being seldom seen, and on several of their early album covers were photographed with the stage lights on only their feet, or with their backs to the camera.

This is a clip from my Seldom Scene documentary in progress. In this clip, Mike Auldridge, Ben Eldridge, Tom Gray, and John Starling discuss playing at their first “park shows” or bluegrass festivals in 1972, not wearing “uniforms” like most other bluegrass bands of the day, about being different, and about being from the city and not from the country and the importance of that in their early success.

Seldom Scene continues to excel in the bluegrass scene and has received critical acclaim for their work. Their latest CD, Scenechronized, recorded in 2007, was nominated for a Grammy award. The Seldom Scene has performed at the White House many times, and continues to tour the world, garnering the monikor: "America's Bluegrass Band". The band consists of Dudley Connell (guitar/lead and baritone vocals), Ben Eldridge (banjo and scatt singing), Lou Reid (mandolin/lead and tenor vocals), Fred Travers (dobro/lead and tenor vocals), and Ronnie Simpkins (bass/baritone vocals).

One of the greatest vocalists in bluegrass was John Duffey, a founding member of the Seldom Scene and the band's mandolin musician. When it came to the "High Lonesome" sound of bluegrass, Duffy had both. His tenor voice was instantly recognizable and almost a trademark of the Seldom Scene. His passing in 1996 was a big loss for the band.

The Scene never quit however. They filled the void with a new artist and carried on the Scene's tradition of providing a bluegrass sound in a non-bluegrass tradition. A recipe that has served millions of satisfied fans over three and a half decades of the Seldom Scene.

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