Born in the mid-20th century, bluegrass defies time, drawing inspiration from the past while also openly embracing innovation. At once rural and urban, emotional and highly technical, this singular American music style remains unconstrained by geography, attracting fans worldwide who all share the same passion for what they affectionately call the “high lonesome sound.”
Inspired by vintage bluegrass concert posters, the stamp art features four acoustic string instruments typical of bluegrass bands: guitar, five-string banjo, fiddle, and mandolin. Text at the top of the stamp reads “High Lonesome Sound,” the title of a 1963 documentary about Appalachian folk music and a familiar nickname for bluegrass.
The five-string banjo dominates the sound of bluegrass and, along with guitar, mandolin, and bass, sets the rhythmic foundation of this often fast-paced music. Fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and guitar evoke a range of melodic flavors and emotions in their solos and backup. Instrumental dexterity, combined with tight vocal harmonies and heartfelt, sometimes mournful lyrics, creates an electrifying and emotional experience for both performers and listeners.
Music historians generally agree that bluegrass as we know it originated with Bill Monroe (1911–1996), who drew on old-time fiddle and church music as well as gospel, blues, and jazz to fashion a style of music that was both brand-new and achingly familiar. By 1945, Monroe and his band, the Blue Grass Boys, had solidified the key components of bluegrass: refined vocal harmonies, driving tempos, and outstanding musicianship.
Once viewed as a type of country music, bluegrass—which musicologist Alan Lomax famously described as “folk music with overdrive”—emerged as its own distinct genre in the 1950s. Soon the music could be found just about everywhere, from college campuses and large urban areas to television shows and movies. Outdoor festivals became a mainstay of bluegrass in the 1970s, a period when the music took off in new directions as bands eagerly incorporated influences from rock and pop.
Today, although bluegrass enjoys relatively little radio exposure, the music continues to thrive. The nonprofit International Bluegrass Music Association was founded in 1985, a bluegrass category was added to the Grammy Awards in 1989, and the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame was founded in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1991. Billboard launched its bluegrass albums chart in 2002, two years after the wildly popular soundtrack to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? introduced bluegrass to yet another generation of fans. Today, bluegrass festivals held around the world, like the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado and Bluegrass Live! in North Carolina, draw thousands of fans every year.
Art director Antonio Alcalá worked with designer and illustrator Heather Moulder to produce the stamp art.
The Bluegrass stamp is being issued as a Forever® stamp. This Forever stamp is always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce price.
First Day of Issue Ceremony
First Day of Issue Date: March 15, 2024
First Day of Issue Location: Owensboro, KY
Stamp Art Director
Antonio Alcalá served on the Postmaster General’s Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee from 2010 until 2011, when he left to become an art director for the U.S. Postal Service's stamp development program.
After working as a book designer and freelance graphic designer, Alcalá opened Studio A in 1988. Since then his studio has won awards of excellence in design from local, national, and international design institutions including AIGA, Print, Communication Arts, and Graphis. His clients include: the National Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, National Portrait Gallery, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gallery, National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Phillips Collection, and Smithsonian Institution.
Alcalá is an adjunct faculty member of the Maryland Institute College of Art, MFA program in graphic design, and founder of the design education program DesignWorkshops. He served on the board of the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association and is a past president of the Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington. The AIGA DC Chapter selected Alcalá as its 2008 AIGA Fellow. His work is represented in the AIGA Design Archives and the Library of Congress Permanent Collection of Graphic Design.
Alcalá graduated from Yale University with a BA in history and from the Yale School of Art with an MFA in graphic design. He lives with his wife in Alexandria, Virginia.
Heather Moulder is a graphic designer, printmaker, and musician from Woodbury, Tennessee, whose work has appeared on posters for international performers like Aretha Franklin, Loretta Lynn, and Paul McCartney, as well as for local bands and businesses. “I love to be tied into the community in that way,” says Moulder, who got her start designing flyers for her dad’s band.
Moulder earned her BFA in graphic design from Middle Tennessee State University and, since 2011, has worked as a designer and printer at Hatch Show Print in Nashville, one of the oldest letterpress shops in the United States. She has taught letterpress and design through Hatch Show Print’s internship program, at the Hamilton Type and Printing Museum and the Ladies of Letterpress conference, and through community and university workshops.
Moulder also serves as the White Oak Program Coordinator at the Arts Center of Cannon County, where she organizes exhibits and events for Tennessee artists. She creates her own artwork, freelance design projects, and the occasional song at her home studio, Lordymercy.
The Bluegrass stamp is her first project for the U.S. Postal Service.