March 27, 2002
1:51 PM   Subscribe

Let’s visit with the father of bluegrass, shall we? (inside)
posted by transient (19 comments total)
Bill Monroe, also known as “Big Mon,” laid the foundations of traditional bluegrass by fusing the British-influenced folk of the Southern U.S. with African-American blues. Of course, he added a few distinctive touches of his own, namely his distinctive “high lonesome” voice and the blistering breaks on his 1923 Lloyd Loar-made Gibson F-5. Monroe, along with an influx of immigrants from Southern Europe, was key in establishing the mandolin as an important instrument in American music.

Monroe died in 1996 and was buried in his hometown. That famous Gibson was sold last year for $1.125 million to a foundation established in Monroe’s hometown. He is still remembered and his music continues to be admired by bluegrass fans and mandolin players around the world.
posted by transient at 1:52 PM on March 27, 2002

Why don't we also visit with the sons and daughters of bluegrass while we're at it?
posted by pjdoland at 2:02 PM on March 27, 2002

Bill Monroe, my hero! Thanks, transient; may I assume you're a mandolinist, too?
posted by Lynsey at 2:16 PM on March 27, 2002

Or some of the other sons of bluegrass.
posted by jennyb at 2:27 PM on March 27, 2002

I've got a copy of The Music of Bill Monroe (box set) and it's really quite amazing. Not just the remastered music, but the pictures and information that come with the set are very nice.
posted by stormy at 2:35 PM on March 27, 2002

Lynsey: you may.
posted by transient at 3:11 PM on March 27, 2002

Is the grass any bluer on the other side? (my favorite).
posted by Bixby23 at 3:36 PM on March 27, 2002

My first car had a bumper sticker that read:
"My Grass is Blue".
(hand me down from the dad)

Check out Bela Fleck and Steve Earle's interpretations of bluegrass. Good stuff.
posted by johnjreeve at 5:01 PM on March 27, 2002

"I'd still rather listen to Bill and Charlie Monroe than any current record. That's what America's all about to me." -Bob Dylan (in Rolling Stone)

The Monroe Brothers are my fave.
posted by y2karl at 8:06 PM on March 27, 2002

"I'd still rather listen to Bill and Charlie Monroe than any current record. That's what America's all about to me." -Bob Dylan (in Rolling Stone)

The Monroe Brothers are my fave.
posted by y2karl at 8:07 PM on March 27, 2002

oops, my mistake!
posted by y2karl at 8:08 PM on March 27, 2002

As Ricky Skaggs says, Blugrass Rules!
I love Bill Monroe. I also love New Grass Revival(and all spinoffs thereof),Ralph Stanley, Riley Puckett, Charlie Poole,Flatt and ScruggsAlison Krauss, and the inimitable Bad Livers.
posted by jonmc at 8:30 PM on March 27, 2002

And just to round out jennyb and pjdoland's comments, there is O Sister! The Women's Bluegrass Collection, too.
posted by y2karl at 9:31 PM on March 27, 2002

Big bluegrass fan here. All the above mentioned are great. I especially like the progressive instumentalists along with the traditionalists. Read...Sam Bush, Tony Rice, David Grisman, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Chris Thile etc. Or for a bunch of these guys in one place Strength in Numbers, only one released album, but worth the search. These guys have inspired me to start learning a musical instument again, something I haven't pursued for many years, this time a mandolin. These guys are awesome. Oh and let's not forget the ladies, Alison Krauss, Alison Brown, Rhonda Vincent etc.!
posted by tdstone at 12:07 AM on March 28, 2002

I have a brief Monroe Moment I'd like to share...

I was a stupid college freshman at the University of Iowa and had left a football game at halftime with a rather gregarious friend of mine, when we happened upon a tour bus. "Bill Monroe" it read on the side. We decided it was our drunken duty to pretend to be fans of this country hick and we knocked on the door. A guy answered and we said, "We're here to see Bill. We're big fans." He squinted and shook his head. "I don't think Mr. Monroe is available to talk right now..." and then he turned to an inaudible cue inside the bus and said "are you sure?" He then turned back to us and said, "alright. come on in."

We went in and out from the back came Mr. Bill Monroe. We sat down with him and asked some very general and very lame questions about him. It was obvious we had no idea what kind of music he played or who he was. He sat with us and talked a little about his life and his music and how he believed bluegrass was good for the kids of today (at that time, 1989), and how he hoped we would come see him play.

We were still 18-year-olds smart-asses laughing at this guy because we thought his music was so out of touch and we were just putting him on, but we were both a bit stilled by the man. His kind of grace can cut through the thickest of beer buzzes. When we left the bus we both were silent. This man had been such a presence and had treated us so well when we obviously didn't deserve to be treated well at all.

From then on I had a great respect for the man and, as you can obviously tell, feel compelled to tell the tale of The Day I Met Bill Monroe anytime I can. When you meet a legend and you instinctively feel it, now that's real star power.

sorry about the length, lack of links, and personal nature, but Bill is The Man, and fans of his should know how gracious he could be.
posted by Sr_Cluba at 12:21 AM on March 28, 2002 [2 favorites]

tdstone... check the filesharing networks for the "bluegrass allstars" (also called the "acoustic allstars"). This 3 cd set is nothing but Bela Fleck, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Sam Bush, and Mark Schatz having some fun. You can also get the whole thing as .shn from a good many traders, if you're into the lossless compression :)
posted by canoeguide at 3:41 AM on March 28, 2002

great post...I just got done making a mixed CD called "So Lonesome" that has a couple of the more wistful Monroe numbers on it, along with some Flatt + Scruggs, Stanley Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys et al on it. I just love that old time music sound (especially that "Banks of the Ohio" by the Blue Sky Boys. Yikes.). Monroe truly was one of the real 20th century pioneers of authentic American music.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 5:51 AM on March 28, 2002

Great story, Sr_Cluba.
posted by transient at 6:36 AM on March 28, 2002

Great links, transient!

I kinda grew up on bluegrass. My dad could play just about any instrument, and I have early memories of going to somewhat ersatz (being that they were in upstate NY) hoedowns and sheep shearings and barnraisings where my dad would play.

My heart has always belonged to Doc (and of course Merle) Watson

Still haven't made it to Merlefest yet. Anyone going this year?
posted by cowboy_sally at 6:54 AM on March 28, 2002

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