Shortly after I started playing bluegrass music seriously back in 1973, Bill Monroe released a double album of live recordings from his Bean Blossom festival. For a teenager just learning about the music, this recorded glimpse into a major festival was a revelation to me, with live audio of Bill Monroe (with Jack Hicks and Kenny Baker), Lester Flatt (with Kenny Ingram and Marty Stuart) and an eye-opening version of Orange Blossom Special on banjo from Carl Jackson. I also fell in love with Jimmy Martin through this album, my first time to hear such classics as Mary Ann and Hit Parade Of Love.
So, it was with great pleasure that I took note of a press release earlier this week promoting the fact that June 10-17, 2006 will mark the 40th Anniversary of the first Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival in Bean Blossom, IN, which the organizers describe as “The oldest, continuous running bluegrass festival in the world!” Oddly, the press release indicated that Bill Monroe founded the event in 1967, suggesting that while the 2006 event may be the 40th Bean Blossom festival, the 40th Anniversary won’t actually occur until 2007.
Still, let’s not quibble over this celebration of an enduring bluegrass legacy. 45 different acts are booked for this 8 day festival, including some of the biggest names in bluegrass, plus a kids bluegrass camp, a youth tent (sponsored by Bluegrass Now) and a Sunny Mountain Boys reunion show on Saturday (6/17/06) commemorating the life and music of the recently departed Jimmy Martin.
That recording, Bean Blossom by Bill Monroe, is available as a CD release, and it belongs in the collection of every serious bluegrass fan. Add this one to your gift list if it isn’t already on the CD rack.