Bill Jorgenson, the Father of Wisconsin Bluegrass

I stopped in to see an old friend today, but he wasn’t there. His car was parked next to his little log cabin. The snow on the roof and the drifts on the ground were almost touching as we struggled with the storm door to get in out of the wind. Walking inside – the same fiddles, pictures, and mandolins were hanging on the walls, but he wasn’t there.

There were stacks of Bluegrass Magazines, Banjo’s and guitars lined up in cases along the walls and wonderful remembrances of years gone by but he wasn’t there. The fireplace proudly displayed his member of Americas Old Time Music Association Plaque and pictures of his daughter Jenni and grandchildren Amberlee, Ashley and Tegan but he wasn’t there.

CD’s, Records, VHS and Cassette Tapes were piled on the furniture and letters and drawings from the children were displayed through out the cozy cabin. The huge world map on the wall proudly displayed 29 colored pegs, all places where his CD’s had been requested and played. The phone had messages from across the country
Canada and beyond but he wasn’t there.

When you needed a helping hand in Door or Kewaunee Counties you could always count on Bill. If you needed a place to stay, or a few dollars to get bye, or someone to come drive you home from the local establishment he was always there. If you needed to borrow a guitar or banjo or mandolin or fiddle he was always there. If you were afraid to get on stage and just needed a little encouragement he was always there.

If you were Johnnie Cash or June Carter and you needed someone to talk to or to open for you – Or if you were Alison Krauss on your 21st birthday and not feeling well or wanting to sing, Bill just rounded up Chubby Wise took out their fiddles and said "Alison let’s play tonight instead of singing". If you were passing through like John Hartford or John Denver to jam up he was always there.

If you were Bill Monroe and getting on a little in life, it was Bill and his car that transported you around Northern Wisconsin and helped get you ready for the stage and even sang with you. Bill had a way of being very humble and quiet off stage and just kind of growing on you. Once he got on stage he was the professional, so much so that his friend Bill Monroe named Bill, the Father of Wisconsin Bluegrass. When Uncle Josh Graves, Kenny Baker, and Frank Wakefield needed a singer to round out their onstage experience, and to start a friendship that spanned the years, and when Dallas Smith lost his brother Bobbie and needed encouragement you were always there.

When you felt that the children of today needed to hear something other than rap music, for some 20,000 schools children who learned the Two Dollar Bill Song and saw all the Bluegrass instruments and heard you play the guitar, fiddle, banjo and sing and for the educators and students who greatly appreciated your free program you were always there.

And when a jam or festival needed a boost, and needed someone special even though they had no money or if a nursing home needed a cheer up day or if a little restaurant or the Wisconsin State Fair needed a seasoned performer you were always there.

And when your daughter needed help through some rough times or a grandchild needed a partner for the father-daughter dance or a wonderful father figure, you were always there.

Yes, I stopped to see and old friend, but he wasn’t there, because

William Jorgenson, (Billy), the Father of Wisconsin Bluegrass, passed away February 5, 2007.

Rob Billings

We invite you to the Bill Jorgenson Memorial Bluegrass Festival at Heritage Farm Kewaunee, Wisconsin June 8-9-10th 2007. The governor of Wisconsin has proclaimed June 9th Bill Jorgenson, the Father of Wisconsin Bluegrass day. 3 Day festival special memorial at 4pm on Saturday see