IBMM: Bill Monroe Exhibit

Bill MonroeThe International Bluegrass Music Museum is celebrating Bill Monroe’s birthday early.

Actually, they are simply taking two years to celebrate his 100th birthday as part of a worldwide Bill Monroe Centennial Celebration.

The IBMM has three exhibits planned as part of the celebration. The first exhibit opened during a Blue Grass Boys Reunion show earlier this year at the museum’s annual festival. The Bill Monroe Centennial Art Exhibit includes original paintings, drawings, pottery, and other craftwork celebrating the life and music of Bill Monroe. All the pieces on display are for sale with 60% of the funds going directly to the artist, and the other 40% going to the museum.

The second exhibit the museum has planned is the Bill Monroe Centennial Exhibit, set to open on September 10, 2010. This display features artifacts which were personally owned by Bill Monroe and illustrate the influence of his lengthy career. Two items in particular are of interest because they have never before been displaying in a public museum setting. The first is Uncle Pen’s fiddle.

Uncle Pen's fiddleBluegrass musicians and fans know that this fiddle and its owner, Pendleton Vandiver, were enormously influential in Bill Monroe’s life.

Uncle Pen’s fiddle was acquired by one of the most instrumental people in establishing the IBMM, Terry Woodward of Owensboro, Kentucky, who has gifted the instrument to the museum for the duration of the Centennial celebration. This fiddle has been used in recent recording sessions by fiddlers Ricky Skaggs, Stuart Duncan, Fletcher Bright and Tim O’Brien, among many others, to record a soundtrack for a motion picture being made of Bill Monroe’s life starring Golden Globe-nominated actor Peter Sarsgaard as Monroe, his real-life wife Maggie Gyllenhaal as Bessie Lee Mauldin, T-Bone Burnett as music director and Callie Khouri as script writer. Sounds like an Oscar-winning combination to us!!

The European Bluegrass Blog recently had a story with some information about this upcoming movie production.

The second item of interest in the museum’s display is the headstock veneer from Monroe’s mandolin.

Monroe's headstock veneerThe other major artifact, the original headstock veneer from Bill Monroe’s world-famous Gibson 1923 F-5 Lloyd Loar mandolin, is part of a legend well-known to fans and considered by some to be the quintessential bluegrass relic. Following a disagreement with Gibson, Monroe removed the company’s name from the headstock with a pocketknife, leaving only the word “The.”

The veneer was auctioned at Christie’s in New York City in December of 2009. The IBMM’s executive director, Gabrielle Gray, made the trip from Owensboro hoping to be the top bidder and acquire the artifact for the museum. She was outbid by Laura Weber Cash, an accomplished vocalist and national award-winning fiddler, who, along with her husband, John Carter Cash, graciously agreed to place it on loan to the museum for the duration of the Centennial celebration.

More information about the exhibit can be found on the IBMM blog.

The third, and final exhibit will open next year on September 13, 2011, Monroe’s 100th birthday. The exhibit will feature pieces of bluegrass history focused on the various members of Bill Monroe’s band, the Blue Grass Boys.