I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #107

From October 1, 2010 through to the end of September 2011, we will, each day, celebrate the life of Bill Monroe by sharing information about him and those people who are associated with his life and music career. This information will include births and deaths; recording sessions; single, LP and CD release dates; and other interesting tidbits. Richard F. Thompson is responsible for the research and compilation of this information. We invite readers to share any tidbits, photos or memories you would like us to include.

  • January 15, 1946 John Hedgecoth was born in Tallahassee, Florida. *
  • January 15, 1970 Harry Silverstein died, after a heart attack, in St Thomas Hospital, Nashville, Tennessee, age 38.  **
  • January 15, 1971 Recording Session – During an early evening session at Bradley’s Barn Bill Monroe recorded three instrumentals: Poor White Folks, Old Gray Mare Came Tearing Out of the Wilderness and Kiss Me Waltz.  The Blue Grass Boys in attendance were James Monroe [guitar], Bobby Thompson [banjo], Kenny Baker [fiddle] and Joe Stuart [bass]. The producer was Walter Haynes. ***
  • January 15, 2003 Joe Zinkan died, aged 84, of congestive heart failure. (see December 16) ****

* John Hedgecoth filled in for Bob Black in February 1975, working a show in Missouri.

“Before the first show I asked Mr. Monroe if he had any new music I might not have heard. He sang the chorus of Mary Jane Won’t You Be Mine and told me, ‘Just like Mighty Dark to Travel.’

Then in the middle of the show he called on Kenny Baker to play Jerusalem Ridge. That was the first time I ever heard it. What a surprise!”

He played in a band with Blue Grass Boys Monroe Fields and Bob Fowler, and was in the band Tennessee Blues with Fowler, Mike Compton and Benny Williams.

Hedgecoth played on the Plectrasonics, Gifts, All the Rage and Bach, Beatles & Bluegrass albums with Butch Baldassari’s Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and now plays with the Red Henry Band and the Contrarian Ensemble.

** Decca Records staff producer, Harry Silverstein supervised 27 Bill Monroe sessions, the first being on May 3, 1962 and last on December 17, 1969.

Prior to that, he worked as an assistant to Owen Bradley, overseeing Decca promotion for the Nashville area. In all, he was with Decca for 15 years.  Bradley described Silverstein as, “my right hand man and best friend”.

A native of Cincinnati, Silverstein produced some Jimmy Martin recordings also.

*** All three tunes were included on the LP Bill Monroe’s Uncle Pen (Decca DL 7-5348).

**** Known for his 4/4 country shuffle, [upright] slap-bass technique, Joe Zinkan first recorded in 1938 with the Delmore Brothers and went on to play with such classic groups as Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys and Roy Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys.

He became a regular band member on the Grand Ol’ Opry in the 1940s.

Eventually, Zinkan became a studio musician in Nashville and played on the recordings of many country music stars, such as Kitty Wells, Skeets McDonald, Marty Robbins, Ray Price, Lefty Frizzell, Little Jimmy Dickens, Ronnie Milsap, Merle Haggard and Tammy Wynette, to mention just a few.

Also, he played bass on Mac Wiseman’s Capitol recordings, for Flatt and Scruggs, Jim & Jesse and Jimmy Martin.

Zinkan was a tremendous influence on other great bass players such as Bob Moore, Lightning Chance, Billy Linneman, Dennis Crouch and Mike Bub.

Moore once stated, “Joe is the best slap-bass player I have ever heard”.

He retired when in his early 70s.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.