I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #145

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.

  • February 22, 1926 Gene Christian was born on a farm in Little Rock, Arkansas. *
  • February 22, 1953 Almost $9,000 was raised at a benefit concert held at Louisville, Kentucky, National Guard Armory to help Bill Monroe with his hospital costs in the wake of his near-fatal automobile accident on January 16. Numerous country music stars participated, including Ernest Tubb, Red Foley, Carl Smith, Hank Snow, Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters, and Pee Wee King.
  • February 22, 1983 Recording session – During an afternoon session at Burns Station Sound Bill Monroe and Willie Nelson recorded The Sunset Trail. Also playing during the session were Wayne Lewis [guitar], Charlie Collins [guitar], Blake Williams [banjo], Mark Hembree [bass], Kenny Baker [fiddle] and Buddy Spicher [fiddle].  The producer was Walter Haynes. **
  • February 22, 1989 Bill Monroe won Grammy for Best Bluegrass Recording (Vocal or Instrumental) with his 1988 release Southern Flavor. It was the first time that National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences, who make the Grammy awards, had included this category in their wide-ranging list of awards.
  • February 22, 2002 The Folk Alliance posthumously acknowledged Bill Monroe by honouring him with the Elaine Weissman Lifetime Lifetime Achievement Award during an official showcase at the 14th Annual International Folk Alliance conference held in Jacksonville, Florida.

* Gene Christian played fiddle and bass for the Blue Grass Boys for a period from 1949 into 1950, at about the time of Vassar Clements’s first spell with the band.

He was born into a family of back porch pickers and quickly learned to play the guitar, mandolin, and fiddle by his early teens.

At the age of 15 Gene visited Miami, Florida, where he met and befriended Ervin and Gordon Rouse. The brothers were a great influence on Christian.

In 1943 he returned to Tennessee in 1943 and was joined by the Ferguson Brothers at WLAC radio and at the Dunbar Cave in Clarksville, Tennessee, where Roy Acuff’s band played. From 1947-1950 they played the Friday Night Frolic in Nashville.

While performing there, he met many of his lifetime friends such as Benny Martin, Chubby Wise, Vassar Clements and Rual Yarbrough, all of whom played an important part in his future.

Shortly afterwards he replaced Benny Martin in the Blue Grass Boys. In 1954 Christian filled-in and toured with Flatt & Scruggs.

From the mid 1950s onwards he led his own bands; The Hillbilly Pals, The Country Pals – the first bluegrass band in south Florida – and Gene Christian and the Nashville Gents and Gals, a versatile that was at home playing country music just as much as bluegrass music.

** The recording of The Sunset Trail was included on the LP Bill Monroe and Friends (MCA-5435), released on January 12, 1984.

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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.