I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #161

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.

  • March 10, 1938 Norman Blake was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. *
  • March 10, 1975 Recording session – During the first studio session since March 21, 1972, Bill Monroe recorded Clinging to a Saving Hand, Show Me the Way, Jerusalem Ridge and Ashland Breakdown for MCA Records. Assisting were James Monroe [guitar], Ralph Lewis [guitar], Bob Black [banjo] and Randy Davis [bass], Kenny Baker and Joe Stuart [fiddles]. The producer was Walter Haynes **
  • March 10, 1984 The LP Bill Monroe And Friends (MCA 5435) made its debut on the Billboard Hot Country LPs music sales chart. During its six weeks on the charts it peaked at No. 61. Guests included Johnny Cash, the Gatlin Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Barbara Mandrell, Willie Nelson, the Oak Ridge Boys, Ricky Skaggs and Mel Tillis.
  • March 10, 1998 CD released – Bill Monroe – Live at the Opry: Celebrating 50 Years on the Grand Ole Opry (MCA Special Products  MCAD 42286) ***

* Norman Blake contributed his guitar playing on two recording sessions; one on February 19, 1981 and the second on April 7, 1981. The sessions are most noted for the recording of tracks for the haunting lament My Last Days on Earth. The first session also produced the recordings of Melissa’s Waltz for J.B., Lady of the Blue Ridge and Evening Prayer Blues. All are included on the LP Master of Bluegrass (MCA 5214), released on July 2, 1981.

Blake’s guitar playing is featured on all four tunes.

Norman Blake, an excellent instrumentalist and song writer, was already well-noted as a studio musician with Johnny Cash, on whose television show he featured for about three years, and with Bob Dylan, and as a member of John Hartford’s Aereo-Plain ensemble. During that same period he played on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle be Unbroken triple LP set.

Later he performed and recorded with wife, Nancy, and with his group The Rising Fawn String Ensemble.

Blake has recorded two duet albums with guitar ace Tony Rice also. More recently, he played on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? sound-track and participated on the ensuing Down from the Mountain tour.

** The two songs and the two instrumentals were included on the LP The Weary Traveler (MCA-2173), released on January 5, 1976.

*** Bill Monroe – Live at the Opry: Celebrating 50 Years on the Grand Ole Opry. The original recordings were re-mastered and issued not quite nine years after the release of first album.

“I’ve seen Mr. Monroe countless times. I am still having a hard time believing that he is gone. However, this particular album reminds me of the shows I’ve seen, starring the one and only Bill Monroe. If you’ve never seen him live, this is a good sampling of what you might have heard. Of course, his live shows were a lot longer than this album, but some of his most requested numbers are contained here. It brings back wonderful, wonderful memories to me.”

Anonymous (Amazon.com)

Track listing – New Mule Skinner Blues, Interlude – Bill Monroe, Molly and Tenbrooks, Footprints in the Snow, Sitting Alone in the Moonlight, Precious Memories, Raw Hide, My Sweet Blue-Eyed Darlin’, In the Pines, Love Please Come Home, Pike County Breakdown, I’m Working on a Building and Theme – Watermelon Hanging On The Vine [Instrumental].

Share this:

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.