I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #168

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 17, 1930 Rudy Lyle was born in Rocky Mount, Franklin County, Virginia. (see February 11 and August 3) *
  • March 17, 1943 Wayne Lewis was born in Sandy Hook, Kentucky.  **
  • March 17, 1951 Recording Session – During an afternoon session at the Castle Studio in Nashville’s Tulane Hotel Bill Monroe recorded Kentucky Waltz, Prisoner’s Song, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and Angels Rock Me to Sleep for Decca. The musicians at the session were Grady Martin [guitar], Jimmy Selph [guitar], Ernie Newton [bass], Tommy Jackson [fiddle], Farris Coursey [drums] and Owen Bradley [piano or organ]. Paul Cohen was the producer. ***
  • March 17, 1978 James Monroe recording session – At the Hilltop Recording Studios in Nashville James Monroe and Bill Monroe recorded Nine Pound Hammer, Live and Let Live, I Haven’t Seen Mary in Years, Bonny, When the Bees are in the Hive and When the Angels Carry Me Home, all duets with James Monroe singing the lead and Bill Monroe the tenor part. In addition to Bill and James Monroe [guitar], supporting musicians were Alan O’Bryant [banjo], Buddy Spicer [fiddle] and Billy Linneman [bass]. ****
  • March 17, 1984 Bill Monroe appeared as a guest on TV’s Hee Haw show.
  • March 17, 1986 Recording Session – During a two-part session at Nashville’s Sound Emporium Bill Monroe recorded Dancin’ in Brancin’, Jekyll Island, Stay Away From Me and Music Valley Waltz. Assisting were Wayne Lewis [guitar], Blake Williams [banjo], Tater Tate [bass] and Buddy Spicher [fiddle]. The producer was Emory Gordy, Jr. *****
  • March 17, 1989 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys made a personal appearance at the 1st Annual Bluegrass Festival at the Pines Resort Hotel, The Pines Resort Hotel, South Fallsburg, New York.

* Lyle was a member of the Blue Grass Boys in mid 1949 to early August 1951 when he left to join the Army. He returned for a spell of 12 months during 1953 and 1954, then for a brief period in 1960.

Lyle was a powerful banjo player, who worked on 45 recordings with Monroe, including Can’t You Hear Me Callin’, Travelin’ This Lonesome Road, My Little Georgia Rose, I’m On My Way to the Old Home, Lord Protect My Soul, Highway of Sorrow, Get Down on your Knees and Pray and Get Up John.

Along with Joel Price and Red Taylor, Lyle featured as part of the group working under the name of the Shenandoah Valley Trio, an opening act in some of Bill Monroe’s shows.

**  Lewis joined the Blue Grass Boys in May 1976 and had a ten-year tenure, the longest of any of Bill Monroe’s guitarist/lead vocalists. He took part in 14 recording sessions during his stint with Monroe, although he only featured as a guitarist on many of them.

Lewis sang lead on the recordings of My Sweet Blue-Eyed Darling, The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake, Little Cabin Home on the Hill, Let the Gates Swing Wide and Angels Rock Me To Sleep.

To begin with Lewis had several years playing music part-time. His first full-time job was with Ralph Stanley, whom he joined in 1974, followed by a year with Lillimae and the Dixie Gospelaires.

While with Bill Monroe, Lewis released four albums in his own name, three on the Old Homestead label and one for Atteiram.

Since leaving the Blue Grass Boys, he has led the Wayne Lewis Band, performed with the Cumberland Highlanders and acted as the co-host on their television series on RFD-TV, as he continues to do.

*** This session was the first occasion in which Bill Monroe recorded without any of the Blue Grass Boys playing an instrument.

There has been speculation that at the time of the session Bill Monroe was out of Nashville on tour and Decca Records didn’t want to pay for all the Blue Grass Boys to be flown into the city. Actually Jimmy Martin [tenor] and Rudy Lyle [baritone] were present and sang on the recording of the quartet song Angels Rock Me to Sleep.

The identity of the bass vocalist is not certain, but an educated assessment favours Culley Holt, of the Jordanaires, as opposed to Milton Estes.

**** All the recordings were included on the album Blue Grass Special Memories (Raintree RR – 599D).

***** All four of the recordings were included on the album Bluegrass ’87 (MCA-5970) released in LP format on January 9, 1987.

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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.