I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #172

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 21, 1919 Joe Webb Forrester was born in Hickman County, Tennessee.  *
  • March 21, 1927 James Ora ‘Garr’ Bowers was born in Walkertown, North Carolina.  **
  • March 21, 1939 Neil Vandraegen Rosenberg was born in Seattle, Washington. ***
  • March 21, 1958 Recording session – For the third consecutive day Bill Monroe was in Bradley Film & Recording Studio where he recorded Wayfaring Stranger, A Beautiful Life and House of Gold for Decca Records. Assisting Bill Monroe were Edd Mayfield [guitar], Bessie Lee Mauldin [bass], Owen Bradley [organ], Kenny Baker [baritone vocals] and Culley Holt [bass vocals]. Owen Bradley was the producer. ****
  • March 21, 1972 Recording session – During an evening session at Bradley’s Barn Bill Monroe recorded When the Golden Leaves Began To Fall, Walls of Time and My Old Kentucky and You. Also working at this session were James Monroe and Joe Stuart [both playing guitar], Jack Hicks [banjo], Kenny Baker and Tommy Williams [both playing fiddle] and Monroe Fields [bass]. The producer was Walter Haynes.
  • March 21, 1984 CBS/Epic recording session for Ricky Skaggs – ?The session at Audio Media in Nashville, was the first of three at which various tracks for the Bill Monroe-penned instrumental Wheel Hoss were recorded.  *****
  • March 21, 1997 CD released – Father of Bluegrass Music ([BMG] Victor BVCP 7464 (Japan)) ******

* Joe Forrester was a member of the Blue Grass Boys, playing bass from December 1945 through to the end of March 1946.

He did not participate in any recording sessions while working for Bill Monroe.

** Bowers played banjo for the Blue Grass Boys for a brief period in the fall of 1951, during which time he helped on the recording of two songs, Christmas Time’s A-Comin’ and The First Whippoorwill.

*** Dr. Neil Rosenberg, the author, folklorist and teacher, played banjo, filling in on some dates for the regular banjo player in the Blue Grass Boys, during the early to mid 1960s. He worked in the Bean Blossom house band for a while as well as managing Bill Monroe’s Brown County Jamboree site at Bean Blossom, Indiana, during the 1963 season.

A Grammy  winner, Rosenberg is a professor emeritus at Memorial University of Newfoundland, where he taught from 1968 to 2004, having graduated through Oberlin College and Indiana University.

He has written several books about bluegrass music, including the long out-of-print Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys: An Illustrated Discography (1974); Bluegrass: A History (1985); The Music of Bill Monroe (2007) with the late Charles Wolfe, and Bluegrass Odyssey: A Documentary in Pictures and Words (2001), co-authored with photographer Carl Fleischhauer of the Library of Congress.

In 1981 he originated the column Thirty Years Ago This Month in Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, and wrote it until 1993.

**** All three of the recordings were included on the LP I Saw the Light (Decca DL 8769), released August 11, 1958.

***** At the first session Skaggs and members of his band recorded the basic tracks.

At a later date, either April 17 or May 15, 1984, Bill Monroe overdubbed his mandolin part; the first time that he ever did so.

The track, released on the album Country Boy (Epic FE 49410), won the 1984 Grammy award for the Best Instrumental Performance.

****** Bill Monroe – Father of Bluegrass Music This 16-track compilation contains all tracks from the 1940 and 1941 sessions for RCA Bluebird. The same material was released on the album Mule Skinner Blues (RCA Heritage, 1991), but all tracks were re-mastered from the original analogue masters for this edition.

Track listing – Mule Skinner Blues, No Letter in the Mail, Cryin’ Holy unto the Lord, Six White Horses, Dog House Blues, I Wonder if you Feel the Way I Do, Katy Hill, Tennessee Blues, Shake my Mother’s Hand for Me, Were You There? Blue Yodel No. 7 (Anniversary Blue Yodel), The Coupon Song, Orange Blossom Special, Honky Tonk Swing, In the Pines and Back Up and Push.

“My favorite Monroe song is Uncle Pen. I like many things about it: the fact that it’s a true story, its wonderful arrangement with the break for “you could hear it talk, you could hear it sing” followed by the G run, the beautiful fiddle part, the trio harmonies, and the time. I had the pleasure of playing with Monroe on that song several times (once I was even called on to put in the G run on the banjo because the guitarist was not familiar with it!) and enjoyed that very much.”

Neil V Rosenberg

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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.