I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #201

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.

  • April 19, 1965 Gary ‘Stretch’ Brewer was born in Louisville, Kentucky.  *
  • April 19, 1974 Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys made a personal appearance at a bluegrass festival at Hiawassee, Georgia.
  • April 19, 2005 CD released: Bill Monroe – Definitive Collection (MCA Nashville CD 4424) **

* Bill Monroe was a guest on two tracks on Gary Brewer’s album Gary Brewer, Guitar (CCCD-0137).

Music is a family tradition for Brewer, who has been playing old-time bluegrass with his band, the Kentucky Ramblers, for about 30 years. During that period his band has performed at Lincoln Center as well as on a variety of television and radio programs and has released several other albums on the Copper Creek label.

More recently he has formed Brewgrass, a quartet made up of himself on guitar and banjo, his father Jim, on guitar, and his sons Wayne, on bass, and Mason, on mandolin and percussion.

** Bill Monroe – Definitive Collection, 22 tracks

Bill Monroe’s recorded legacy resides in the vaults of two major labels. His RCA Victor and Columbia recordings are in the possession of Sony BMG, and his Decca/MCA tracks are claimed by Universal. Monroe signed to Decca in November 1949 at the age of 38 and remained with it and its successor, MCA, until his death in 1996. His catalog with the label is vast, but uneven. In its strategy of putting into the marketplace compilations at different price points, MCA issued a four-disc box set, The Music of Bill Monroe, in 1994 and a discount-priced collection, 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Bill Monroe, in 1999. The Definitive Collection is a re-titled but otherwise identical reissue of the 2002 album The Very Best of Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys, which superseded the label’s out of print 1991 album Country Music Hall of Fame as a single-disc, full-priced examination of his Decca/MCA years. It chooses 22 tracks at a running time of less than an hour, ranging from Monroe’s first recording session for Decca in 1950 to a 1981 MCA session. Since Monroe didn’t really score hits in this period (his two country chart entries, Scotland and Gotta Travel On, are included), the compiler must make many subjective choices to augment certain obvious favorites such as Uncle Pen, and Mary Katherine Aldin has leaned toward familiar songs from the pens of such well-known figures as Hank Williams (I Saw the Light) and Jimmie Rodgers (New Mule Skinner Blues). She has also included four re-recordings of songs that were successful for Monroe on Columbia in the 1940s. And she has avoided chronological sequencing in favor of a mixed approach. The result is more a sampler than a real best-of, only emphasizing the necessity for the Monroe fan to obtain collections from all of the labels for which Monroe recorded.

William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide

Track listing – Blue Moon of Kentucky, Jimmy Brown the Newsboy, I Saw the Light, Goodbye Old Pal, Footprints in the Snow, Roll on Buddy Roll On, I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky, Molly and Ten brooks, When the Cactus Is in Bloom, Walls of Time, I’m Working on a Building, Scotland, Walk Softly on My Heart, Kentucky Waltz, In the Pines, Toy Heart, New Mule Skinner Blues, Roanoke, Midnight on the Stormy Deep, Uncle Pen, Gotta Travel On and My Last Days on Earth.

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.