I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #223

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.

  • May 11, 1896 Orville H Gibson applied for a patent for his new style mandolins.  *
  • May 11, 1979 Lester Flatt died of cerebral haemorrhage, in the Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, age 64.  **
  • May 11, 1985 Bill Monroe was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Kentucky, Lexington, in recognition of his life’s work.
  • May 11, 1989 Recorded event – Live From Mountain Stage, Charleston, West Virginia, was broadcast. ***
  • May 11, 1999 CD released – Bill Monroe – Bill Monroe: Live From Mountain Stage (Blue Plate Music BPM 400)  ***

* Gibson, who was born in 1856 near Chateaugay, New York, lent his name to the archetypal, flatback bluegrass mandolin.

Later developments at Gibson brought forth the F-5 model which Bill Monroe used in his music that redefined the role of the instrument.

** Guitarist and singer Lester Flatt was a member of the ‘classic’ Blue Grass Boys band that cast the bluegrass mould in 1946.

Later, he enjoyed a long association with another former Blue Grass Boy, banjo ace Earl Scruggs. From 1948 through to 1969 Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys were one of the most popular and successful bands in bluegrass music, bringing a considerable repertoire of great new songs and superb instrumentals.

When Scruggs went on to work with his sons in a progressive bluegrass band, Lester Flatt took most of the Foggy Mountain Boys and started the Nashville Grass. His role as the lead singer and rhythm guitar player in each of these seminal groups helped define the sound of traditional bluegrass music. Flatt’s rich voice is unmistakable on hundreds of recordings.

Among the many songs that Lester Flatt composed are My Cabin in Caroline, I’ll Never Shed Another Tear, Down the Road, Head Over Heels in Love with You, Why Did You Wander, I’m Gonna Sleep with One Eye Open, God Loves His Children, Get in Line, Brother, I’m Going to Make Heaven My Home, I’m Working on a Road to Gloryland, Be Ready for Tomorrow May Never Come, Little Girl [of Mine] in Tennessee, Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’, Cabin on the Hill and The Old Home Town.

He also co-wrote No Mother or Dad with Curly Seckler.

In 1985 Flatt and Scruggs were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 1991 they were inaugural inductees into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

He is remembered in his home town with the Lester Flatt Memorial Bluegrass Day being part of Sparta’s annual Liberty Square Celebration, and is buried in the city’s Oaklawn Memorial Cemetery.

*** Bill Monroe – Bill Monroe: Live From Mountain Stage, 13 tracks

This rousing May 1989 date from Charleston, West Virginia, features the wily veteran Clarence ‘Tater’ Tate on fiddle and hits all the essential stops of a Monroe show: glorious gospel harmonies (Beautiful Life, Working on a Building), fierce mandolin showcases for the master (Southern Flavor, Raw Hide), and a selection of Monroe’s signature tunes (Uncle Pen, Blue Moon of Kentucky). Sure, Monroe’s high tenor may not be what it was in his heyday–he was nearly 78 years old for god’s sake–but try listening to his falsetto moans and wails on Mule Skinner Blues without getting the gooseflesh.

Marc Greilsamer

Track listing – My Sweet Blue-Eyed Darlin’, Mule Skinner Blues, Southern Flavor, Beautiful Life, My Blue Eyes from Heaven, Northern White Clouds, Uncle Pen, Blue Moon of Kentucky, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Old Home Town, I’m Working on a Building, Raw Hide and Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.