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 14, 1957 Recording session – At an early afternoon session at the Bradley Film & Recording Studio Bill Monroe recorded A Good Woman’s Love, Cry, Cry Darlin’ and I’m Sittin’ On Top of the World. Also working on the session were Joe Stuart [guitar], Don Stover [banjo] and Bessie Lee Mauldin [bass], and Dale Potter, Gordon Terry and Tommy Jackson [fiddles]. *
- May 14, 1963 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys began a five-day series of appearances at the Ash Grove, in Los Angeles. [Rinzler] The Ash Grove was the west coast’s premier folk venue. **
- May 14, 1975 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys performed at a concert recorded by the BBC (London, England). ***
- May 14, 1991 Al Lester died. ****
- May 14, 2005 Jimmy Martin died at Alive Hospice in Nashville after a long struggle with bladder cancer. He was 77. *****
* The three recordings were included on Bill Monroe’s first LP Knee Deep in Bluegrass (Decca DL 8731), released on June 23, 1958.
** The first concert, as were others, was recorded and, from a set with Doc Watson, two duets, You Won’t Be Satisfied That Way and Memories of You, were released on Bill Monroe and Doc Watson: Live Duet Recordings 1963-1980, Off the Record Vol. 2 (SF CD 40064).
Other recordings from this period include True Life Blues included on the CD Bill Monroe: Live Recordings 1956-1969: Off the Record. Vol. 1 (SF 40063).
That and a recording of Raw Hide, What Does the Deep Sea Say, Feast Here Tonight, Midnight On The Stormy Deep and You Won’t Be Satisfied That Way were included on Bill And Doc Sing Country Songs: Limited Club Edition (FBN-210). Only the last four named featured Doc Watson.
The Blue Grass Boys accompanying Bill Monroe were Del McCoury[guitar], Kenny Baker [fiddle], Bill Keith [banjo] and Bessie Lee Mauldin [bass].
*** The band comprised Monroe, Ralph Lewis [guitar], Bob Black [banjo], Kenny Baker [fiddle] and Randy Davis [bass].
**** Al Lester was an unconfirmed fill-in on fiddle.
He was a fiddle champion in five states, including his home state of Alabama.
As well as working for Bill Monroe he played with Jim Reeves, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Mac Wiseman and Cowboy Copas.
Lester played a in wide variety of styles with credits on recordings by The Dixie Gentlemen, Boz Scaggs, Liza Minelli, Mac Davis, Gerry Goffen, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson, Sailcat and others.
Martin also recorded with Bobby and Sonny Osborne after which he formed his own band, retaining the name, the Sunny Mountain Boys, a band that he led from 1955 until the illness that preceded his death.
During those years he developed his own individual style and band sound. Among the well-known musicians who worked with him are Paul Williams, Bill Emerson, Doyle Lawson and J.D. Crowe.
His songs Sophronie, Stepping Stones, Rock Hearts, Widow Maker, Hit Parade of Love and Tennessee, and the instrumental Theme Time are among the most popular in the bluegrass music cannon.
He played on all three of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle be Unbroken albums.
Martin made frequent appearances on the Louisiana Hayride and Wheeling, West Virginia’s WWVA Jamboree as well as the Grand Ole Opry, but was never realized his life-long dream of joining the Grand Ole Opry cast.
He was an avid raccoon hunter and wrote songs about his dogs and featured them on some of his LP covers.
His honors include a place in the SPBGMA Preservation Hall of Greats (1986), the IBMA Hall of Honor (1995) and Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Hall of Fame (1998).