I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #229

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 17, 1896 John Justine Monroe, Bill’s brother, was born in Rosine, Kentucky.  *
  • May 17, 1962 Recording session – During an evening session at the Columbia Recording Studio Bill Monroe recorded On The Jericho Road, We’ll Understand It Better By and By and Somebody Touched Me. Assisting were Frank Buchanan [guitar], Tony Ellis [banjo], Bessie Lee Mauldin [bass], Red Stanley [baritone vocal], Culley Holt [bass vocal]. Buchanan and Monroe shared the lead and tenor vocal duties on these three quartet numbers. The producer was Harry Silverstein and Owen Bradley was the leader.  **
  • May 17, 1964 Bill Monroe was one of a big roster of artists to play a huge Country Music Show held at Madison Square Garden, New York City.
  • May 17, 1975 Recordings in Germany – Two sets that Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys played at the Neusudende Country and Bluegrass Meeting were recorded by Hartmut Lang.  ***
  • May 17, 1983 Bill Monroe was honored at a special arts and humanities luncheon hosted in the East Room of the White House by President and Mrs Ronald Reagan.
  • May 17, 1999 The Indiana General Assembly re-named the portion of Indiana State Road 135 that runs from Morgantown through Bean Blossom to Nashville, The Bill Monroe Memorial Highway. Bill Friend, the State Representative from District 23, sponsored the bill.

* John Monroe was the third born child of J. B. and Malissa Monroe.

He is known to have worked in the coal mine on his father’s farm.

** On The Jericho Road and We’ll Understand It Better By and By were included on the LP I’ll Meet You In Church Sunday Morning (Decca DL 4537), released on June 15, 1964.

*** These recordings made at Gasthof Lindenhof, Neusudende, Germany, were done during a 25-day tour of Europe.

The first set lasted for one hour and 15 minutes and consisted of ….

Introduction, Roustabout, Bluegrass Breakdown, Mule Skinner Blues, Footprints In The Snow, Kentucky Mandolin, I’m Working On A Building, The Road Of Life, Grey Eagle, Festival Waltz, Uncle Pen, The Truck Drivin’ Man, In The Pines and Shuckin’ The Corn.

The second set was 15 minutes longer ….

Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms, Doin’ My Time, Flint Hill Special, Little Joe, You Won’t Be Satisfied That Way, McKinley’s March, I Saw The Light, Orange Blossom Special, Orange Blossom Special, Orange Blossom Special, Blue Moon Of Kentucky, My Little Georgia Rose, Down Yonder, Wabash Cannonball, You’ll Find Her Name Written There, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot / I Saw The Light, John Henry, Molly And Tenbrooks and Fraulein.

After the shows Bill Monroe and Ralph Lewis jammed with the Emsland Hillbillies. This brief interlude was recorded also. All of these recordings were included in the Bear Family box-set Far Across The Blue Water – Bill Monroe In Germany (BCD-16624 EK).

The Blue Grass Boys for this tour were Kenny Baker [fiddle], Bob Black [banjo], Ralph Lewis [guitar] and Randy Davis [bass].

Footnote: During the second set Bill Clifton joined Monroe to sing four songs and play an instrumental version of Wildwood Flower.

Buddy Woodward of Dixie Bee-Liners shares his memory of meeting Bill Monroe for the first time and experiencing a typical Monroe ‘gesture’….

“The one time I met Big Mon was at Lincoln Center in New York City, he was playing a summer concert there in, I think, 1994. A friend’s band had played there a month or two before, so I knew where the backstage area was, and thought I might sort of sneak around the side and see if I could catch a glimpse of the man.

I walked past his bus, and continued on up the ramp toward the wings, but didn’t see him.  As I turned to head back I practically walked right into him. He looked me right in the eye, and I sort of stammered, ‘Uh…Mr. Bill…’ He stuck out his hand and said, ‘Hi, I’m Bill Monroe.’ I took his hand to shake it, and he yanked me right off balance…a typical Monrovian test of strength and character, as I later found out. I failed. After which he kept on walking, tall and straight like a marble statue and disappeared backstage.

Even at the age of 83, the man came close to pulling my arm right out of its socket, and I could easily imagine him lifting his entire band, all of them sitting on a wooden railroad tie balanced on his shoulders, as he used to do back in the 1940s.

On cold days — and every September 9th — that shoulder still aches.”