I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #230

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 18, 1986 Tom Ewing joined the Blue Grass Boys formally for the first time. Ewing had filled-in during 1972, but had to wait 14 years for his dream job with Bill Monroe.
  • May 18, 2005 Bobby Thompson died of multiple sclerosis, age 67, in Franklin, Tennessee. *
  • May 18, 2005 Bob Black’s book Come Hither to Go Yonder: Playing Bluegrass with Bill Monroe was published by the University of Illinois Press. **

* Innovative banjo player Bobby Thompson played four recording sessions for Bill Monroe in 1970 and 1971.

He is credited with being the first banjo player to be recorded playing in the melodic style.

Thompson worked as a studio musician in Nashville where he was in great demand for more than 20 years. His considerable musical legacy includes recordings with Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Tammy Wynette, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Perry Como, Merle Haggard, Trini Lopez, the Monkees, Olivia Newton-John, Melanie, Jimmy Buffett, Dr Hook, Neil Young and many others.

Thompson, an excellent guitar player, a former member of Jim & Jesse’s Virginia Boys band and cast member of the Hee-Haw TV show, played on the soundtracks of films such as Coal Miners’ Daughter, Five Easy Pieces, Smokey & the Bandit I and II and Urban Cowboy.

In addition, he played banjo on jingles for a wide range of major companies.

He was stricken with multiple sclerosis in 1985 and was forced to retire from music in 1987.

** Come Hither to Go Yonder: Playing Bluegrass with Bill Monroe, 208 pages, ISBN-10: 9780252072437, ISBN-13: 978-0252072437

Bill Monroe is so foundational to bluegrass music that the entire genre took its name from his band, the Blue Grass Boys. In Come Hither to Go Yonder, Bob Black recounts his years spent as a member of that seminal band. While other work on Bill Monroe has been written from a historical point of view, Come Hither to Go Yonder is told from the perspective of a musician who was actually there. Filled with observations made from the unique vantage point of a man who has traveled and performed extensively with the master, this book is Bob Black’s personal memoir about the profound influence that Monroe exerted on the musicians who have carried on the bluegrass tradition in the wake of his 1996 death. This volume also includes a complete listing of Bob Black’s appearances with Monroe, his most memorable experiences while they worked together, brief descriptions of the more important musicians and bands mentioned, and suggestions for further reading and listening. Offering a rare perspective on the creative forces that drove one of America’s greatest composers and musical innovators, Come Hither to Go Yonder will deeply reward any fans of Bill Monroe, of bluegrass, or of American vernacular music.

Bob Black played banjo as one of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. He recorded with Monroe on the Weary Traveler album, and later played with Buck White and the Down Home Folks. He appears on a number of fiddle albums by Kenny Baker and has performed with Ricky Skaggs, Ralph Stanley, Rhonda Vincent, Marty Stuart, Frank Wakefield, John Hartford, the Whites and other artists.

He currently lives near Iowa City, where he performs in Perfect Strangers, the Banjoy Band, and other groups. He has published articles in Bluegrass Unlimited and in 2002 received the Iowa Arts Council’s Traditional Arts Award. This is a volume in the series Music in American Life.

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