I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #24

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.

  • October 24, 1889 Frank Buckley Walker, the producer of Bill Monroe‘s very early recordings, born Fly Summit, New York.  *
  • October 24, 1983 Kirk McGee died at his home in Franklin, Tennessee, of a heart attack. He was aged 83. **
  • October 24, 2003 Jimmy Campbell died in an accident, from carbon monoxide poisoning, near Clarksville, Tennessee. He was aged 40. ***

* Walker was responsible for setting up Columbia Records’ 15,000 series, the label’s hillbilly recordings division. He worked with artists such as the Skillet Lickers, Charlie Poole, the Leake County Revellers, the Roane County Ramblers, Clarence Ashley, Charlie Bowman, Byrd Moore and His Hot Shots, and Clarence Greene, among a host of others bands. Later, at MGM Records, he was a huge factor in the success of Hank Williams’ recording output. Walker (assisted by Dan Hornsby) supervised at the RCA Victor sessions of October 7, 1940, and October 2, 1941. He is credited with suggesting the vocal interludes on the instrumentals Katy Hill and The Orange Blossom Special.

** It is thought that fiddle player Kirk McGee has worked with Monroe as a Blue Grass Boy. Monroe, speaking to Charles K Wolfe in an interview, confirmed that he had worked with McGee.

“In fact DeFord (Bailey) and Uncle Dave (Macon) and Sam and Kirk McGee all worked for me at one time. There was four great men right there. ….. And Sam and Kirk McGee – there’s not two better men in the state of Tennesee. Friends to you. As musicians, wanting to take care of their fans, and be real men. You know, down through the years I had – maybe we’d be somewhere and I wouldn’t really be feeling good, and Kirk McGee would be the first man there. You can’t beat them kind of people.”

The Bill Monroe Reader, Edited by Tom Ewing, University of Illinois Press.

*** Campbell joined the Blue Grass Boys in 1990, when Billy Rose left and ‘Tater’ Tate switched to upright bass. It is thought that he was working on a converted school bus when he passed away.

Here’s a video of Campbell playing with Monroe on TNN’s American Music Shop program along with Marty Stuart.

It should be noted that Campbell’s son, Casey, is also a fine bluegrass musician, currently studying music at Nashville’s Belmont University.

He was only 11 years old when his father passed away.

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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.