I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #26

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 26, 1923 Oscar “Shorty” Sheehan [bass and fiddle] born. Sheehan was a member of the Blue Grass Boys during 1951. *
  • October 26, 1943 Raymond Huffmaster born. Huffmaster played bass and guitar in a two or three month tenure with Bill Monroe, starting in June 1979. **
  • October 26, 1973 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys were top of the billing at Bill Monroe’s California Bluegrass Festival, Silver Lake, Corona, California. The event was spread over three days.
  • October 26, 2002 Butch Baldassari and the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra played the premier performance of Blue Moon over Kentucky, an orchestrated tribute to the music of Bill Monroe. The 40 minute work consists of five movements, with familiar themes including Roanoke, Big Mon, Bluegrass Stomp and Jerusalem Ridge. ***

* Sheehan began working at the Brown County Jamboree from the Second World War period and enjoyed immediate popularity because of his great Southern-style fiddling. He remained a favourite performer on the jamboree for a few years. Sheehan played string bass at the session that produced one of Monroe’s most enduring songs, Tex Logan’s Christmas Time’s A-Coming, and The First Whippoorwill. However, he used his talents as a fiddle player to assist Gordon Terry with the intricacies of Christmas Time’s A-Coming.

** Huffmaster was an old friend of Monroe’s and a sometime guitar player with and a driver of the Osborne Brothers’ bus. He wrote the Gospel song, What a Wonderful Life, which Monroe recorded on January 14, 1988. An unreleased version of this song was cut on January 8.

*** The orchestral piece was conceived and produced by Baldassari based on Monroe’s instrumental legacy. In development since 1999, the five-movement work both chronicles and pays tribute to the life and music of the Father of Bluegrass Music and his uncle Pendleton Vandiver.

Baldassari said in describing his concept for the music:

Blue Moon over Kentucky is based on the tremendous body of instrumental work Bill Monroe created in his lifetime. I’ve always thought the genius and richness of these tunes would be a great foundation for an orchestral piece.

Many of the melodic lines, ‘licks’ and ornaments found in Monroe’s music are similar to motifs in classical music, and I’ve always wondered how his music would be interpreted in an orchestral setting.”

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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.