I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #280

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.

  • July 7, 1934 Jim Smoak was born in Walterboro, South Carolina. *
  • July 7, 1958 Edd Mayfield died of leukemia after becoming ill while on the road with the band, and, within three days of being stricken, he died at a hospital in Bluefield, West Virginia. He was 32.
  • July 7, 1990 Recordings for video – Bill Monroe’s Opry performance was recorded by Steve Gebhardt. **
  • July 7, 1992 The Nashville music industry held a Bill Monroe Dinner Tribute at the Maxwell House Hotel, in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • July 7, 1994 Bill Monroe appeared at a memorial service for Ralph Rinzler held at the Festival Of American Folklife in Washington DC, an annual event staged generally from the last weekend in June through to the first weekend of July.
  • July 7, 2010 Lucky Saylor, former Blue Grass Boy, passed away in Lewes, Delaware. He was 85 years old.  ***

* Jim Smoak played the banjo for Bill Monroe during the early 1950s, taking over from Sonny Osborne at the end of the latter’s first stint as a Blue Grass Boy.

Smoak learned to play the banjo at an early age, helped by being able to listen to Snuffy Jenkins on WIS radio six days a week. His first job was on Knoxville’s WROL radio.

After leaving Bill Monroe he worked for Little Jimmy Dickens, Hylo Brown and the Timberliners, and Arthur Smith’s Cracker Jacks, recording with the last two. He has two albums on the Folk Lyric label and two for Copper Creek Records.

More recently he has been involved in the Old Stable, a restaurant in Bardstown, Kentucky, providing a mix of good food and good music.

** Both of Bill Monroe’s Saturday shows were recorded for use in the documentary Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass Music (OC-1001).

During the matinee performance the Blue Grass Boys played In Despair, Farewell Blues, Just A Little Talk with Jesus, John Henry and Tombstone Junction. In the evening they performed Watermelon on the Vine, Mary Jane, Will You Be Mine? Tellico Plains, Footprints in the Snow and Raw Hide.

The Blue Grass Boys were Tom Ewing [guitar], Blake Williams [banjo], Tater Tate [fiddle] and Billy Rose [bass].

A segment of each of these tunes; Farewell Blues, Tombstone Junction, Watermelon on the Vine and Raw Hide were included in the film.

*** Lucky Saylor was an original member of Earl Taylor’s Stoney Mountain Boys.

During the early 1990s he worked with Buzz Busby.

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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.