I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #291

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 18, 1946 Dr Robert K ‘Bob’ Warford was born in Pasedena, California. *
  • July 18, 1949 Single released – Along About Daybreak / Heavy Traffic Ahead (Columbia 20595, 33rpm … 2-275)
  • July 18, 1952 Recording sessions – During an afternoon session at Castle Studio, Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Avenue, Nashville, Bill Monroe recorded In the Pines, Footprints in the Snow and Walking in Jerusalem. After as meal break there was a four-hour evening session during which Monroe recorded Memories of Mother and Dad, The Little Girl And the Dreadful Snake, Country Waltz, Don’t Put It Off ‘Til Tomorrow and My Dying Bed. The Blue Grass Boys in attendance during both sessions were Jimmy Martin [guitar], Sonny Osborne [banjo], Ernie Newton [bass] and Charlie Cline [fiddle]. The producer was Paul Cohen. **
  • July 18, 1954 Ricky Skaggs was born in Cordell, Kentucky.  ***
  • July 18, 2003 The Monroe farm was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

* Bob Warford filled for Lamar Grier on banjo in April 1967.

Monroe told the audience that evening, “This boy plays like greased lightning”.

A student at University of California, Riverside, at the time, he played banjo with the White Bothers  before he switched to playing electric guitar and going on to tour with the Everly Brothers.

After Clarence White was killed, Warford replaced him as a studio session player doing the kind of back-up work White had done. He is featured on albums by The Dillards, Linda Ronstadt, Herb Pederson, Chris Hillman and many others who recorded on the west coast.

Bob Warford recalls ….

“I played with Monroe a few times in early 1967. At the time, I was the banjo player for the White Brothers (Kentucky Colonels). At the time, that band consisted of Roland White, Clarence White, Eric White, myself, and Dennis Morse. As I recall it, Monroe was scheduled to play the Ash Grove, a folk-oriented club in Hollywood, California, and his bus broke down somewhere in Texas, leaving the band stranded. As a result, he asked us to back him for two or three days at the Ash Grove, until his band could get there. I think his son, James, was playing bass with him at the time, and Bill and James came out together, using the remainder of our band; I believe this was in April, 1967.

The only other time I played with Monroe was as a ‘special guest,’ when he played a folk club called the Penny University, in San Bernardino, California. This was sometime in May, 1967. By that time, Roland White was playing guitar for Monroe (the rest of the band at that show, of which I have a CD, was Lamar Grier on banjo, Doug Green on guitar, James Monroe on bass, and Byron Berline on fiddle). Doug Dillard and I each sat in for a portion of the show.”

** Sonny Osborne was 14 years old at the time of this recording session, making him the youngest musician to record with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys.  Nobody younger has recorded with Bill Monroe since then.

Boudleaux Bryant sang bass on the recording of Walking In Jerusalem.

*** Ricky Skaggs sang lead on the recording of You’re Drifting Away, which is included on the album Cryin’ Holy Unto The Lord (MCA-10017), released on April 30, 1991.

Skaggs grew up idolising the Stanley Brothers. While a teenager he teamed up with the late Keith Whitley, another Stanley follower, and the duo sang word-perfect versions of the brothers’ songs. Not surprisingly, the duo joined the Clinch Mountain Boys for a brief period. They recorded an album of Stanley Brothers’ songs also. He left to join the Country Gentlemen.

Later Skaggs played with JD Crowe & the New South featuring on the famed Rounder 0044 album. He formed his own band – Boone Creek – which stayed together for about three years.

Skaggs then had a spell with Emmylou Harris, serving as a great influence on her during the time that she sang and recorded traditionally-styled acoustic country music.

He took that mix of old and new into a solo career, first with Sugar Hill Records and then Epic Records, with whom he had a phenomenal time in the 1980s, topping the country music charts regularly, winning the CMA Horizon award and Male Vocalist of the Year award (both in 1982), the first of his many Grammy awards and selling gold and platinum albums. Skaggs was made a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1984.

In 1996 he returned to playing bluegrass music, formed Kentucky Thunder and his own record label, Skaggs Family Records. A year later he won the IBMA Album of the Year award with Bluegrass Rules.

In 2008 and 2009 he won two more Grammy awards, the second for the album Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: A Tribute to 1946-1947.

Since Bill Monroe’s death in September 1996, Skaggs has sworn to preserve and perpetuate the songs and the status of Monroe as the Father of Bluegrass Music; the last-named CD has been just one realization of that effort.

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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.