I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #304

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 31, 1950 Single released – I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome / Boat of Love (Decca 9 – 46254, 78rpm)
  • July 31, 1955 Charlie and Bill Monroe played another show at New River Ranch.
  • July 31, 1984 Carolyn Minnie Brown Monroe, Bill Monroe’s first wife passed away.  *
  • July 31, 1989 Video recording in Germany – Bill Monroe was interviewed by Jim Skurdall, an American teacher and musician living in Germany, for WDR (Westseutscher Rundfunk), Cologne.  **
  • July 31, 2001 CD released – Blue Grass Special (Catfish 198) ***

* Carolyn Monroe was interred in the Monroe family plot in the Spring Hill Cemetery just north of Nashville, Tennessee.

**  The interview was broadcast during the evening of October 20, 1989, interspersed with recordings from the concert of July 30, 1989.

Later, it was included on the Bear Family Records set Bill Monroe In Germany: Far Across the Blue Water (BCD-16624 EK), released on June 21, 2004.

*** Blue Grass Special, 24 tracks

Blue Grass Special is not another Bill Monroe “best of” package but a collection that concentrates on the master’s pre-bluegrass work, featuring recordings made in 1940 and 1945. While listeners can certainly enjoy these songs for what they are — good music — many will be searching for traces of what would later be labeled bluegrass. The first 16 cuts feature guitarist Clyde Moody, violinist Tommy Magness, and bassist Bill Westbrook, and were recorded before wartime restrictions curtailed studio activity. The lead vocal on a song like Six White Horses brings to mind the smooth, relaxed delivery of Lester Flatt. The fiddle, not the mandolin, drives the song, however, and there is no trace of harmony singing. The fiddle even takes the lead position on the instrumental Katy Hill. On the early-1945 recordings, there is the curious inclusion of an accordion. Played by Sally Ann Forrester, this instrument creates lots of atmosphere on Kentucky Waltz. It also has the effect of adding Cajun spice to Appalachian folk on Rocky Road Blues, creating a unique hybrid (Cajun-grass?). On the last few cuts, a new sound begins to emerge that would be associated with Monroe for the next 50 years. This collection will appeal to different groups for different reasons. Old-time music lovers will enjoy a portrait of Monroe before he strayed from his roots while hardcore bluegrass fans will enjoy tracing his footsteps as they moved toward a brand new genre. Either way, Blue Grass Special offers a closer look at a moment in time when the music that would one day be called bluegrass came into being.

Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.

Track listing – Muleskinner Blues, No Letter In The Mail, Cryin’ Holy Unto The Lord, Six White Horses, Dog House Blues 6. I Wonder If You Feel The Way I Do 7. Katy Hill, Tennessee Blues, Shake My Mother’s Hand For Me, Were You There, Blue Yodel No 7, Coupon Song, Orange Blossom Special, Honky Tonk Swing, In The Pines, Back Up And Push, Rocky Road Blues, Kentucky Waltz, True Life Blues, Nobody Loves Me, Goodbye Old Pal, Footprints In The Snow, Bluegrass Special and Come Back To Me In My Dreams.

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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.