I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #305

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.

  • August 1, 1952 Jack L Hicks was born in Louisa, Kentucky. *
  • August 1, 1953 Ben Pedigo was born in Little Rock, Arkansas.  **
  • August 1, 1983 “Shorty” Shehan passed away in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was aged 59.  ***
  • August 1, 1987 Howard ‘Howdy’ Forrester died, age 65, at his home in Nashville.  ****
  • August 1, 2003 The Rosine Barn was entered into the National Register Of Historical Places, the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation.

* Jack Hicks played the banjo for Bill Monroe from April 1971, replacing Rual Yarbrough, through to September 1973.

He participated in three studio sessions – helping on the recordings for Bill Monroe and James Monroe: Father & Son (MCA 310) and was part of the band for the recording of the first Bean Blossom album (MCA 2-8002).

Initially a Scruggs-style picker, he took a great liking to Eddie Adcock’s more adventurous way of playing. Eventually, he became the most chromatic of Monroe’s melodic-style banjo players.

Hicks’ many musical talents were discovered and cultivated early, resulting in some performances on the Grand Ole Opry at the early age of 15. His contacts with various Grand Ole Opry performers led to a long and varied musical career, working with such groups as Jim and Jesse, Dale Reeves, the Whites (whom Hicks joined after leaving Bill Monroe), Lester Flatt, Sonny James and a decade-long tenure with Conway Twitty, with whom he cut many No.1 country music records.

More recently, Hicks, who owns a recording studio, Jack’s Place, has played with Summertown Road and Melvin Goins and Windy Mountain.

Jack, what is your favorite Bill Monroe story?

“One time, when I hadn’t been with Bill very long, we were leaving from a festival and were on the bus.  I had on a pair of cut-off shorts and someone asked Bill if we were ready to go.  Bill said, “As soon as Jack gets some britches on we’ll be ready to leave.”

Here Jack Hicks demonstrate his skills during this rendition of Blue Grass Breakdown, performed as a Blue Grass Boy in 1972.

** Ben Pedigo swapped jobs with Jack Hicks, leaving Buck White & The Down Home Folks and taking a semester off while at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, to play for Bill Monroe in September 1973. He only stayed with the Blue Grass Boys for a couple of months and didn’t do any recordings during that spell.

Pedigo’s cousin introduced him to the banjo and his parents were good enough to by him a banjo and encourage his interest by taking him the Grand Ole Opry and fiddler’s conventions. Eventually, he and a group of Atlanta high school friends formed a band, calling themselves The Bluegrass Band.

Since leaving the Whites he has recorded and performed with Norman and Nancy Blake, John Hartford, as well as fellow Blue Grass Boy Mike Feagan.

Pedigo currently lives in Ripley, Ohio, where he teaches banjo and guitar, and performs in the duo Gunpowder Creek.

*** “Shorty” Shehan played fiddle and bass for Bill Monroe for a time in 1951.

Prior to that, he began in his mid-teens playing at the Renfro Valley Barn Dance before working at various times with the Moonlight Drifters, the Tennessee Pals and, from 1942, the Lonesome Pine Boys. By 1943, Sheehan was a regular at the Brown County Jamboree (Bean Blossom) and occasional performer there.

Along with his wife, Juanita, he worked for many years as, or part of, the Brown County Jamboree house-band. He remained in Indiana where he starred on the WISH TV show Hillbilly Heaven every Saturday afternoon during the mid-1950s.

Juanita and Oscar “Shorty” Shehan’s version of Free Little Bird and Soldier and the Lady were captured as ‘field recordings’ by Art Rosenbaum on Art Of Field Recording, Volume II (Dust-to-Digital), released in 2008.

**** ‘Howdy’ Forrester played fiddle with Bill Monroe for about eight months altogether; in two stints either side of his World War II service.

Forrester, born in a long line of fiddle players, learned to play the instrument at the age of 11 while bedridden for several months with rheumatic fever.

Having moved to Nashville in the mid-1930s he began performing with his three brothers. In 1938 he began a short association with Herald Goodman and an even longer association with the Grand Ole Opry. After spending a year in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Forrester and his wife, Wilene, returned to Nashville and began working for Monroe.

In 1946 the Forresters moved to Dallas, Texas, to join Georgia Slim Rutland and the Texas Roundup, performing on radio KRLD. In 1950 Forrester began a brief spell with country music star Cowboy Copas before beginning a 36-year association with Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys.

During the early 1950s he recorded with Flatt & Scruggs.

As well as recording prolifically with Roy Acuff, Forrester recorded several solo albums, documenting his Texas or show fiddle style of playing. He wrote many of the tunes that he recorded, including Apple Blossom Polka, Memory Waltz, Brilliancy, Rye Bread, Howdy Waltz, The Weeping Heart and Rutland’s Reel.

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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.