I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #312

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 8, 1928 Leslie Matheson Sandy was born near Raeford, south central North Carolina. *
  • August 8, 1935 Bill Sage was born in Rhodefield, West Virginia.  **
  • August 8, 1953 Sonny Osborne left the Blue Grass Boys, joining his brother Bobby in the long-serving Osborne Brothers bluegrass band.

* Multi-instrumentalist Leslie Sandy worked with Bill Monroe, playing bass, in 1953 and 1954, and returned in 1957, participating in two Decca recording sessions that produced six cuts (1). He had a comedy role, known as Uncle Puny, in the band also.

Sandy’s first experience of playing bluegrass music began when he played bass for Hoke Jenkins & the Smokey Mountaineers.

In 1955, during the first of two stints with Jim & Jesse, Sandy played bass on four songs that were included on their Capital album Airmail Special. For a period he played in a band with his brother, Coolidge, playing main-stream country music, but soon quit when rock took over the clubs in the region.

After a 25-year break and a minor stroke Sandy picked up the fiddle once more and in a more-relaxed environment he enjoyed playing in jam sessions and with pick-up bands.

He has played on The Louisiana Hayride, with Jimmy Martin, and the Suwannee River Jamboree in Live Oak, Florida, as well as the Grand Ole Opry.

Sandy recalls ……

“I first met Bill Monroe in June of 1953 when he (along with Jimmy Martin, Charlie Cline and L.E. White) appeared at the Barbeque Barn near Florence, South Carolina. I was playing with Slim Mims and The Dream Ranch Boys on WJMX at the time. We opened the show for Bill Monroe and The Blue Grass Boys that night. Bill needed bass player for his show and I filled in for him. Before the evening was over, he had offered me a job with his band. We met the next weekend at the Pick Theater in Mt. Airy, North Carolina where he had a show. Monroe gave me 15 minutes on his show to perform a comedy act. It was my debut as the comedian, Uncle Puny. After that, Monroe and I started to do two-man comedy routines together in addition to my playing the bass as a regular part of his shows. We put on shows at a lot of schools and traveled quite a bit.

Times on the road got really bad, and I left Monroe in the winter of 1953, worked awhile with Slim Mims then went back with Monroe in 1954. In 1957, I played the guitar on nine  of the 12 songs on Monroe’s first LP Knee Deep in Bluegrass. (1) My name on the LP was incorrectly listed as Lester Sandy instead of Leslie Sandy. Don Stover, Dale Potter, Gordon Terry, Tommy Jackson and Joe Stuart are also on the same recording.”

** Bill Sage filled-in as fiddler for a show on June 9, 1963.

(1) According to the book The Music of Bill Monroe (University of Illinois Press) Joe Stuart played guitar on three cuts and Doug Kershaw on another three cuts, amounting to six out of the 12 on Knee Deep in Bluegrass (Decca DL 8731), released on June 23, 1958.

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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.