I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #320

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 16, 1969 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys played at The First Salt Creek Bluegrass Festival which took place over two days at Hugo, Oklahoma.
  • August 16, 1974 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys appeared at The First Annual West Virginia Bluegrass Festival, Aunt Minnie’s Farm and Country Roads Park, Glenville, West Virginia.
  • August 16, 1991 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys headed an impressive roster of bluegrass bands at the Jamboree USA presentation of Bluegrass In The Hills ‘91 near St Clairsville, Ohio, about 15 miles west of Wheeling, West Virginia. Other acts included Tim O’Brien, Mac Wiseman, Seldom Scene, Jim & Jesse, Ralph Stanley, Alison Krauss & Union Station, the Osborne Brothers, and Peter Rowan.
  • August 16, 1994 CD released – Bill Monroe – Bill Monroe at His Best (Hollywood 409) *
  • August 16, 2005 Vassar Clements died of lung cancer, age 77, at his Goodlettsville, Tennessee, home. **

* Bill Monroe – Bill Monroe at His Best, 12 tracks

“From Uncle Pen to Footprints In The Snow, many of Mr. Monroe’s best songs are here. You also hear instrumentals like Bluegrass Breakdown and Orange Blossom Special. Everyone loves Mule Skinner Blues and Blue Moon Of Kentucky and they’re both here as well as The Prison Song. This set closes with the classic Can’t You Hear Me Calling, which has to be one of the most ‘lonesome’ sounding songs in bluegrass music and Nine Pound Hammer, which is always a toe tapper. While this CD is not the original studio recordings of these songs, these live versions are really well done, and for the price, you can’t beat this collection.”

W. David Ferrell (Amazon.com review)

Track listing – Orange Blossom Special, Uncle Pen, Footprints in the Snow, Bluegrass Breakdown, I Saw the Light, Shady Grove, Shenandoah Breakdown, Mule Skinner Blues, Prisoner’s Song, Blue Moon of Kentucky, Can’t You Hear Me Callin’ and Nine Pound Hammer.

** Vassar Clements worked for Bill Monroe several times during the period from the early 1940s through to early 1967.

Clements also played with Jim and Jesse from 1957 through to 1961, but retired from full-time music for several years in the mid-1960s.

In the 1970s he came to prominence as a member of John Hartford’s Dobrolic Plectral Society, with the Earl Scruggs Revue, a participant in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s platinum album Will the Circle Be Unbroken, and as a member of Old and In the Way, demonstrating his masterful versatility at each turn.

From the mid-1970s onwards Clements recorded over 30 albums, playing in a variety of styles, in a variety of formations for record companies such as Mercury, Flying Fish, Rounder, Rural Rhythm and OMS.

Clements played as part of the super-group the Bluegrass Album Band and featured on the IBMA Award-winning album True Life Blues–The Songs of Bill Monroe (Sugar Hill Records, 1997).

He has been described as “the quintessential American musician”; he was a master of many genres, including bluegrass, country, rock, blues, jazz and swing.

In 2001 Clements was inducted into the Fiddlers Hall of Fame. In that same year the IBMA recognized Clement as a first generation pioneer of bluegrass music at its International Bluegrass Music Awards show.

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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.