I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #328

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 24, 1973 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys made a personal appearance at the first bluegrass festival staged in Colorado. The Colorado Bluegrass Music Society co-presented Bill Monroe’s First Annual Rocky Mountain Bluegrass Festival, at Adams County Fairgrounds, Brighton, Colorado. The event was spread over three days.
  • August 24, 1978 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys hosted the First Virginia Bluegrass Festival, the South Boston Speedway and Fairgrounds, Virginia.
  • August 24, 1979 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys performed at The Indiana State Fair. *
  • August 24, 1984 Bill Monroe was the headline act at the First Annual George Jones Country and Bluegrass Music Celebration at Bill Monroe’s Brown County Jamboree Bean Blossom, Indiana.
  • August 24, 2004 CD released – Bill Monroe – The Gospel Spirit (MCA Nashville MCA CD 290702) **

* The fair had never previously presented bluegrass music as part of its entertainment schedule. Among other bluegrass acts featured were Birch Monroe and James Monroe. The highlight of the event was the presentation of a “Sagamore Of The Wabash” award to Bill Monroe. It is the highest honor that an Indiana governor can bestow on a citizen.

** Bill Monroe – The Gospel Spirit, 16 tracks

“While many country artists have made inspirational singles or albums on an occasional specialty basis, rather like making a Christmas record, but spent most of their recording careers performing secular material, bluegrass music tends to admit religious subject matter as one of its constants, not, perhaps quite as frequent a topic as lost love, but fairly close. Thus, the Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys’ entry in MCA Nashville’s series of discount-priced 2004 compilations called Gospel Spirit (there are also discs by Loretta Lynn, the Statler Brothers, and Conway Twitty) is really just a distillation of some of the group’s regular recordings for the most part. Among the 16 tracks, six were cut for a 1958 religious LP, I Saw the Light, but the rest, drawn from singles dating back to 1950, are just bluegrass songs that happen to treat Christian themes, starting with a version of the Carter Family’s I‘m Working on a Building, cut in 1954. One gets to hear different versions of the band. The earliest track, 1950s I’ll Meet You in Church Sunday Morning, features Monroe with his brother Birch Monroe, Jimmy Martin, and Joel Price, while the I Saw the Light tracks recorded eight years later use Edd Mayfield, Bessie Mae Mauldin or Culley Holt, Kenny Baker, and Gordon Terry (with producer Owen Bradley sitting in on an un-bluegrass-like organ on Precious Memories, Life’s Railway to Heaven, and the closing track, Wayfaring Stranger). But Monroe’s high tenor remains distinctive, whether playing off lead vocalists Martin, Mayfield, Charlie Cline (on 1955’s Let the Light Shine Down on Me), or even Carter Stanley (on 1951’s Get Down on Your Knees and Pray). And the music remains true to the high-lonesome sound of Bill Monroe’s bluegrass. It’s just that the lyrics on these tracks are all reverent.”

William Ruhlmann

Track listing – I’m Working On A Building, I’ll Meet You In Church Sunday Morning, Lord Protect My Soul, Angels Rock Me To Sleep, Get Down On Your Knees And Pray, He Will Set Your Fields On Fire, A Voice From On High, Let The Light Shine Down On Me, Lord, Lead Me On, I Saw The Light, Precious Memories, I’ve Found A Hiding Place, Life’s Railway To Heaven, Jesus Hold My Hand, I Am A Pilgrim and Wayfaring Stranger.

Share this:

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.