I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #333

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 29, 1949 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys do a show and play a ball game at Backer Park, Damascus, Virginia. *
  • August 29, 1954 The Stanley Brothers recorded Blue Moon Of Kentucky – at Bill Monroe’s suggestion. Monroe himself attended the session and supervised the recording.
  • August 29, 1980 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys hosted Bill Monroe’s Labor Day Homecoming Bluegrass Festival, Monroe Music Land Park, Beaver Dam, Kentucky. Also appearing were James Monroe and the Midnight Ramblers and Birch Monroe.
  • August 29, 2000 CD released – Various Artists – Big Mon –The Songs Of Bill Monroe (Skaggs Family SKFR CD 1002)  **
  • August 29, 2002 The Bill Monroe Foundation presented the first Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration & Festival at a site to the rear of the Monroe family old home place some six miles west of Rosine. The event featured a re-union of former Blue Grass Boys with Kenny Baker, the Goins brothers, Tater Tate, Wayne Lewis, Butch Robins, Lonnie Hoppers and Tony Ellis.

* It is widely known that Bill Monroe toured with a tent show and that he and his entourage challenged local baseball teams to a game prior to their show. Members of the team likely included Rudy Lyle [banjo], Jack Thompson [bass], Floyd Ethridge [fiddle], Mac Wiseman [guitar] and Stringbean.

In Robert Cantwell’s wonderful book, Bluegrass Breakdown, he quotes Bill Monroe as saying, “I’d have liked to be a baseball player. I love baseball. But you have to have good eyes to play baseball and my eyes never was good. I could hit good and could’ve been a fair player.”

Cantwell contemplates whether the name “Blue Grass Boys” could have baseball connotations, as 19th century baseball teams were often known as “Boys.”

More likely it was in Monroe’s references to individual band members – prompting a fiddler to “come up to bat” or another musician to “pinch hit” – that his love of baseball is displayed.

It is thanks to Gary B Reid, who in his search for information about the Stanley Brothers, found and shared this advert from the Damascus Blade newspaper. Isn’t he a diamond! (Sorry)

** Big Mon – The Songs Of Bill Monroe

The 13 song tribute features contemporary country music artists such as Patty Loveless, Charlie Daniels, Dolly Parton, The Dixie Chicks, Dwight Yoakam and Travis Tritt pay tribute to Bill Monroe and his music. A host of bluegrass stalwarts anchored the set with a storming rendition of the closing instrumental Big Mon. As well as providing instrumental support throughout, Ricky Skaggs served as producer for the project.

Track listing –  Darlin’ Corey – Bruce Hornsby; Cry, Cry Darlin’ – Dolly Parton; Heavy Traffic Ahead – Steve Wariner; Close By – Patty Loveless; Blue Moon of Kentucky – John Fogerty; Used To Be – The Whites; Walk Softly – The Dixie Chicks and Ricky Skaggs; My Little Georgia Rose – Travis Tritt; I Am A Pilgrim – Charlie Daniels; On the Old Kentucky Shore – Joan Osborne and Ricky Skaggs; Blue Night – Mary Chapin Carpenter; Rocky Road Blues – Dwight Yoakam and Big Mon – Ricky Skaggs.

Another project, Ricky Skaggs and Friends – Sing The Songs Of Bill Monroe (Lyric Street Records 2061-65030-2), was released on February 26, 2002. This album includes a version of Uncle Pen that the Skaggs Family album lacks. (see I’m Going back to Old Kentucky #149.)

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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.