I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #349

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.

  • September 14, 1943 Lloyd Loar died at his home in Chicago, Illinois. He was 57 years old.  *
  • September 14, 1969 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys appeared at the Hocking Valley Jamboree, Logan, Ohio.
  • September 14, 1981 Radio WMNF (88.5) in Tampa, Florida, began a five day special musical biography of Bill Monroe to mark his 70th birthday. The station devoted 90 minutes each day to broadcast the tribute.
  • September 14, 1993 CD released – Bill Monroe – Off The Record, Vol. 1: Live Recordings, 1956-1969 (Smithsonian/Folkways SF CD 40063) **
  • September 14, 1993 CD released – Bill Monroe & Doc Watson – Off The Record, Vol. 2: Live Duet Recordings, 1963-1980 (Smithsonian/Folkways SF CD 40064) ***
  • September 14, 2009 Book published – I Hear A Voice Calling : A Bluegrass Memoir by Gene Lowinger was published by the University of Illinois Press. ****

* Lloyd Loar was a well-regarded musician, playing mandolin, mandola, violin and viola. He toured America and Europe playing in a variety of aggregations.

He left Gibson in 1924. However, while there his work on instrument development included designs for a different type of finger-board on violins, the banjo tone chamber, electrostatic pickups, solid-body instruments and an electric keyboard; he was way ahead of his time.

Later Loar worked as a design consultant for piano manufacturer, the Gulbranson Company of Chicago.

Then he helped to co-found the ViviTone Company in Kalamazoo to produce acoustic and electric instruments that featured Loar’s designs and patents.

His chequered career included teaching at Northwestern University and he seemed to move from one instrument to another as his work on one was replaced by work on another.

** Bill Monroe – Off The Record, Vol. 1: Live Recordings, 1956-1969

“Howdy, howdy folks. We’re glad to be back for another show here. As we do the numbers now, we’re gonna call each fellow’s name out so we can get right along with the show.” And what a show. Bluegrass has always been a live-performance genre, on stage or in the studio, and Bill Monroe never sounded better on stage than during these heady years of the folk revival. He had something to share and to prove to his new audience, and he wouldn’t meet them halfway, choosing instead his grittiest traditional material and singing, especially in the late ’50s, with full, high yodel and wail. His voice mellowed into the ’60s, but his band, including many of the best bluegrass pickers ever (Bill Keith, Peter Rowan, Richard Greene, and Bobby Hicks for starters), never gave quarter. To understand Bill Monroe and his various ensembles, one needs to hear his stage brilliance, and there’s no better place to start than with these warm, clear live recordings.”

Roy Kasten, Speaking about Off The Record, Vol. 1: Live Recordings, 1956-1969

Track listing – Watermelon Hanging On The Vine, Roanoke, Brakeman’s Blues, Close By, Kentucky Waltz, Blue Grass Stomp, Blue Moon Of Kentucky, I’m Working On A Building, Angels Rock Me To Sleep, Wheel Hoss, Watermelon Hanging On The Vine, Katy Hill, True Life Blues, I Live In The Past, Wayfaring Stranger, Fire On The Mountain, Blue Grass Breakdown, Raw Hide, Y’all Come, Cotton-Eyed Joe, Get Up John, White House Blues, Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms, Kansas City Railroad Blues, The Walls Of Time, When He Reached Down His Hand For Me and Monroe Family Segment.

*** Bill Monroe & Doc Watson – Off The Record, Vol. 2: Live Duet Recordings, 1963-1980

A 45-minute trip to bluegrass heaven, these 17 songs combine the talents of two unparalleled musical forces: Bill Monroe, the inventor of bluegrass, master of the mandolin, and owner of a bone-chilling, mountain tenor voice; and Doc Watson, the flatpicking genius with a soulful, mellow vocal tone. Much of the material stems from the legendary Monroe Brothers recordings. Their sublime harmonies carry plaintive ballads including What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul and Banks of the Ohio, and uptempo numbers such as You Won’t Be Satisfied That Way. The roaring fiddle tunes are simply mind-blowing: Soldier’s Joy, East Tennessee Blues, and Fire on the Mountain all rank as virtuosic masterpieces. If it’s possible, the pairing exceeds all expectations.

Marc Greilsamer

Track listing – Foggy Mountain Top, What Would You Give in Exchange, Watson Blues, Soldier’s Joy, Where Is My Sailor Boy? You Won’t Be Satisfied That Way, Kentucky Mandolin, East Tennessee Blues, Midnight on the Stormy Deep, Lonesome Moonlight Waltz, Banks of the Ohio, Fire on the Mountain, Chicken Reel, Turkey in the Straw, Memories of You, Have a Feast Here Tonight and Paddy on the Turnpike.

**** I Hear A Voice Calling : A Bluegrass Memoir – ISBN 978-0-252-07663-3 Paperback?144 pages, over 75 photographs

During the final years of Bill Monroe’s life, bluegrass fiddler Gene Lowinger took a series of on- and off-stage photographs of Monroe on the road – preparing for shows, performing, interacting with fans and audiences – and in informal settings with family, friends, and fellow musicians. As a bandmate, Lowinger was given unique access to Monroe’s private life, and this book presents these photos as well as other photos documenting Lowinger’s involvement with the bluegrass scene beginning in the early 1960s. (Product description)

“A vivid, emotional, and poignant look at a unique era in bluegrass music.”

Douglas B. Green

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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.