I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #36

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.

There are about 20 dates for which I do not have any information at this time. So, for such occasions, I have the opportunity to share with you some of the comments about Bill Monroe that I have collected through the years. In this instance, I examine the level of success that Bill Monroe enjoyed on the record charts.

The most notable magazine that published record charts is The Billboard, as it was originally titled. Here’s a brief resume of …..

Bill Monroe’s Billboard Chart History

Bill Monroe wasn’t a big hit on the country music charts, but he never regarded recording as the most important aspect of his career.

In a career stretching from 1940 through to the summer of 1990, when Monroe had his last official session for MCA Records (embracing 50 years), for his singles, chart success only spanned the period from 1946 to 1959, just 13 years.

Monroe’s debut on a Billboard chart [the Most Played Juke Box Folk Records chart] came on March 23, 1946 with the Columbia single Kentucky Waltz, b/w Rocky Road Blues, (36907), which stayed on the chart for six weeks and peaked at No. 3.

He achieved another Top Ten ‘hit’ later that same year with Footprints in the Snow b/w True Life Blues (Columbia 37151), which pent four weeks on the chart, peaking at No. 5.

However, further Top Ten success eluded him thereafter and the best placed singles were Sweethearts You Gone Me Wrong b/w My Rose Of Old Kentucky (Columbia 38172, June 1948) and Little Community Church b/w That Home Above (Columbia 20488, November 1948), both of which reached No. 11. The former only spent one week on the chart, while the latter did a lot better and stayed there for five weeks.

In 1949 Toy Heart b/w Blue Grass Breakdown (Columbia 20552) and When You are Lonely b/w It’s Mighty Dark to Travel (Columbia 20526) both peaked at No. 12.

The only other hit that Monroe had while recording for Columbia came in June 1948 when Wicked Path of Sin b/w Summertime is Past and Gone (Columbia 20503) spent one week at No. 13.

Monroe’s only other hits came in the late 1950s, by which time he was recording for Decca. Gotta Travel On b/w No One But My Darlin’ (Decca 30809) spent six weeks on the Billboard chart peaking at No. 15 (after making its debut on March 2, 1959). The haunting instrumental Scotland, b/w Panhandle Country (Decca 30739), spent just one week on the chart peaking at No. 27 (after making its debut on November 3, 1958).

As far as albums is concerned, Bill Monroe’s most successful by far was the first Bean Blossom collection (MCA 8002 [2]). Recorded in June 2003, it entered the Billboard Top Country LPs chart on January 19, 1974. It remained on the chart for 14 weeks and peaked at No 17.

Two other MCA albums reached this chart; the first was Bill Monroe Sings Bluegrass, Body and Soul (MCA 2251), which was released on January 10, 1977. The LP entered chart on February 12, 1977, remained there for just four weeks, peaking at No. 37. On March 10, 1984, the album Bill Monroe and Friends (MCA 5435) entered the Top Country Albums chart where it stayed for six weeks peaking at No. 61.

In October 1970 Billboard magazine presented Bill Monroe with a special pioneer award.

Footnote: The format and title for singles charts changed several times from 1946 to 1959. Up until April 1948 the collation was based on the most played Juke Box records. From May of that year through to October 1958 there were two charts, one for Best Sellers and one Most Played by Jockeys (DJs). The recording of Scotland was featured on the Hot Country Singles chart, Hot C&W Sides.

Likewise for albums, the first two albums charted when compilation was limited to a maximum of 50 positions.  The last named registered on a chart that extended to 75 places.


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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.