I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #39

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.

  • November 8, 1953 The Jamboree show of November 8, 1953 (at Bean Blossom, Brown County, Indiana) featured four different Monroe acts: Milissa (sic), “Burch” (sic) and the Brown County Fox Hunters, Charlie Monroe, and Bill Monroe “with Blue Grass Boy” (sic).  It is the first time that this combination ever appeared on a bill together. *
  • November 8, 1964 Peter Rowan made his first appearance as a Blue Grass Boy, at the Brown County Jamboree, at Bean Blossom, Indiana. *
  • November 8, 1973 Randy Chapman played his first date, filling in on banjo, with the Blue Grass Boys.  ***
  • November 8, 1994 Byron Berline reunited with Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs in the recording studio – for the first time since October 28, 1947 – when they recorded Sally Goodin for his Sugar Hill album, Fiddle and a Song (SH CD 3838). ****
  • November 8, 2009 Francis Bray, 78, passed away of natural causes in hospice care at Palm Terrace Nursing Home, Mattoon, Illinois.

* Melissa was just 17 years old at the time.

** Boston, Massachusetts-born Rowan was one of the young northern musicians that Monroe was to recruit in the mid 1960s. He was a Blue Grass Boy for a little over two years and participated in just five recording sessions, the first of which as late as October 1966.

Of the 14 recordings on which Rowan played, he sang lead only on Midnight On The Stormy Deep. He was the baritone vocalist on the chorus of When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again, I Wonder Where You Are Tonight and All The Good Times Are Past And Gone.

While with the band he co-wrote with Bill Monroe Walls Of Time, the song that has become as iconic as its two composers. Contemporaneous recordings of the duo singing Walls Of Time can be found on three albums; in concert on Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, Live Recordings, 1956-1969 (Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40063), in concert on a Various Artists collection Newport Folk Festival Classics: Bluegrass Breakdown (Vanguard VCD 77006) and one during a workshop on another Various Artists set Newport Folk Festival Classics: Bluegrass Masters (Vanguard V 77012-2). The first was recorded at the Roanoke Bluegrass Festival, Fincastle, Virginia, in September 1965.

*** There is little known about Chapman; he played two dates with Monroe and at some time he was a member of Grandma’s Bluegrass Preserves. He is understood to have moved to New Mexico and lived there in a commune.

**** Berline worked for Bill Monroe for about six months in 1967, replacing Richard Greene. During this time, he co-wrote and recorded the tune Gold Rush with the boss, now as much of the standard repertoire as any Bill Monroe instrumental.

Afterwards he performed and recorded as a solo artist and with groups including the Flying Burrito Brothers, Sundance, and Berline, Crary and Hickman (later with the addition of John Moore, in a quartet known as California). Now, in addition to performing, he runs the Double Stop, a music shop and performance venue, in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Fiddle and a Song was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Bluegrass Album category and Sally Goodin was nominated in the category Best Country & Western Instrumental Performance.

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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.