I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #41

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 10, 1908 Paul Cohen born in Chicago. Cohen was a producer at Decca from the early 1940s, having starting working for the company when it was formed in 1934. He produced 24 sessions for Monroe beginning in February 1950 and ending on September 16, 1955.  *
  • November 10, 1942 Gene Lowinger born, Newark, New Hampshire.  Lowinger was the first northerner to play fiddle for Bill Monroe. He joined the Blue Grass Boys in June 1965, replacing Benny Williams, and stayed until February 1966. **
  • November 10, 1961 A session on this date was the second in two consecutive days. It produced three songs; Shady Grove, Nine Pound Hammer and Live and Let Live. Present were Monroe, Maynard, Mauldin and McPeake, as on the previous day, and Benny Williams, who was the sole fiddle player. Again Owen Bradley was the producer. ***
  • November 10, 1972 Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt co-presented the three-day Mississippi Delta Bluegrass Festival, Runnellstown, Mississippi, 12 miles east of Hattiesburg.
  • November 10, 1974 Bill Monroe was host for Bill Monroe’s South Louisiana Bluegrass Festival at the Blue Grass Park between Covington and Franklinton, Louisiana.
  • November 10, 1995 Bill Monroe played his last road date at the Center for Arts, Schaumburg, Illinois. The Blue Grass Boys that night were Robert Bowlin [fiddle], Dana Cupp [banjo], Tom Ewing [guitar] and Mike Bub [filling in for Ernie Sykes on bass].

* Cohen took over hillbilly production work from Jack Kapp and a short while later he based himself at the Castle Studios in Nashville, from where he recorded many of the new artists of the day; Kitty Wells, Webb Pierce, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline, and Bobby Helms included.

Cohen’s production of Monroe’s records coincided with Jimmy Martin’s tenure as guitar player and lead vocalist for the Blue Grass Boys. Together, with the assistance of Owen Bradley, they created the sound and established the repertoire that was the basis of Monroe’s music thereafter.  During that era Monroe recorded such popular songs as Uncle Pen, My Little Georgia Rose and I’ll Meet you in Church Sunday Morning. Alongside these was the instrumental Raw Hide. Later Carter Stanley helped with the recording of Get down on your Knees and Pray before Martin returned to sing lead on The Little Girl and the Dreadful Snake and A Voice from on High.

Cohen is remembered for an energetic production style – as much cheerleader as executive – and a knack for spotting new artists and matching them with songs. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976.

** Lowinger was only the third northerner on any instrument, after Bill Keith and Peter Rowan, to play in the Blue Grass Boys.

He first played with Monroe in 1964, filling in on shows in the northeast. Later he was hired as a regular Blue Grass Boy and stayed for about eight months.

After leaving the Blue Grass Boys, Lowinger studied classical violin and viola for several years, and later became a professional violinist. A serious neck injury forced him to leave music for many years, but in 2000 he returned to bluegrass to lead a band called Avalanche.

A freelance photojournalist, Lowinger recorded his memoirs of his time following and working with Bill Monroe in I Hear a Voice Calling (published by the University of Illinois Press, 2009). Also he has written two books on bluegrass fiddling, and currently teaches fiddle in the New York/New Jersey area.

*** None of the cuts were released on a single; each is on the LP Blue Grass Ramble (Decca 4266), released in the following June.

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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.