I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #44

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 13, 1932 William Doyce ‘Buddy’ Killen was born in Florence, Alabama. The producer / label owner played bass on two quartets cut during the January 28, 1955 recording session. *
  • November 13, 1960 Ernie Sykes Jr born, Patchogue, New York. Sykes became the last in the long line of bass players recruited to the Blue Grass Boys. He joined Bill Monroe’s band in 1995. **
  • November 13, 1964 Mike Bub born Los Angeles, California. Bub worked many times with Bill Monroe from 1991 to 1995 filling in on banjo or bass. ***
  • November 13, 1985 Bill Monroe’s famous 1923 Lloyd Loar Gibson F5 mandolin and another Loar mandolin were vandalized after a break-in at his Goodlettsville, Tennessee, home.  ****
  • November 13, 2000 Book published – The Bill Monroe Reader, Editor – Tom Ewing, (Publisher; University of Illinois Press, 2000). *****

* Killen is featured on Wait A Little Longer, Please Jesus and Let the Light Shine down On Me. The two recording were released as a single (Decca 29436) on February 28, 1955. He had a long history of discovering hit songwriters, including Harlan Howard, Curly Putnam and Bobby Braddock, having first gone to Nashville as a musician, in 1950, aged 18.

Killen joined the radio show Grand Ole Opry, playing double-bass, and from time to time worked on the road with Hank Williams. In 1953, the manager of the radio station, Jack Stapp, asked him to work at his new publishing company, Tree Music.  In 1956 he was captivated when a schoolteacher, Mae Boren Axton, showed him a song, Heartbreak Hotel. In due course he signed such prolific songwriters as Roger Miller and Bill Anderson also. He was also a songwriter with several country hits to his credit.

When Stapp died in 1980, Killen became the sole owner of what would become Tree International. When in 1989 he sold the company to Sony, now Sony/ATV Music Publishing Nashville, he did so with around 40,000 copyrights.

** Sykes began his professional career at the age of 17, with his father’s band, The Sykes Boys, which also included Buddy Merriam. Later he joined the Bluegrass Cardinals, which led to his becoming established in the bluegrass music field.

Since then, Sykes has worked with such greats as Don Stover, The Osborne Brothers, Jimmy Martin, Don Reno as well as Monroe. He was also a founding member of the group Livewire along with Scott Vestal, Robert Hale, and Wayne Benson.  In 2001 he released of his first solo album, Country Jukebox on his own Old Hickory label. Currently he is playing bass with Buddy Merriam and Back Roads.

*** Bub helped to found the Scottsdale, Arizona-based group Weary Hearts in 1986. Three years later, the band moved to Nashville, but disbanded shortly afterwards. He played bass with the Del McCoury Band for 13 years and has appeared on their albums that were recorded during that period (May 1992 – June 2005).

Recently Bub has been free-lancing with several Nashville-based bands including 18 South, and leading Mike Bub’s XXL Band.  He has been chosen as the IBMA bass player of the year five times.

**** The used 1923 Loar Master model mandolin [No. 73987] was purchased by Bill Monroe in January 1945 from a Miami, Florida, barber’s shop. Monroe used this iconic instrument to compose almost all of his songs and tunes.

It was allegedly vandalized by a jilted paramour, the splinters of this mandolin were re-assembled by Charlie Derrington and returned to Monroe in February 1986.

In September 2005 the mandolin was presented to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum for permanent display there.

***** The Bill Monroe Reader – ISBN 0-252-02500-8

“Tell ’em I’m a farmer with a mandolin and a high tenor voice,” Bill Monroe said. Known as the Father of Bluegrass Music, Monroe pioneered a whole new category of music and inspired generations of musicians and fans. Yet from his founding of the original bluegrass band through six decades of performing he remained an enigmatic figure, a compelling mixture of fierce intensity, homespun modesty, and musical integrity.

Ewing has assiduously collected articles and organized them to tell Monroe’s story, beginning with those from his early days working on the farm in western Kentucky through to his passing in September 1996.

Additionally, his notes have provided some context, corrections, clarification and enlightening additional information.

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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.