I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #47

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 16, 1918 William Herbert ‘Lum’ York born Elmore, Alabama. He was a bass player and comedian for Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys band between 1944 and 1949. York later performed with Bill Monroe – between 1949 and 1953 – Lefty Frizzell, George Morgan, Marty Robbins and others.  *
  • November 16, 1938 Robert E ‘Bob’ Jamieson’s last date as a “bluegrass boy.”  **
  • November 16, 1963 A show by Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys at Mechanics Hall, Worcester, Massachusetts, was recorded by a young David Grisman and later released in his Acoustic Disc Archive Series of albums.  ***
  • November 16, 1966 Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys began a sequence of four days playing at the Club 47 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. ****

* Best known for working for Hank Williams, York provided the idea that led to Williams writing I Saw the Light as well as co-writing Take this Message to My Mother.

** Jamieson was the first musician that Bill Monroe recruited after the Monroe brothers’ split. In late June or early July 1938 Monroe, based in Memphis, Tennessee, at the time, and acting on the advice of staff at studios of WMC, hired the young (22-years-old) but experienced fiddler. Shortly afterwards, Monroe added guitarist and singer Willie “Bill” Wesbrooks and bass player Charles “Chuck” Haire.

After rehearsing, the quartet moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, and radio station KARK, where they were given a weekly 15-minute show beginning on July 15 and lasting through to August 12. The local newspaper listed their radio appearances, identifying the band as the “Kentucky Blue Grass Boys.”

The band returned to work at KARK on September 26 doing a morning show for the following eight weeks. Radio listings, in noting their show, referred to them as “Bill Monroe and Kentuckians.” Although Jamieson has said that early on Monroe called his first band “The Blue Grass Boys,” historically they have remained known as “The Kentuckians.” Regardless, Monroe’s intension to move to Nashville led to the break-up of this aggregation.

Jamieson continued to play music part-time, fiddling with many local bands while working in the Army’s Defense Depot in Memphis, to where he and his wife had moved.

Wesbrooks re-joined Monroe in July 1940.

*** The album concerned is Bill Monroe & the Blue Grass Boys: Live at Mechanics Hall (Acoustic Disc ACD 59). Playing on the show was Bill Monroe, Del McCoury, Bill Keith, Joe Stuart and Bessie Lee Maudlin. Mitchell ‘Bea’ Lilly was a guest lead singer and guitarist on What Would you Give?

**** The band at that time was Bill Monroe, Peter Rowan, James Monroe, Lamar Grier and Richard Greene

Club 47’s importance to the 1960s Cambridge folk scene is documented extensively in the book Baby, Let Me Follow You Down: The Illustrated Story of the Cambridge Folk Years. (Authors: Eric von Schmidt and Jim Rooney, Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press).

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.