I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #56

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 25, 1939 A rendition of Mule Skinner Blues performed by Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys was recorded while on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. *
  • November 25, 1944 Dale Morris born Sanger, Texas. Morris played fiddle for Bill Monroe starting in January 1985. **
  • November 25, 1948 Skip Payne born. Payne played bass with the Blue Grass Boys from February 1970 to September of that same year. He replaced Bill Yates. ***
  • November 25, 1959 Recording session – Bill Monroe returned to studio to record Lonesome Wind Blues, Thinking About You and Come Go with Me. Each song is sung solo by Bill Monroe. Owen Bradley produced the session, which featured Bill Monroe, Jack Cooke [guitar], Joe Drumright [banjo], Bessie Lee Mauldin [bass], and Dale Potter and Benny Martin [both on fiddle].
  • November 25, 1969 Recording session – The Blue Grass Boys consisting of James Monroe, Rual Yarbrough, Bill Yates and Kenny Baker assisted Bill Monroe in recording three instrumentals Land Of Lincoln, Going Up Caney and Lee Weddin’ Tune. The last two titles were issued on the album Uncle Pen (Decca DL 75348) released on June 1, 1972.

* The recording of Mule Skinner Blues from the Grand Ole Opry’s NBC Prince Albert Show, of November 25, 1939 is the earliest released recording of the Blue Grass Boys (in this case Cleo Davis on mandolin, Monroe on guitar and vocal, Amos Garen on bass, and Art Wooten on fiddle).

It can be found on the four-CD MCA release The Music of Bill Monroe from 1936 to 1994 (MCAD 4-11048).

** One of the numerous great Texas style fiddlers, Morris won his first contest in 1967. He continued to win fiddle contests through the 1980s and on to 1990s.

Morris’s love for his music, however, was not limited to strictly contest fiddling. He has worked with the likes of Wynn Stewart, Sammi Smith, Johnny Rodriquez, Carl Smith, Leon Rausch, Red Stegall, Stonewall Jackson, Marty Robbins and Ray Price.

In 1981 he was named the 17th member of the legendary Sons of The Pioneers (the group founded by Roy Rogers in the early 1930s).

Morris and his wife, Tobi, own and operate a teaching studio in Boyd, Texas. As part of his teaching he has produced the 8-CD set Single or Twin Fiddle System.

According to Morris, he “was the first fiddler to follow Kenny Baker.” He reminisces further …..

“Through the years I’d known of him I’d always thought that he might not be an easy person to work with. You can imagine how apprehensive I was when I first joined the group. I was to learn, later on, however, that there could never have been a more down to earth and great person to work for. I truly learned a lot about Bill during my time with him.

One of my memories of him involves our bus breaking down south of Nashville TN, almost to the Alabama state line. At the time there had also been a tremendous ice storm. We spent the night at a truck-stop waiting on the bus to be repaired. While in the restaurant later that night a couple of patrons recognized Bill and began to talk with him. Not only was Bill gracious enough to visit with these folks, he went to the bus and returned with his mandolin, sitting there for the next few hours playing and singing for these folks!!!

NO ONE I’d ever worked for before would have ever done something like this!!! Bill’s gracious demeanor was also reflected during his performances. If someone requested a song, we’d TRY IT !!! It didn’t matter.

Also, at the end of each performance, all performers would be invited on stage for a last minute jam ……………… !!!!

The significance of this is that bluegrass people, as a whole, are like this……………I think that Bill Monroe set the pattern for more than just the music….”

See Dale Morris on video on I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #57.

*** Payne wasn’t involved in the Decca session of March 1970. However, he played bass during the jam session, circa May 1970, that took place backstage at the Ryman auditorium that was filmed by National Educational Television for the special program Earl Scruggs: His Family and Friends.

Bill Monroe and his son James, Earl Scruggs and his son Randy, Kenny Baker, Rual Yarbrough and Skip Payne played a medley of Train 45 / Little Maggie / My Little Georgia Rose / Nine Pound Hammer.

This medley was not included on the Columbia album Earl Scruggs: His Family and Friends that was released in 1971.

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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.