I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #67

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.

  • December 6, 1923 Homer Robert ‘Smilin’ Jim’ Eanes Jnr. born Mountain Valley, a few miles from Martinsville, Virginia. Eanes was hired by Bill Monroe in March 1948.  He was a member of the Blue Grass Boys until November of that year when he left to begin a solo career. There were no recording sessions during Eanes’ tenure as a Blue Grass Boy.
  • December 6, 1936 Vernon Crawford ‘Jack’ Cooke born on little mountain farm near Norton, Virginia.  The long-time bass player with Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys joined the Blue Grass Boys in 1958, playing guitar. Cooke continued to play fill-in roles during the early 1960s, long after his last regular date in 1959. He is featured in three recording sessions with Bill Monroe. *
  • December 6, 1962 Recording session – At this morning session, Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys recorded Big Sandy River, Baker’s Breakdown and Darling Corey. Assisting Bill Monroe were Joe Stuart [guitar], Lonnie Hoppers [banjo], Bessie Lee Mauldin [bass] and Kenny Baker [fiddle].  The producer was Harry Silverstein and the leader in the studio was Owen Bradley. The two instrumentals were included on the Blue Grass Special LP (Decca 7-4382), released on June 17, 1963.
  • December 6, 1966 Recording session –During a three and a half hour early evening session Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys recorded But That’s All Right, It Makes No Difference Now and the instrumental Dusty Miller. Each of these recordings was included on the Blue Grass Time LP (Decca DL 7-4896), released on June 12, 1967. In the Columbia Recording Studio with Bill Monroe were Peter Rowan [guitar], Lamjar Grier [banjo], James Monroe [bass] and Richard Greene [fiddle]. The producer was Harry Silverstein.

*  A member of the famed Singing Cookes family, Jack Cooke started playing as a teenager with The Stanley Brothers in the 1950s before going to work for Bill Monroe after Edd Mayfield passed away in July 1958.

The first recording session in which Cooke was involved was that on December 1, 1958, when Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys took part in the first stereo session. Cooke played rhythm guitar on two Monroe solos, Gotta Travel On and No One But My Darling, plus two instrumentals.

The two other sessions – both in the following year – produced yet more Monroe solos, including Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone, Dark As The night, Blue As The Day, Thinking About You and Come Go With Me,  and one instrumental, Stoney Lonesome.

Following his departure from the Blue Grass Boys, Cooke formed his own group, the Virginia Mountain Boys, and played with the Stonemans and with the mandolin player Earl Taylor, before, in 1970, rejoining the Clinch Mountain Boys, playing bass for Ralph Stanley.

His baritone vocals were an integral part of some of the most soulful bluegrass trios and quartets ever recorded, blending with other stellar singers such as Roy Lee Centers, Keith Whitley, Larry Sparks, Charlie Sizemore and Ralph Stanley.

He was one of the most familiar faces on the US bluegrass scene for over 40 years; he had warmth and approachability, on stage and off, that made him a friend to everybody that he met.

Cooke passed away at the age of 72 on December 1, 2009, shortly after retiring from the band having spent 38 continuous years as a Clinch Mountain Boy.

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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.