I’m Going Back To Old Kentucky #69

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 8, 1945 Earl Scruggs made his debut as the newest member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, on stage at the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tennessee. *
  • December 8, 1994 Session for Gary Brewer – Bill Monroe played mandolin on two instrumentals – The Ozark Rag and The Old Kentucky Blues – at a recording session for Gary Brewer’s Copper Creek album Gary Brewer, Guitar (CCCD-0137) **

* Late in November 1945 David Akeman (Stringbean) left Bill Monroe to work with comedian Lew Childre. Monroe initially wanted to recruit Don Reno, but Reno had been drafted into the Army. So, with the help of Jim Shumate and at the urging of Lester Flatt, Monroe hired Earl Scruggs.

A flu-ridden Scruggs returned to his North Carolina home to fight the bug and to get some personal effects, returning in time to play on the Saturday night Grand Ole Opry show.

** Louisville-born Gary ‘Stretch’ Brewer is the latest in a line of family musicians that goes back six generations. Brewer has led his own band, the Kentucky Ramblers, for three decades.

In 2000 Brewer was a Guitar Player of the Year nominee and his song Jimmy Martin Songs for Dinner was a Song of the Year nomination in the International Bluegrass Music Association’s final ballot.

He has several other albums on the Copper Creek label.

Brewer shares his recollections of the events leading up to the session at Fox Farm Recording, Nashville, Tennessee.

“While touring with a package show backed by the Grand Ole’ Opry, me and my band (Gary Brewer and the Kentucky Ramblers), Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, James Monroe and the Midnite Ramblers, and the Sullivan Family (on a few dates), were performing at the Roy Clark theater in Branson, Missouri.

Bill and myself were visiting in our dressing room and he asked to see my guitar, he ran through several notes and chords and said, ‘I’d like to show you a couple songs I wrote for the guitar.’ Of course, I was humbled to see and learn these tunes, straight from the master’s hands.

I learned them note for note and added my own flavor, and he was very well pleased.

Anyways, the tunes became part of my shows and Bill asked me if I would do him a favor, I said, ‘Sure, anything you want,’ he said, ‘Would you record these numbers?’ I said, ‘I would be honored,’ and he replied, ‘Would you let me play the mandolin on them?’ I said, ‘Yes Sir!’

Of the recording session, Brewer adds ..

“I went to Bill’s cabin and we visited awhile then went to the studio. He was very excited about the session and we began the recording.

We’ll anyways, once we had a few tunes down, Bill said, ‘How do you like a hound-dog guitar?’ I said, I do, and he said, ‘I believe this tune needs one, (he was talking about; The Old Kentucky Blues), I said, who would you suggest? He said, ‘Buck Graves,’ so I said, ‘I’ll call him.’ Uncle Josh, was honored to take part in the session.

Once we all got together at the studio, the three of us began talking and the short of it was; Bill had been performing 55 years and Uncle Josh had been going 53 years and they had never recorded together!

So this really turned out to be a very historic recording.”

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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.