I’m Going Back to Old Kentucky #7

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.

  • October 7, 1931 Gordon R Terry born Moulton, Lawrence County, Alabama. One of the premier bluegrass fiddlers, Terry worked as a sideman for Bill Monroe during the early to mid 1950s. His first stint began in 1951, when he replaced Red Taylor. He re-joined the Blue Grass Boys in 1954 on discharge from the Army. Terry featured in a dozen recording sessions, some of which took place after he had left the band. For two sessions in December 1970 he played as the third fiddler with Kenny Baker and Red Hayes making up the trio.
  • October 7, 1934 Harley Orville Bray born near Champaign, Illinois. The banjo player, along with his brother Francis and Red Cravens, played a fill-in date in June 1958 and on a few occasions during the summer of 1960. All these dates were at Bean Blossom, Indiana.
  • October 7, 1940 Recording session – At this session Bill Monroe laid down his first solo cuts for RCA Victor; Mule Skinner Blues and Dog House Blues, on both of which Monroe played guitar, a Monroe original composition, Tennessee Blues, two duets with Clyde Moody signing lead, No letter In The Mail and I Wonder If You Feel The Way I Do, Moody’s specialty number Six White Horses, the quartet Cryin’ Holy Unto The Lord and another instrumental, Katy Hill. Accompanying Monroe and Moody at the session were Tommy Magness and ‘Cousin Wilbur’ Wesbrooks.
  • October 7, 1955 Single released – Put My Little Shoes Away/Wheel Hoss (Decca 9 – 29645, 78rpm and 45rpm)

We asked Buddy Merriam, host of Blue Grass Time on WUSB 90.1 FM, noted Monroe-style mandolinist and leader of Buddy Merriam & Back Roads to share a few thoughts on Bill Monroe.

“The day I met Bill (July 1976 at the First Berkshire Mountains Bluegrass Festival) he told me a few things about mandolin playing and later that night I was struck by lightning!

We became close friends and he brought my (NY based!) band to play a few times at the Grand Ole Opry, and Bean Blossom. I also performed at the Grand Opening of Bill’s Bluegrass Museum and Hall of Fame. He gave me his tune Frog on the Lily Pad to be the first to record. I guested on mandolin with Bill and the band over a dozen times; I’ll never forget the first time. I was standing next to Bill Keith and Peter Rowan at the Berkshire Mountains festival and he called me out of the crowd to come up and play – neither one of the three of us knew who he was looking at and I thought it was one of them being ex Blue Grass Boys – it was always an honor to get onstage with the ‘Father.’ I still think of him every day.

I wrote several tunes for him including Monroe Special [on my Mystery Train CD] and Spirit of Rosine [on Back Roads Mandolin] (with Bill’s voice beginning and ending the track). Batchin’ It was also written for him, back in the days when he was ‘batchin’ it’ with Uncle Pen after his parents passed on.

Some of my fav-o-rites are Old Ebenezer Scrooge, My Last Days on Earth and Frog on the Lily Pad.”

You will see Gordon Terry on fiddle in this clip from 1955, along with Bobby Hicks and Red Taylor.


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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.