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 31, 1928 Monroe Fields was born. Fields was employed by Bill Monroe to play bass from September 1971, when he replaced Doug Hutchens, through to March 1973. *
- December 31, 1934 Fiddle player Ralph ‘Joe’ Meadows was born in the small coal town of Basin, southern West Virginia. **
- December 31, 1951 Just after Christmas Bill Monroe assumed ownership of the Bean Blossom site, acquiring all 55 acres (approx.) of the park, and its existing buildings, including the large “show barn,” where the Jamboree shows were held.
- December 31, 1954 Recording session – At an afternoon session at the Bradley Studio, Bill Monroe records three instrumentals; Wheel Hoss, Cheyenne and Roanoke; and You’ll find Her Name Written There. Assisting were Jackie Phelps [guitar], Ernie Newton [bass] and Hubert Davis [banjo], and Bobby Hicks and Charlie Cline [both playing fiddle]. Paul Cohen was the producer. Cheyenne and Roanoke were paired on a single released on February 7, 1955.
- December 31, 1988 Tom Ewing ended his first term as a Blue Grass Boy. He was to re-join Bill Monroe three months later. ***
- December 31, 2002 Jim McReynolds died at the Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin, Tennessee. He had been suffering with cancer. ****
* Monroe Fields participated in three recording sessions during that time. Each took place during March 1972, with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys recording 10 numbers in all, nine of which were included on the album Bill and James Monroe: Father & Son (MCA 310). Songs featured include Tall Pines, Walls of Time and What Would You Give In Exchange?
Fields sings lead on My Old Kentucky and You; which is included on the LP Bill Monroe Sings Bluegrass Body and Soul (MCA 2251).
Fields, who composed It’s You Baby You as recorded by The Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show, had played mandolin with Carl Sauceman and Flatt & Scruggs, and bass with Jim & Jesse prior to working with Bill Monroe. He wrote several other songs including the seasonal It’s Time To Hear Those Jingle Bells Again and Please Be My Love, co-written with Sauceman.
He has two solo albums and shares the credits with C F Bailey on another.
** Joe Meadows became a Blue Grass Boy in 1956 and stayed with the band for about a year. He was not involved in any of the few recording sessions of the time.
*** Tom Ewing’s first term as a Blue Grass Boy began on May 18, 1986.
He resumed his role as guitarist and the lead vocalist in the band on March 31, 1989, and remained until Bill Monroe played his last date.
**** Jim McReynolds was the older brother in the partnership Jim & Jesse, the longest active professional brother duet in the history of bluegrass music.
Jim & Jesse and The Virginia Boys were among the bands recorded for the first Bean Blossom album and the brothers were guests on two other Bill Monroe albums. Monroe repaid the favor with a contribution to the brothers’ album Music Among Friends (Rounder 0279).
In a career that began in the spring of 1947 on Radio WNVA in Norton, Virginia, Jim and Jesse traversed the USA many times, performed on several foreign stages, had their own television shows and recorded what amounts to a vast catalog of songs and tunes for labels such as Capitol, Epic, Starday, CMH, Rounder and Pinecastle as well as their own label, Old Dominion.
In 1993, the brothers received bluegrass music’s highest honour when they were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame. Four years later Jim and Jesse received the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship Award, presented by the then First Lady Hillary Clinton, during a ceremony at the White House.
Here is Jim McReynolds singing lead in a rendition of (It’s) Mighty Dark to Travel, the song that he recorded for Bill Monroe’s album Bluegrass ’87 (MCA 5970).