Moments in Bluegrass BG75 #2 – Bill Monroe comments on Bonnie and Clyde

Following an invitation that the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) extended to its members that they share a memory from “75 years of bluegrass,” we thought that we would collect a few to share with you. 

Kathy Kallick is a co-founder of The Good Ol’ Persons (disbanded in 1995). She has played on and off in the Frank Wakefield Band; formed The Little Big Band; and has for many years led the Kathy Kallick Band.

In the early 1980s Butch Waller and I were invited to visit with Bill Monroe and his partner, Julia LaBella, at their home in Goodlettsville, TN.

I have so many memories from that visit; playing with Bill’s foxhound puppies, riding his horse, going to a Wednesday night bible service, playing lots of music, a BIG music party, Julia cooking on her wood-burning cookstove, Bill’s constant teasing… it’s all wonderful to remember.

One evening Bill and Julia decided to take us out to a restaurant that served “health food,” and Bill liked it because they served a good berry cobbler with ice cream.

It was a place that had a big screen TV, maybe for sports sometimes, but that night they were showing a movie. The movie was Bonnie and Clyde.

Bill first heard the music, which annoyed him because, well, Flatt & Scruggs, but then he started watching the movie. He’d never seen it. But he remembered hearing all about it on the radio as he was growing up. This movie now became a documentary. And we were never leaving that restaurant until the movie was over.

We watched as Bill gave little comments throughout.

“Yessir, that’s right.”

“Yes, I remember that.”

“That’s just the way it happened, all right.”

Well, that was the sorriest thing.”

“Yessir, I remember that. We heard about that on our radio.”

“Whew. What a sorry mess.”

As the credits rolled by at the end, one of asked Bill if he’d liked the movie.

He allowed as how it was pretty good, but the music was just sorry.

Indeed, the music was so identified with the movie, but it was anachronistic.

But, that’s not what Bill Monroe meant. He meant they should have asked him to play the music!

The Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs banjo-driven instrumental Foggy Mountain Breakdown was used as the soundtrack to the chase scene in Bonnie and Clyde.

OK, readers, does this story trigger any thoughts of bluegrass music in days gone by? What related event would you like remembered? Please share in comments. Thanks.

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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.