Monroe Exhibit to open soon at Bluegrass Museum

On September 10, the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, KY will open the second of three Bill Monroe exhibits as part of the ongoing two-year observation of his 100th birthday (9/13/11).

The first exhibit, The Bill Monroe Centennial Art Exhibit opened on June 23 in conjunction with the museum’s annual music festival, the River of Music Party (ROMP). This second, which will be known simply as the Bill Monroe Exhibit, will include personal artifacts, clothing, records and other items owned by our beloved Father of Bluegrass.

IBMM is especially proud to announce that the new Monroe exhibit will also display Uncle Pen’s fiddle, which inspired one of the most enduring of Monroe’s compositions, the delightful Uncle Pen. As the museum describes it:

Bluegrass musicians and fans know that this fiddle and its owner, Pendleton Vandiver, were enormously influential in Bill Monroe’s life. After the death of his parents, Bill, then age 16, lived with his Uncle Pen, who taught him mountain and Celtic fiddle tunes which Bill transposed onto the mandolin, making him one of the first to play the mandolin in this manner.

Uncle Pen’s fiddle was acquired by one of the most instrumental people  in establishing the IBMM, Terry Woodward of Owensboro, Kentucky,  who has gifted the instrument to the museum for the duration of the centennial celebration.  This fiddle has been used in recent recording sessions by fiddlers Ricky Skaggs, Stuart Duncan, Fletcher Bright and Tim O’Brien to record a soundtrack for a motion picture being made of Bill Monroe’s life starring Golden Globe-nominated actor Peter Sarsgaard.

Also to be on display will be the original peghead overlay from Monroe’s 1923 Gibson F5 mandolin which he famously defaced by gouging out the word Gibson after he felt they had performed unsatisfactory repair work on his instrument in the early 1950s. This was done at a time long before these mandolins rose to a value roughly equivalent to the average American home, and when Monroe himself was just another mandolinist in the music business.

The museum had bid on this item when it was sold at auction in December 2009, and is delighted that the winning bidder has agreed to place it on loan with IBMM for this exhibit.

There will be a special Exhibit Opening & Reception on September 10, along with an all-star concert starting at 6:00 p.m. Tickets can be obtained by contacting the museum at 270-926-7891.

The 5th annual IBMM Bill Monroe-style Mandolin Camp begins that same day, and a faculty concert open to the public will take place on the evening of September 9.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.