The International Bluegrass Music Museum has acquired a pair of rare photos of Pendleton Vandiver, Bill Monroe’s legendary Uncle Pen, whose fiddle playing was famously remembered in the Monroe song by that name. Big Mon was quoted frequently as saying that Vandiver’s fiddle style, which Bill remembered vividly from his childhood, was a crucial influence on the later development of the Monroe sound.
Uncle Pen’s legacy in the history of bluegrass is secure, though precious few artifacts, details or photos exist to expand upon our understanding of his life.
These two images were donated to the museum by Cheryl Goatee, who resides in Owensboro, KY where the IBMM is located. They had come to her through her grandmother, Madeline Smith Lively, who was raised in Rosine, KY and whose family were close friends with the Monroes. The photographs are now on display in the museum as a part of their Monroe Centennial Celebration, along with Uncle Pen’s fiddle and a variety of other photos, documents, videos, recordings and Bill Monroe memorabilia.
The photo above shows Vandiver with what is presumed to be wife, Anne Belle Johnson Vandiver, and their daughter, Lena Narne Vandiver, taken during the 1920s. The two men in this second image, apparently taken at the same time, are unidentified.
Also on display at IBMM at present is the Bill Monroe Centennial Art Exhibit, a collection of original art pieces inspired by various Monroe songs. Many of these items are available for sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to support the museum.
The good folks at the Bluegras Museum depend on the generosity of patrons like Cheryl Goatee for many of the exhibits on display. If you have items that merit preservation as a part of bluegrass history, the IBMM invites you to contact them to discuss making it a part of their permanent collection.
Here’s another look at the song that lauds Uncle Pen for his valuable contribution to American music.