Those old songs…

Bill MonroeHere’s a bit of lighthearted bluegrass history for your post-Christmas climbdown…

The anecdote comes from multi-instrumentalist and singer Orrin Starr. It involves a phone conversation between fiddler Jim Moss and James Monroe. Jim is a prominent west coast fiddler, and he spoke with James (son of Bill Monroe) while Bill was in the office many years ago.

It’s an old story, which Moss swears is true, and some of you may have encountered it before. All the same, it is a lovely glimpse into the Monroe world.

The discussion, as Jim has related it to Orrin, is as follows:

Jim Moss: So, ah.. James… can you ask your father something for me?
James Monroe: What is it?
Jim Moss:
Well, it is about the song Foot Prints In The Snow….
James Monroe: The boy on the phone wants to ask you something about Foot Prints In The Snow.
Bill Monroe: What does he want?
Jim Moss: Ask him… (testing the waters) if in the song it is snowing?
James Monroe: The boy wants to know if it is snowing in the song..
Bill Monroe: Yes, it is snowing..
James Monroe: Yeah, it’s snowing
Jim Moss: I thought so.. (that worked all right)
Jim Moss: OK, ask him, does the girl gets lost out in the forest?
James Monroe: The boy from California wants to know if the girl gets lost out in the forest?
Bill Monroe: Tell him yes the girl is lost. (it sounds like Bill is reading or doing something else)
James Monroe: Yes the girl is lost.
Jim Moss: (also, now I am the boy from California!!, I wonder what the meaning of that is?)
Jim Moss: OK, ask him if she dies in the snow.. When he finds her is she dead?
James Monroe: The boy wants to know if she dies in the snow?
Bill Monroe: ( pause.. ) Yes she dies out in the snow.
James Monroe: She dies in the snow.
Jim Moss: Well, now here is one last question, James: Why is it that he blesses that happy day when Nellie lost her way only to die in the snow? Why is he happy that she is dead?
James Monroe: The boy wants to know why is you are happy that she is dead?
Bill Monroe: (…real long pause….)
Bill Monroe: Those old songs… Who knows what they mean!
James Monroe: We have work to do here, is there anything else I can do for you?

Classic… God Bless Bill Monroe!

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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.