09 September 2016

Bill Monroe: twenty years after

Bill Monroe as he looked in the 1970s (source)

The Father of Bluegrass Music, William Smith 'Bill' Monroe, died twenty years ago today. A generation of fans, musicians, and commentators on bluegrass has grown up that never saw or heard a live performance by him and his Blue Grass Boys.

The first biographical study of him (and still a great read) was Jim Rooney's Bossmen (1971). It has since been joined by Steve Gebhardt's film Bill Monroe: father of bluegrass music (1993; now on DVD); Richard D. Smith's Can't you hear me callin': the life of Bill Monroe, father of bluegrass (2000); Tom Ewing's compilation The Bill Monroe reader (2000); and The music of Bill Monroe (2007), a magisterial discography and commentary by Neil V. Rosenberg and Charles K. Wolfe. And on 1 Oct. 2010 Richard Thompson began on Bluegrass Today a full year of daily notes of events in Bill Monroe's life, under the title 'I'm going back to old Kentucky'.

Ewing's meticulously researched biography of Monroe is still in preparation and eagerly awaited. In September 1998 Bluegrass Unlimited magazine published his article 'What did he say? Bill Monroe on bluegrass'. One statement not mentioned was Monroe's famous, dismissive 'That ain't no part of nothing.' Hear it in this commemorative song by the Special Consensus on YouTube. Several fine songs about the Father of Bluegrass have also come from Ireland's own Niall Toner.

Update: See also this feature by Richard Thompson on Bluegrass Today.

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