Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass
September 13, 1911 - September 9, 1996
Born September 13, 1911 near Rosine, Kentucky, Monroe grew up with music. His main musical influence was his Uncle Pendleton Vandiver (later immortalized as "Uncle Pen").
As Monroe's musical talents matured, he decided he wanted something new and different. "I just wanted a style of music all my own," stated Monroe. In February of 1936, Monroe and brother Charlie recorded their first session. Then in 1940, Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys recorded their first album on the Bluebird label, and bluegrass music was born.
Monroe didn't name his music "bluegrass." Actually, he initially referred to it as folk music. His band, The Bluegrass Boys (named after Monroe's home state) played such a unique sound that by the 50's, the word Bluegrass was commonly used to define the music.
A true visionary, Monroe experimented with various instruments and sounds. By 1946 he had woven the talents Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Howard Wats (Cedric Rainwater) and Chubby Wise into what is still commonly recognized as the greatest bluegrass band of all times.
Monroe has had an incredible impact on music worldwide in all genres. He influenced thousands of musicians from Elvis Presley to The Beatles to Jerry Garcia. His music shaped other genres, including Country, Honky Tonk, Western Swing and Rock & Roll. His version of Mule Skinner Blues is considered to be one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.
Monroe became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1939. In 1969, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1986 the U.S. Senate adopted Senate Resolution 463 honoring Monroe's contribution to America. And he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
By 1994, Monroe had made 44 albums (plus some 15 boxed/compilation recordings) and had appeared on scores of others, from Rose Maddox to the Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Remastered Monroe songs are still being produced, with Silver Eagle and MCA releasing albums in 1999, and a new Monroe Brothers multi-release set being offered in 2000.
Monroe suffered a stroke in April of 1996. Four days before his 85th birthday, Bill Monroe passed on. He leaves behind a legacy of music few people, if any, will ever achieve. Monroe's influence and the "High Lonesome Sound" changed music and culture in the 20th century.
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