- Dates (September 13, 1911- September 9, 1996)
1929- Formed the Monroe Brothers
1934-1936- Live radio performance in Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Carolina
1936- Monroe Brothers sign on to RCA Victor
1936-1938- Recorded a total of 60 tracks under Victor’s Bluebird label with their maiden single “What would you give in exchange for your soul?” being highly acclaimed.
1938- Monroe Brothers disbanded
1938- Bill formed the Kentuckians
1938- Original Blue Grass Boys formed together with Cleo Davis, a guitarist and singer, Art Wooten, a fiddler, and Amos Garren, a bassist.
1939- Auditioned and won a position on the Grand Ole Opry
1940- Recorded Mule Skinner Blues under the RCA Victor label with his band consisting of Clyde Moody, a singer and guitarist, Tommy Magness, a fiddler and Bill Wesbrooks, a bassist.
1942- The band introduced a banjo player
1945- Blue Grass Boys recording at Columbia featured an accordion
1945- Blue Grass Boys got a new member when Earl Scruggs, a banjo prodigy from North Carolina, joined the band
1948- Flatt and Scruggs leave the Blue Grass Boys to form the Foggy Mountain Boys
1949- Blue Grass Boys signs with Decca Records
1950- Release of the Uncle Pen single
1951- Guitarist Carter Stanley joins the Blue Grass Boys band
1951- Monroe purchases a park in South Indiana called the Bean Blossom
1953- Monroe critically injured in an accident involving two cars that took him four months of recovery
1954- Recording of Blue Moon of Kentucky by Elvis Presley
1963- Ralph Rinzler became Monroe’s manager and encouraged him to expand his horizons beyond the country music circuit of the South
1966- Monroe awarded an honorary Colonel in Kentucky
1970- Monroe’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame
1971- Monroe’s induction into the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame
1972- Bill Munroe’s Uncle Pen Album
1973- Release of a double LP from the Bluegrass festival
1989- Release of a live album marking Monroe’s golden jubilee
1991- Inaugural induction into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor
1993- Monroe awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy’s
1995- Monroe awarded the National Media of Arts
1996- Monroe’s last performance
1997- Posthumous induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame
- Birthplace and Major Locations during Life
Born in Kentucky, USA
1929, relocated to Indiana where he worked at an oil refinery together with Charlie and Birch, his brothers, and William “Old Hickory” Hardin, their friend since childhood and a guitar player
1934-1936, Bill and Charlie toured Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Carolina playing live on radio on sponsorship from Texas Crystals
1938, Formed the Kentuckians in Little Rock in Arkansas
1938, Moved to Atlanta in Georgia where together with Cleo Davis, Art Wooten, and Amos Garren formed the first version of their band the Blue Grass Boys band
1953, Monroe is critically injured in an accident on Highway 31-W close to the White House on his way from a Fox hunting expedition just out of Nashville
1965, Monroe was the key figure in Blue Grass’ organize their maiden festival in Roanoke Virginia
1967, Monroe founded an annual festival for his band at Bean Blossom south Indiana
1990, Monroe gives a tremendous performance at the Farm Aid IV concert in Indiana
Died in Springfield, Tennessee
- Musical Training (school, conservatory, individualized, self-taught, etc.)
Monroe’s mother and uncle were very talented musicians and his family grew up playing music as a result. Monroe was relegated to playing the Mandolin since the fiddle and the guitar were already taken by his brothers Birch and Charlie. His interest in music grew when he stayed with his uncle Pen after his parents’ death. His uncle was adept with the fiddle and this was instrumental in influencing his most acclaimed composition Uncle Pen.
- Performance Instrument(s) (trained on what instrument/s)
Munroe was a great Mandolin player and also played the fiddle and the guitar. He learned the fiddle living with his uncle and accompanying him to performances and concerts.
- Historical Importance (what difference did this composer/musician make in his/her lifetime or after in the history of music?)
Monroe pioneered the bluegrass genre of music that quickly gained tract with many artists. It was also instrumental in influencing Rock n Roll as popular artists like Elvis performed some of his most acclaimed songs.
- Style(s) of Writing/Performing (did they fit in the time period, with a certain
Monroe rarely sang lead in the Blue Grass band and preferred to take a more passive contribution of high tenors as he had done in his previous band the Monroe Brothers. Monroe’s style graduated gradually from his traditional strings sounds to a more innovative and retro style. Bluegrass was more associated with folk music than with Rock n Roll. His style however made a great influence on country and rock n roll.
- Method of Composing (write at piano, in head, etc.)
Monroe settled to composing on the Mandolin after it became his favorite instrument.
- Musical Innovations and/or Inventions (was there anything new that this composer/musician did)
Monroe pioneered and created the bluegrass genre that blended folklore and more modern tunes resulting in the development of a new school of music. This new school was significant in influencing both country and rock n roll music styles. The new style was so influential that it saw the entrance of a number of budding artists. Some of these artists went ahead to be bigger than Monroe himself.
- Interesting Facts (at least 3)
First, if not for his uncle Pen, Monroe would have probably never stumbled into music and the bluegrass would never have been invented. Listening to his uncle play at home and at concerts rekindled his love in music. He also picked up the fiddle listening and watching his uncle play. Second, Monroe loved children and bought his park in order to give kids the joys of the opportunities he never had. He would spend plenty of his leisure time driving children around the park on his mule driven cart. Third, the NFL and Monroe’s bluegrass festival are age mates.
- Interactions with Other Composers (friends/enemies with other composers, helped by other composers)
Monroe interacted with other musicians from many genres. Most notable was rock n roll maestro Elvis Presley. He also mingled with great musicians and instrumentalists like his former band mates and his agent Ralph Rinzler.
- Major Types of Compositions (Did he/she focus on one type, like jazz ballad, pop
song, etc., or write/perform for about everything?)
Monroe focused on his bluegrass genre of music innovating it progressively by experimenting with several different instruments and tempos. He also dabbled in country music and some rock n roll but eventually settled back into bluegrass with his specialty instrument being the Mandolin.
- Occupation (how did he/she make a living?)
Monroe began making a living acting at an oil refinery. He and his brother formed a band that earned them their keep once it was established. He played at events and concerts and from the sales of his records and albums. He also earned a significant sum as a composer and scriptwriter for other artists and by selling rights to some of his hits remakes.
- Family Life (growing up, married, children, single, etc.?)
Monroe’s parents died when he was still at a tender age. Being the youngest, he bounced around relatives homes until he finally settled down with his uncle Pen. He joined his brothers to work at an oil refinery when he got older. Monroe did not marry and never had children of his own.
- Major Works and/or Major Recordings (at least 3), with Description of Each Work.
My Uncle Pen was inspired by his uncle Pendleton Vandiver and his influence on the young man’s musical career. What would you give for your soul? Was a gospel single that was a great hot for its time. Blue Moon of Kentucky was widely acclaimed and got to feature in covers by Elvis Presley, Paul McCartney and Patsy Kline.
- Text(s) Cited (at least 3 other than class text. You can use Encyclopedias for one of these texts. I would prefer the Encyclopedia Britannica [digital or print], rather than other Encyclopedias such as Encarta or World Book).
Klein, Jon. Bluegrass. Alexandria, VA: Alexander Street Press, 2008. Print.
Griffin, Bill. “Bill Monroe, the Man Who Invented Bluegrass.” (1980). Print.
Lancaster, Clay. “Through Half a Century: Palladianism in the Bluegrass.” Gazette Des Beaux-Arts / Fondée Par Charles Blanc. (1944): 347-370. Print.
- Websites Cited (at least 3, no Wikipedia)
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