Bill Monroe will be known forever as the father of Bluegrass music. But that only tells you that he was one of the original greats of the lonesome musical sound that originated from the Bluegrass state of Kentucky. It doesn’t tell you that he invented the genre, named it and managed it like the best and worst kind of control freak until his death 4 years ago. Bill Monroe was a farmboy from Rosine, Kentcky who grew up behind mules and a plow in the Deep Depression and learned early on to play Appalachian ballads and folk songs on guitar and mandolin. And then he transformed Kentucky mountain music into what he called the “hillbilly version of jazz.”
Bluegrass is like country music on speed. It’s hard and fast. It whines and twangs and squeaks. The tenor voices sing of hard times, religious faith and lonesome days. Bob Dylan said Bill Monroe’s music is what America is all about. Bill Monroe and Bluegrass are this hour on the Connection.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)
Richard Smith, author of “Can’t You Hear Me Callin': the Life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass”
Allison Brown, bluegrass musician, banjo player