Bill Monroe


Bluegrass music has attracted a diverse following worldwide. Bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe characterized the bluegrass genre as: “Scottish bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin’. It’s Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It’s blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound.”

Monroe Timeline:

  • 1911 William Smith Monroe (a.k.a. Bill Monroe) is born in Rosine, Kentucky.
  • 1934 Bill and Charlie Monroe form the Monroe Brothers, a duet act that plays around the Midwest and Carolinas.
  • 1936 The Monroe Brothers make their first recordings for the Bluebird label, an RCA subsidiary.
  • 1938 After the Monroe Brothers part ways, Bill Monroe forms his own band.
  • 1939 Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys make their first appearance on the Grand Ol’ Opry.
  • 1945 Lester Flatt (guitar) and Earl Scruggs (banjo) join Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys. After a three-year stint they leave in 1948 to form their own group, the Foggy Mountain Boys.
  • 1951 Bill Monroe sets up a “country park” in Bean Blossom, Indiana, which becomes the site of bluegrass festivals.
  • 1963 Bill Monroe performs at the Newport Folk Festival, bringing his music to a younger audience.
  • 1970 Bill Monroe is elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
  • 1985 The album Bill Monroe and Friends—featuring folk and country stars like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris—is released.
  • 1991 Cryin’ Holy Unto the Lord, a gospel album by Bill Monroe, is released on MCA the same year the bluegrass icon turns 80.
  • 1993 Bill Monroe receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences at the Grammy Awards.
  • 1995 Bill Monroe receives the National Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton.
  • 1996 Four days shy of his 85th birthday, Bill Monroe dies in Springfield, Tennessee.
  • 1997 Bill Monroe is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the twelfth annual induction dinner.

Recommended Reading:

  • The Bill Monroe Reader, edited by Tom Ewing
  • Bossmen, by Jim Rooney
  • Can’t You Hear Me Callin’, by Richard D. Smith
  • Come Hither to Go Yonder, by Bob Black
  • The Music of Bill Monroe Complete Discography, by Neil Rosenberg & Charles Wolfe
  • I Hear a Sweet Voice Calling: A Bluegrass Memoir, by Gene Lowinger
  • Bluegrass: A History, by Neil Rosenberg
  • Stars of Country Music, monograph by Ralph Rinzler