8 September 2016 Louisville Kentucky
Bill Monroe is the father of bluegrass.
Mandolinist, singer, songwriter, band leader. A star of the Grand Ole Opry for over fifty years and a recording artist for more than forty years. The first person to be inducted into The International Bluegrass Hall of Fame. He has also been inducted into two other Halls of Fame – Country and Rock and Roll. He was presented with the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton in 1995.
His started out with his brothers Birch and Charlie and moved on to the band The Blue Grass Boys which was a nursery for the best stars of the genre – Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt (who left to form The Foggy Mountain Boys), Jimmy Martin, Vassar Clements, Carter Stanley, Peter Rowan and Bill Keith.
High up on Jerusalem Ridge overlooking Rosine, Kentucky is his birthplace. The family farm spans 930 acres and was owned by the Monroe family from 1801 through much of 1965. The farm was sold to a local businessman and later fell into disrepair. Monroe tried unsuccessfully many times to purchase the property before his death in 1996. Campbell Mercer formed the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Music Foundation to celebrate the life and legacy of Bill and his brothers. The foundation bought the property and in 2001 began a restoration of the home. The home place now houses the Bill Monroe Museum and is the site of the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration and Festival.
I left Central City Kentucky and headed onto Highway 62 just outside Rosine. The drive up was pretty.
The surrounds of the house even more so.
Eleanor Bratcher was a friend of Bill’s and she was my tour guide through the house. It was just the two of us and she was so gracious and helpful as we slowly went from room to room to discover the treasures – Bill’s bible, a framed list of all The Blue Grass Boys, clothes, paintings, a large quilt with incredible detail and much more.
It is said that:
if you stand outside and listen to the wind you may hear a familiar tune of Bill’s Uncle Pen’s fiddle from across the holler. Bill would walk through the woods 1.5 miles to Uncle Pen’s cabin to listen and play with him.
Bill’s son re-built Uncle Pen’s Cabin and you can visit it today.
Fund-raising is underway to build a Bill Monroe Museum in Rosine. It will house a collection of personal items of Bill’s, share the rich history of The Blue Grass Boys and walk you through Bill’s career.
On the way out I met a couple who were very familar with Melbourne guitarist Nick Charles – a small world. They have lived about an hour away for many years and have never been before.
I then visited Bill’s grave site in Rosine. He died one day short of twenty years ago to the day.
As I drove out of Rosine, I swear the grass seemed bluer than before.
But for the final word (and thanks for the inspiration to come here) is Australian singer-songwriter Bill Jackson with ‘Rolling Into Rosine’ (with Pete Fidler).