Kentucky to celebrate the Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe centennial birthday

Bill Monroe
Kentucky will be celebrating bluegrass music in a huge way in a yearlong celebration. On Thursday, September 9th, the Kentucky Historical Society and the Kentucky Arts Council will host the Bill Monroe Centennial Kick-Off Concert. It will be from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM in the Cralle-Day Garden at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in downtown Frankfort.

The Bill Monroe Centennial Kick-Off Concert will begin a year of celebration to honor the Father of Bluegrass Music, Mr. Bill Monroe, who would have been 99 years old on September 13th. The concert will feature Jim Smoak and Danny Jones, former members of Monroe’s band the Blue Grass Boys, and master bluegrass musicians Michael Cleveland, Steve Cooley and Larry Raley. Smoak played the banjo in the Blue Grass Boys during the early 1950s, when he was still in his teens. He later played with country artists Little Jimmy Dickens and Hylo Brown and the Timberliners, and released albums under his own name. Jones has been at the epicenter of the bluegrass music scene since the 1960s. He started out in the Grayson County Boys and then went on to play a mandolin in the Bluegrass Alliance. Jones later joined Monroe, Bluegrass Generation and the Goins Brothers.

In between performances, bluegrass music scholar Thomas A. Adler, Ph.D., will interview the musicians and show a multimedia presentation about the life of Bill Monroe.

The concert is free with admission to the KHS history campus: $4 for adults, $2 for youth ages six to 18 and free for children five and under. For more information, email Mark Brown or call him at 502-564-1792.

Beginning September 10th, the International Bluegrass Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky, will open their Bill Monroe Centennial Exhibit. It will feature many of Monroe’s personal artifacts, including two that have never been on display before – Uncle Pen’s fiddle and the famous headstock veneer from Bill Monroe’s mandolin. The fiddle owner, Pendleton Vandiver, was influential in Bill Monroe’s life. It was aquired by Terry Woodward, who has graciously loaned the instrument to the museum for the celebration. It has been used in recent recording sessions, including a soundtrack for a movie on Monroe’s life. Golden Globe nominee, Peter Sarsgaard, will star as Bill Monroe. His real-life wife Maggie Gyllenhaal will star as Bessie Lee Mauldin. Legendary producer of Americana films and music, T-Bone Burnett will serve as music director.

The other piece of history to be on display will be the original headstock veneer from Monroe’s famous Gibson 1923 F-5 Lloyd Loar Mandolin. It is a legendary piece as after a disagreement with Gibson instrument company, Bill Monroe removed the company’s name from the headstock with a pocketknife, leaving only the word “the.” It would go on to be auctioned off in December of 2009 and purchased by Laura Weber Cash, the wife of John Carter Cash, son of Johnny Cash. She has now loaned the piece to the International Bluegrass Museum for the Centennial Celebration.

The Bill Monroe Centennial Exhibit is the second of three special shows that will be open during the two-year Bill Monroe Centennial Celebration. The Bill Monroe Centennial Art Exhibit is the first exhibit in the set, which opened to an overflowing crowd at the museum during the Blue Grass Boys Reunion on opening day of ROMP 2010.

The third Bill Monroe Centennial Exhibit will open on Monroe’s 100th birthday, September 13, 2011, and will feature artifacts of the Blue Grass Boys, as well as expand upon the Bill Monroe Centennial Exhibit.

Monroe remains the only person ever to be inducted into the trio of the Bluegrass, Country, and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. He received the National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton in 1995.  Even with the great loss of Bill Monroe several years ago, it is good to know that the blue moon of Kentucky will keep on shining with his musical spirit that lives on.