Bill Monroe (YGtCTO Music #79)

Molly and Tenbrooks

Song written by Bill Monroe and performed by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys

I knew this girl in college who told me that she couldn’t see me one Friday night because she was going off to a bluegrass festival for the weekend. I’m not sure what expression I made, but she took it upon herself to explain further. Her father and her took time off at least once each year to head off to hear bluegrass music. This was something that had stayed with them as a bonding experience through all the other trials and tribulations that had brought her to college. This was a young woman who had confessed to me that she had no idea what suggested to her that she might want to attend college in the Appalachian Mountains, far from her East Coast home. I had a possible explanation…

As far as I was concerned, bluegrass music was not appropriate for college ears. I mean, they wore ties and hats. Granted, the ties were thin, but no one mistook Bill Monroe for Elvis Costello.

Bill Monroe

A few years later,
near our apartment in Boston, a music store opened, Wood and Strings, which appears to be a going concern still. They were near the bus stop and it was a cool place to hang out. I had a guitar and took lessons. A mandolin and an auto-harp joined our household. Thanks to Rounder Records and the general vibe of the area and the times, folk music was doing well.

My future wife knew that Monroe was a master of the mandolin and he happened to be coming to one of the nearby towns. For the founding father of a fantastic form of music, he played everywhere. I knew enough to respect that then almost as much as I do now.

He didn’t have many years left at that point, but Monroe put on a fantastic show. I continue to find something amazing about the lineup of a bluegrass band- the way all the musicians usually stand in a straight line at the front of the stage. There is no standing behind anyone else. Your voice and your ability are fully on display- truly your heart is out there. Much of the artifice of production and self-promotion falls away and the song and the musicians remain.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 65 more to go.

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