• Bill Monroe Farm Interview - February 25, 1986

    Bill Monroe Farm Interview - February 25, 1986

    This is the second and third in a series of videos from the Scott Wright collection surrounding the events of Bill Monroe receiving his mandolin post-repair from Gibson, February 25, 1986.

    Because of the historical importance of the content, the videos have been left intact as filmed. This includes the opening seconds of video 1 which has a bit of static but clears up as Monroe is walking towards his barn.

    The two videos here consist of Monroe being interviewed at his farm by Dave Higgs with Scott Wright behind the camera. The footage opens with Monroe walking about the farm, calling his cows, petting one of his cats and chatting with Higgs.

    This is followed by the interview which is split between the two videos due to the filming technology of the time, with the final minutes of video 2 Monroe playing the mandolin he was reunited with earlier in the day at Gibson.


    Part 2 on the interview follows below.

    David Higgs

    "The interview on the farm was my second chance to interview Bill Monroe," Higgs told us.

    "My first opportunity was when he came to Denver as part of a package show with other country stars. I don't remember exactly who was in the line-up (Little Jimmy Dickens is seen in another video we have not yet released) but recall Slim Whitman closed the show which I thought was hysterical. There was a big crowd and everyone put on a good show. I met Bill backstage for the interview and this was a few days before Scott Wright and I traveled to Nashville to film him receiving his mandolin post-repair from Gibson.

    "Bill was very cordial and polite for the Denver interview. He was aware we were bluegrass musicians and knew what we were talking about so it wasn't your average run of the mill interview (this interview to be published at a later date).

    "In his typical Southern way he said, 'any time you boys are in Nashville, come see me,' little knowing the following Monday we were planning on doing just that!

    "I think he panicked just a little once he found out that was our intention. I was going to just drop it but Scott (Wright) wanted to push on. I knew Wayne Lewis (Monroe's guitar player) enough to call and say, 'Wayne, would you please call Bill and tell him we're OK and that it'll be alright? We're not going to do anything weird.'

    "Wayne did and we went on to the farm and I was like a kid in a candy store. It doesn't get any bigger than being with the Big Mon. I figured I could die happy right then. He showed us around the farm and I remember several old worn, stretched out Cadillacs parked in a row. He'd run them into the ground touring and then just junked them in a little ravine. We even got to go inside his house and later sit on the front porch swing for the interview.

    "He took us inside the house and there wasn't much in there. Not even sure he had a record player. When we went to go to lunch Bill walked in the house and got his two mandolins, put them in his car, and there seemed to be a bit of fear and sadness about him that he had to do that. I felt bad for him. He didn't say anything and I may have been reading more into it than I should be but was struck by and vividly remember that moment all these years later.

    "For lunch we had chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and cornbread, and all these years later, that's my go to meal because that's what the Big Mon had that day.

    "When the Denver station put everything together we'd filmed it was a half hour show. I suggested the title High, Blue & Lonesome, which they used. There was a huge listening audience for it because they pre-empted Kate & Allie which was the #1 show on television at the time, and I think everyone thought this replacement was going to be about drug abuse (laughs). It was great that they pre-empted Kate & Allie. That was huge.

    "It aired once and got a spotlight in TV Guide and I remember learning Tony Trischka and Skyline were in Wyoming on their way to a show in Colorado and checked into a hotel earlier in the day than they normally would so they could watch High, Blue & Lonesome.

    "So the entire experience was a real thrill for someone like me. Not too many people can say they got to spend the day with Monroe on his farm and go out to lunch with him. That's about as good as it gets!"



    Scott Wright

    "The experience of being with Bill Monroe on his farm that day was amazing and one I'll never forget," Scott Wright told us.

    "I had worked interviews with quite a few musicians, singers, stars in my career, but I'd never been to their homes. We got to his farm and he walked us around and said he needed to talk to one of his farmhands, so I followed with camera to the barn. At one point he looked out to his cows and he had a call he would do which you hear early in the first video, and I remember the cows responding to him. One of his cats followed him into the barn and he knelt down to pet him. It was clear he loved all of his animals.

    "Then we went into the back door of his house which is a log home and had to be over 100 years old. The first room we entered held all of his performing clothes. That impressed me that he would have an entire room dedicated just to performance clothing. Then we went into the living room which I recall had a fireplace and on the wall near the front door was a picture of a woman. He looked up and said, 'that's my mother.' He was an ordinary guy at home, nothing fake, just a good person and I was so impressed with that.

    "This was all after he had been presented the mandolin at Gibson. He took it onto his front porch and started to play. He decided he needed to go do something at some point so he hands me the mandolin and I sat on Bill Monroe's front porch swing holding it and thought, boy, I'm the most important person in the world right now.

    "He came back a few minutes later and sat down with me and I filmed him playing the mandolin. He played a few minutes then stopped and looked out on his property for a moment and said, 'The Lloyd Loar,' the name of the tuned he'd been playing and one he wrote.

    It was lunch time so he took us to his favorite diner just down the road. I had a rental car but he wanted to take his Cadillac. You can see in the background of my video. It was a huge 70s model I think. He's a much better mandolin player than he is a driver, that's for sure (laughs). We got there and we went in and everyone there and the waitresses and cooks say hello to him by name. We did a short interview after returning and what a wonderful experience the entire day was."

    Additional Information

    Comments 12 Comments
    1. sgarrity's Avatar
      sgarrity -
      Priceless footage. Thanks for sharing!
    1. MikeEdgerton's Avatar
      MikeEdgerton -
      First one I had was a old taterbug...
      If he'd stayed with it the entire market would be different today.
    1. MontanaMatt's Avatar
      MontanaMatt -
      Not sure I agree Mike. Like cars and motorbikes, it's been an arms race. The fiddle has been the volume standard for four hundred years, only the brass, reeds and winds can out forte the violin. Guitars had to resort to electronics. Mando bark was a clear evolution of group acoustic dynamics. Particularly since the banjo "evolved " (liberal use of the word evolved )
    1. MikeEdgerton's Avatar
      MikeEdgerton -
      I think you're underestimating his influence on the market.
    1. MontanaMatt's Avatar
      MontanaMatt -
      I know he was the bomb, but the florentene (sp?)'pre dated him, as did Loars advancement of the design. I would think that Vivaldi would have embraced the tonal projection of the new design if it had happened three hundred years earlier.
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
      I think you're underestimating his influence on the market.
      Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
      I know he was the bomb, but the florentene (sp?)'pre dated him, as did Loars advancement of the design. I would think that Vivaldi would have embraced the tonal projection of the new design if it had happened three hundred years earlier.
      Oh, that's just great. This discussion has never occurred on the internet.

      Please. Please...
    1. Mark Gunter's Avatar
      Mark Gunter -
      A wonderful archive Scott, "Thank you" to all parties involved.
    1. MikeEdgerton's Avatar
      MikeEdgerton -
      Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
      I know he was the bomb, but the florentene (sp?)'pre dated him, as did Loars advancement of the design. I would think that Vivaldi would have embraced the tonal projection of the new design if it had happened three hundred years earlier.
      He played an F style mandolin and that has nothing to do with Florentine. PM me and I'll send some links. No sense in beating that dead horse here.
    1. TheGourdsFan's Avatar
      TheGourdsFan -
      Great interview!
    1. Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
      Mandolin Cafe -
      An FYI, the next tape that will be shared will probably be about two weeks out as we have a big feature interview coming with one of the many remarkable players in the mandolin community and I hope that'll be ready next Sunday.

      Next up it's likely we'll share the 17+ minute interview in the Gibson factory with Charlie Derrington. It's both insightful and of course sad that he's no longer with us. A remarkable moment in the video includes close up shots of the second Loar as it is being worked on. What a mess it's in. I'm not as privy on the inside scoop in the Loar world as some but it's my understanding its whereabouts has been unknown to the general public for some time. One thing for certain, it's a very remarkable video, and I think we're all glad those 1980s glasses are no longer being worn by everyone!
    1. Earl Gamage's Avatar
      Earl Gamage -
      Loved it! Thanks Mandolin Cafe
    1. catmandu2's Avatar
      catmandu2 -
      Lovely. Many thanks.