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Thread: Bill Monroe

  1. #1
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    Default Bill Monroe

    Years ago about 1985 I saw bill Monroe at the Norco Bluegrass festival in So Cal. I noticed that there was only about 300 folks sitting down to watch the Father of Bluegrass. Many folks were just doing other festival stuff. I asked my hard core bluegrass friend why there was not more people watching? He told me that decades before there was some kind of a rift between Monroe and some other artists. So my friend said fans took sides and it lasted years and years. Does anyone know what he was talking about. The history of it? Thanks, Nick
    ntriesch

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    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    Maybe the famous "rift" between Lester/Earl and Bill Monroe?

    Otherwise I personally don't have a clue...good luck in tracking this one down!
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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    His rift with Gibson is well known, but I've never heard this legend before. There are others on this site who know way more Monroe lore than I do.
    Never say "bouzouki" to a TSA agent...

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    Jus about everybody worked for Bill, at one time or 'nother, 'cept me o' course.
    That's all im gonna say 'bout that.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    When Flatt and Scruggs left the Blue Grass boys to start their own band, Monroe was upset. He also didn't like Scruggs and his banjo being considered the "essential" instrumental part of bluegrass. Famously, he reconciled with Flatt much later; dunno about Earl. Earl's wife Louise also came in for some scorn from Monroe, possibly because she was an aggressive promoter of the Foggy Mountain Boys and of her husband.

    Monroe also was critical of the Stanley Brothers for "copying" his sound. This didn't stop him from later offering to join them in a "Bill Monroe & the Stanley Brothers" group, a plan derailed by Ralph Stanley's car accident.

    Monroe was famously demanding of his band members, supposedly expecting them to help work his farm between band jobs, though that may be apocryphal. His longest-standing Blue Grass Boy, fiddler Kenny Baker, quit after decades with the band, apparently unwilling to put up with it any longer.

    However, it would surprise me if much of those personal feuds would extend to his potential audience. Probably the low attendance was a function of other factors. No one ever considered Bill Monroe to be an "easy" person, and he was generally known as strongly opinionated and touchy. Some put up with it, thinking it to be part of his motivated and creative personality. Others didn't.
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    Registered User Marvino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    Only 300 people attended Bills Performance?
    Well I guess his limited use of the fingerboard, the running of notes together and yes who can forget his use of unclear notes, finally started catching up with him. All the rest of the festival attendees must have been at the "young mandolin players tent" enjoying the new evolving mandolin players who were playing at a whole different level, plus I heard they were using the entire neck, including the little florida extension."


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  8. #7

    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    Nick wrote above:
    [[ Years ago about 1985 I saw bill Monroe at the Norco Bluegrass festival in So Cal. ]]

    Southern California?

    Well, I guess that explains something right there...

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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    If you had told me this happened in any of the other 49 states I would be scratching my head too, but since you said it was in CA no need for me to be concerned. CA is pretty much noted for not doing what others do in the USA. That being said, many felt his shows were nothing special as he got up in age. His voice was starting to weaken by this time and his mandolin pickin was pretty much old school by then with nothing ripping new like his days of a new Rawhide or KY Mandolin, Dusty Miller, etc. And if this show was an afternoon slot, many festivals had low attendance in the afternoons due to the parking lot pickers not seeing the shows.

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    Hey, I'm trying to find some history here! Anyway, my friend told me that a lot of folks were split on the Monroe rifts and wars so they took sides. I was amazed at the few people watching him play, that is why I brought it up to my friend. I guess enough time has passed and people just do not remember any more. And then when did the guitar issues start? So Bill did not like Earls banjo and then he would not have a guitar play lead? Very strange . Thank you Allen for the great info. Nick
    ntriesch

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    Also, California has some of the biggest Bluegrass festivals in the country..Strawberry music festival and Fathers Day festival at Grass Valley. Then there is Summer grass in San Diego.
    ntriesch

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    That doesn't sound particularly unusual to me - at least not unusual enough to require an "audience taking sides" explanation. Bill had his issues with various people, but most of that was pretty far in the past by 1985, and in any case even at the height of such feuds I doubt many audience members were boycotting his sets because of them; I certainly don't remember any examples of that back in the 80s.

    By 1985 Bill had been playing bluegrass for 40 years, and appearing at festivals for 20. Maybe a lot of people there had heard him many, many times over the years, and didn't feel the need to sit through his set - especially since, if it were a typical bluegrass festival, they would have had two chances to hear him that day. Maybe other folks were more interested in the younger, more progressive musicians appearing at the festival. And with a non-stop line-up you always have to choose some set to miss to go get your funnel cakes. Or to do some parking lot jamming. Or catch a workshop. Etc., etc.

    I am always a bit surprised how few people sit through an afternoon set these days at, say, Gettysburg by Bobby Osborne, Jesse McReynolds, or even Ralph Stanley, about the only first generation bluegrass legends still performing. I would think the seating area would be packed (as it usually is for the evening set), but often it is, at most, half full. No feuds or audience judgements - just fairly typical festival behavior.

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    Ricky Skaggs, in a well-done Monroe voice: "Would you work for me for ten dollars a week, boy?"

  15. #13
    Registered User Marvino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Triesch View Post
    Also, California has some of the biggest Bluegrass festivals in the country..Strawberry music festival and Fathers Day festival at Grass Valley. Then there is Summer grass in San Diego.

    All sarcasm aside, my first bluegrass festival I attended had a band called California, from california im assuming. Was Byron Berline on fiddle, John Moore on Mandolin/Guitar, Dan Crary on Guitar and I dont remember the other 2. Was a great introduction to bluegrass.

    As far as Monroes rift with someone, the only one that was serious that Ive read about was the Lester Flatt one. I think they were both equally as stubborn, why it lasted so long. For some reason I think it was Marty Stuart in a book or video that explained it ??

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    I remember them. I've seen them. It was John Hickman, the famous banjo player that was in the group. They were really good!
    ntriesch

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Triesch View Post
    Also, California has some of the biggest Bluegrass festivals in the country..Strawberry music festival and Fathers Day festival at Grass Valley. Then there is Summer grass in San Diego.
    Nick,

    With all due respect and not wishing to be argumentative, having been to Strawberry just 2 years ago, the last festival category I would put it in is "Bluegrass". In fact it was everything but bluegrass as far as the line-up, with a very "Americana" style set of AK & Union Station being the closest set there to grass. Interesting cause the musicians there to jam were mostly grassers, but the artist line-up was not. It was a very eclectic mix of acoustic progressive, electric blues, folk, cajun, jazz, americana, and old time.

    And btw, Huck Finn is going that way faster than a New York minute. Our own SummerGrass is right now probably the biggest "real" bluegrass festival in the state!
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    I remember them. I've seen them. It was John Hickman, the famous banjo player that was in the group. They were really good!
    ntriesch

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    Thanks Data Nick. Well, at least we still have Summer grass! Nice 3 day event with camping. Really nice. Summer Grass is located on a Tractor/steam engine museum so that makes it even more cool!
    ntriesch

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  21. #18
    Wood and Wire Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    (Data)Nick! Come to the Father's Day Bluegrass festival, it's very straight forward very "real" bluegrass, with a lot of camping jammers. This year Strawberry was held in Grass Valley as well and Jerry Douglas Band and Hot Rise were both there.

    Strawberry isn't really advertised as strictly bluegrass it's kind of a blend of traditional styles, but "Father's Day" is. Not only that but many builders come out, Siminoff and Michael Lewis generally have booths. It might be worth your while to "head for the hills" next year...
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  23. #19

    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by J.Albert View Post
    Nick wrote above:
    [[ Years ago about 1985 I saw bill Monroe at the Norco Bluegrass festival in So Cal. ]]

    Southern California?

    Well, I guess that explains something right there...
    Probably everyone was hunting around Northern California looking for the festival with Bill Monroe performing not realizing that Norco is in Southern California----If there was a rift it was probably about the hats...if you went on the stage with Bill Monroe you had to put on the hat --and the hat didn't look good with the hair and there you have it. or.....
    If there was some sort of official,well understood rift it would probably be some sort of California social engineering experiment --like attempts at banning smoking in your home or no bags at the grocery store -that sort of thing..No high tenors maybe as that might be offensive to some group ---high talkers for example. Tell me, if he made them work on his farm was it organic? ---Was he UFW compliant? If no to either of those that would do him in here in California---

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    "Would you work for me for ten dollars a week, boy?"

    "Yes sir, and I'd give you back two dollars!"

  25. #21
    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by Perry Babasin View Post
    (Data)Nick! Come to the Father's Day Bluegrass festival, it's very straight forward very "real" bluegrass, with a lot of camping jammers. This year Strawberry was held in Grass Valley as well and Jerry Douglas Band and Hot Rise were both there.

    Strawberry isn't really advertised as strictly bluegrass it's kind of a blend of traditional styles, but "Father's Day" is. Not only that but many builders come out, Siminoff and Michael Lewis generally have booths. It might be worth your while to "head for the hills" next year...
    Perry,

    A few of us down here are talking about making the trek to Grass Valley this year...people are pretty bummed about what's happened to Huck Finn...
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  27. #22

    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    I regularly performed at the Norco Bluegrass festival in the 1970's. Here's a photo of Bill in the late 70's. At that time there was no shortage of people crowding in to listen to Bill, and plenty of buzz and admiration for him. I attended occasionally in the 1980's and don't remember any change in attitudes.

    Steve
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    No, not getting into another one of these.
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  30. #24

    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    I seen Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys at the Golden West Bluegrass Festival in Norco, California in the fall of 1974. It was at Silver Lakes Park. There was a HUGE crowd there! Also got to see Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys. Lester Flatt and the Nashville Grass with a young Marty Stuart were also there. The only other group I remember being there was a California group called Pacific..ly Bluegrass. I remember it well as it was my first Bluegrass Festival and it fired me up enough to buy my first Bluegrass instrument... a banjo! I still have it. It's on loan to a young Bluegrass enthusiast here in central Indiana.

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe

    The only thing I remember being any kind of "issue", and that was really back in the 70's, was that there was a bit of "aggro" sometimes between fans of "Newgrass" (with long hair) and some of the traditional stalwarts. The thing with Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs was already ancient history to just about everyone except the actual participants. Even the "long hair" thing did not last that long, and Monroe came to see things differently, eventually. No better person to talk about that than Sam Bush:

    Monroe was a very complex character. He was also a 20th C. musical genius, one of the very few people to have originated an entire genre, and someone who took what was a very obscure instrument at the time and elevated it to preeminence within that genre. He was not a one-dimensional, cardboard cutout - but a real person with many sides to his character. Musically, a giant, up there with Charlie Parker, Django, the Beatles and other key innovators. Not 'merely' a player either, but a songwriter of great sensitivity who produced a whole stream of classics that will be played and listened to for as long as anyone remains interested in bluegrass music. The man also differentiates himself from so many other artists by including so much true biographical material in his work. He was not acting or pretending.He was not a carefully crafted 'creation' by a team of PR and marketing consultants. He was the real thing.





    It is worth some effort trying to understand what he did, and how he did it. He had some flaws, yes, but who doesn't? He was a real person through and through, though, and remained true to his vision through good times and bad. I have nothing but huge admiration for what he did, and his music touched me like nothing else ever has. For that I will always be very grateful that Bill Monroe was... Bill Monroe.
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