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Thread: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

  1. #1

    Default Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    I recently had to fly across the country and randomly got the book "Can't You Hear Me Callin':The Life of Bill Monroe" as something to casually read on the flights and layovers. At one point I even got a little choked up in my seat reading about his early life. I thought the book was awesome! It seemed to explain a lot about the man and the myth. I'm relatively young, but I love his music and style, and I like it even more knowing he was a human being with imperfections. He did so much with what he had. It's interesting to see where he came from, and to hear about his great moments and not-so great moments. I know people get upset talking about this book in reference to Saint Bill sometimes, but it made me appreciate him and his music more, not less. Anyone else read it?

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    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    I have the book and have really enjoyed it. There are "those in the know" who say that Richard Smith got some stuff wrong or get on him for revealing private matters; but in the end I found the book engaging, informative and certainly well documented with copious amounts of footnoted references. It will be interesting to see if Tom Ewing ever completes the book he's working on...a movie would be great too, but that's another thread...
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    i am reading it now, about 3/4 thru. i don't get ample opportunity to read, but when i do its a treat. this book is my current one.
    when i started up in mandolin a couple months back i came here and wanted to know a good read on Bill M-this one came recommended-have enjoyed it immensely.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    Smith's book has been cited frequently on the Cafe´when facets of Monroe's life work there way into the discussion.

    Some bluegrass lovers object to Smith's discussion of Monroe's (fairly active) love life, but I found the book extremely useful in following his career, ID'ing his influences, etc.
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  7. #5

    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    It's excellent.

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    It's a great book written about a great man.There maybe some errors in it,i don't know what they are so it doesn't bother me at all.
    Another good book to read is ''The Bill Monroe Reader'' by Tom Ewing. It's a collection of articles about Bill Monroe compiled by Tom Ewing, rather than a straight forward biography - http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books...252025006.html It's well worth reading as is the book written by one of Bill Monroe's ex.fiddle players, Gene Lowinger, - ''I Hear a Voice Calling''
    All 3 books offer different aspects of Bill Monroe's life & like Data Nick,i'm hoping to see Tom Ewing's 'new' book in print some time soon ,
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    Up front: I like the book. I also like "The Bill Monroe Reader" (Tom Ewing, Bluegrass Boy)

    If you are into Bill Monroe you cannot fail to notice that the way the story unfolds often enough does not go along with the timeline. In other words: The chronology takes a back seat to the inner structure of the book. I found myself often rereading passages that I thought fit the "dramatical" moment of the book but did not fit the chronology. If you are an avid Monroevian you might find fault in the fact that concerning the events the specific time is not given. You might be able to sort it out when you know who was in the band at that time. Some events are clearly indentifiable, such as the trip(s) to Europe, the divorces, the West Coast tour with Bill Keith and Del McCoury. To put incidents in perspective though I would have liked to have a clearer indication as to when the specific "tales" occured.
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    I must have been on the same wavelength as ya'll over the last day or so. The bluegrass book wavelength. (Thank you to the person or persons who used their telepathic influence on me.)

    Yesterday, I got up (something I like to do every day), poured some coffee, and for some dumb reason I made a youtube video on this very subject suggesting five good books on bluegrass. (It's a better video than the one I did showing a spider attacking a wasp. Just sayin'...) Here's a link:

    https://youtu.be/psXCZzAF0V0?list=UU...XmKia8zm8gZkBA

    (Now, I am going to rummage around in the barn and see if I can find my fishing tackle. Around here, in the spring, everybody is suddenly either crappie fishing or thinking about crappie fishing. The notion comes in like a weather front with the first pollen on your car.)

    Have a fine weekend!

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    Bill Graham wrote a great article for us in 2009 I still value on the subject of Monroe's lifestyle and the spat between Smith and Ewing: Curative Talk For a True Life. Definitely worth reading if this subject is of interest to you.

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    Be honest, after reading Smith's book, was there anything surprising? What a color- and powerful personality, Bill Monroe, so weak and sad at the same time, a deserted child. Fascinating book, for sure, but it's all in his music.

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  17. #11

    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    Yeah. Those deep experiences, and his circumstances, seemed to come out in his music. Couldn't have happened any other way I guess. I often think that if Monroe had happened to pick up a trumpet from that window instead of a Loar, there would still be generations of musicians seeking out his musical style, and trying to get their hands on that same vintage trumpet to approximate his sound. Maybe there would even be "The Brass Cafe" website out there to help them along -LOL!

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    I suppose that to try to understand the 'whole' personality of Bill Monroe (if it's at all possible to truly understand the personality of anybody at all !),we have to take into account the less savoury side of his character. I suppose it depends on whether we're reading any of the books to understand Bill Monroe 'as a person',or simply to understand his drive in formulating 'his' music,how he went about it & what were the influences on any musical decisions he made. For me it was always the latter. I quickly learned to sideline any discussion re.Bill's 'other side' & to concentrate on what mattered to me - the music 100 %. It was Bill's music that drew me to it in the first place & it's what keeps me deeply immersed in it every day - does anything else really matter for a musician ??. Not for me it doesn't,
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    I'm not a big reader, but I love the song!


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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    ...I quickly learned to sideline any discussion re.Bill's 'other side' & to concentrate on...the music 100 %...does anything else really matter for a musician ??. Not for me it doesn't...
    A valid choice, but not the only one. I found discussions of Monroe's life interesting, in that they gave some (possible) insight into his early influences, and into why he developed his music the way that he did. I don't care if he wrote "a million times I loved you best" or "a million times I loved you Bess" -- for his long-time bass player and lover Bessie Lee Mauldin.

    But it has always interested me why he changed band members so frequently, why he was suspicious and reluctant to take advantage of the "folk revival" as Flatt & Scruggs, the Country Gentlemen, and other bluegrass bands did, why he engaged in protracted "feuds" with other musicians, and why, in the end, he faced continual financial difficulty, despite his pre-eminent status among bluegrass fans. Honestly, I think some of these factors had a direct bearing on his music -- its content and its distribution -- and that these personality characteristics of the "founder" of bluegrass have to some extent been reflected in the development of the musical genre, both during Monroe's life and thereafter.

    Reading Can't You Hear Me Callin' for prurient interest is silly; if you want a "tell-all" book about a musical celebrity, there are many more sensational "reads." A complete picture -- to the extent Smith's book is accurate -- of Bill Monroe's life, does IMHO help to understand his music as well.
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    One thing I have come away with after reading this biography, and others, not only on Monroe but on other very talented, creative people is that they are all human, not robots or gods. They are, apart from prodigious talent in one area or another, just like you and me. Some have peculiar foibles, various 'failings' or other 'defects' - none of them are perfect. Applies to everyone from Einstein to Charlie Parker to Django to Bill Monroe and beyond. I don't really see how the 'peripheral' things can in any way diminish their other achievements, which in my view, stand on their own. They may have quite an important role in understanding their work, however.
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  23. #16

    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    Another good book that deals with his professional life is The Music of Bill Monroe, by Rosenberg and Wolfe. Far more than a discography.

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    From Almeria - "I don't really see how the 'peripheral' things can in any way diminish their other achievements, which in my view, stand on their own.". Absolutely !!. I'm personally not interested in any of the 'peripheral' things unless they impact on Bill's musical / band development,much as Allen Hopkins outlines above.
    Bill13 - Many thanks for the reminder re.that particular book.It's fallen off my radar for a while now,but i must get around to buying it some time soon,
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  25. #18

    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    Just as well mention Bob Black's good book about his time with Bill (and Kenny) Come Hither to Go Yonder.
    (no financial interest)

  26. #19

    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    It's very interesting. I appreciate the music quite a bit. But the music was an expression of Monroe's personality and feelings and experiences. These peripheral experiences were part of the music that came out of him. His relationships and loves, loneliness and sorrow, aggression, and competitive nature came out in his songs and made him play and write the way he did. And I think it's like that for everyone.
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  27. #20

    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    I consider Smith's book to be a wonderful read, and an important piece of scholarship. And he took part in the audio documentaries that I produced on Monroe's centennial for NPR. I haven't posted anything on them in a long while, so HERE is a link, if you're interested. Besides the 8 minute story, there are a handful of documentary bonus tracks if you scroll down the page. Sam Bush, Thile, Alice Gerrard, Laurie Lewis, Tony Trischka, Gene Lowinger.
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe/Can't You Hear Me Calling

    Today, as far as we've always been able to tell, is the anniversary of the book's publication in 1998. Quite a few discussions around the book on this forum. I found it to be a great bit of information. For those that haven't read it.

    Can't You Hear Me Callin': The Life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass

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