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Thread: The rules according to Bill Monroe

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    Default The rules according to Bill Monroe

    So what were the rules of bluegrass according to Big Mon? I'm thinking strict instrumentation (mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, bass, and sometimes Dobro), tight three- or four-part harmonies, traditional material, cowboy hats, and never a note outside the diatonic scale except a raised fourth now and then. Does that about cover it?
    Last edited by humblemex; May-24-2017 at 3:03pm.

  2. #2

    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Peter Rowan tells the story of singing his song the Bluegrass Mambo on stage with Bill. Afterwards he was informed angrily "That ain't no part of no bluegrass music Son, That ain't no part of nuthin'." So apparently the Bluegrass Mambo is not allowed.

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    wood butcher Spruce's Avatar
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    Peter Rowan tells the story of singing his song the Bluegrass Mambo on stage with Bill. Afterwards he was informed angrily "That ain't no part of no bluegrass music Son, That ain't no part of nuthin'."
    I'd kill to have a recording of Mr. Bill uttering that famous phrase...
    I looked hard and never did find any utterance...oh well...

    I did find a great interview from 1965 or so, and lifted it for my destruction of "Master of Bluegrass"...
    You can hear it at the beginning and end on this track...

    From memory, Mr. Monroe says "real hot licks from the fiddle don't need to be in it, you don't need drums in it, you don't need a Dobro in it, and hot guitar, you don't need that in it...."


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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    Peter Rowan tells the story of singing his song the Bluegrass Mambo on stage with Bill. Afterwards he was informed angrily "That ain't no part of no bluegrass music Son, That ain't no part of nuthin'." So apparently the Bluegrass Mambo is not allowed.
    I heard that story but it in context of the use of the dobro in the Flat and Scruggs group. I guess it gets around.

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    Registered User Miltown's Avatar
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    You gotta wear a hat.

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    I think Monroe played lots of notes outside the diatonic scale.

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  9. #7

    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    OK, strike the dobro.

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Just do this:


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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by Miltown View Post
    You gotta wear a hat.
    Maybe not on Sunday...
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    From memory, Mr. Monroe says "real hot licks from the fiddle don't need to be in it, you don't need drums in it, you don't need a Dobro in it, and hot guitar, you don't need that in it...."
    I'm guessing accordion and bagpipes are on the list as well...
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Except that Sally Ann Forrester actually played accordion in his band for a few years in the early '40s.

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  16. #12

    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    I'd kill to have a recording of Mr. Bill uttering that famous phrase...
    I heard that story but it in context of the use of the dobro in the Flat and Scruggs group. I guess it gets around.
    I heard Peter tell the story on stage at Merlefest in 2007. He then did the song in question. Monroes' reaction was well justified. I tried to find you tube of the story or song but could not find it anywhere.

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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by humblemex View Post
    OK, strike the dobro.
    That's always sound advice. Strike it, then stomp on it and set it on fire.

    (Even if Bill's "ain't no part of nuthin" comment wasn't about dobros, it should have been.)
    Keep that skillet good and greasy all the time!

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    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    And not just any hat, a western style, most likely...can you imagine what he would have said if you came on stage with a bowler or a top-hat or one of those things Frank Sinatra wore?
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    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    It would most probably be back-up, certainly not a lead instrument. I kind of wonder what Bill thought of Cajun music.
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by humblemex View Post
    Except that Sally Ann Forrester actually played accordion in his band for a few years in the early '40s.
    That was before "Bluegrass" as we know it and before Monroe had the sound he was after. Stringbean played banjo when Flatt was hired, after Scruggs and his sound jelled I doubt he would have used an accordion or claw hammer banjo.

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Ostrander View Post
    I'm guessing accordion and bagpipes are on the list as well...
    Well I heard a Bluegrassband with bagpipes many years ago

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    From humblemex - "....and sometimes Dobro" - never !!. Bill Monroe disliked Dobro & felt that it had no part in 'his music'. Personally,much of the time,i'm on Bill Monroe's side,but i certainly liked Rob Ickes contribution the the ''Blue Highway'' band. I don't dislike the Dobro,but for me,it's very 'player dependent'. I O.D'd on Gerry Douglas a long while back ( no disrespect intended ),it just seemed as though he was on every Bluegrass CD i bought.

    Bill Monroe's preferred line up was Banjo / Mandolin / Guitar / Fiddle - 2 if he could get them, & bass. That was the 'classic' line up of the first 'true' Bluegrass band. Only on what BM termed the '' Bluegrass Gospel Quartet '' songs were some of the instruments omitted. I think he got it right,
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    Registered User Hendrik Ahrend's Avatar
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Always play the guitar with the open B-string (in the G-chord). Look sharp, but never smile! I believe Roland White played the G-chord like Clarence, didn't he?
    Last edited by Hendrik Ahrend; May-25-2017 at 4:34am.

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by Capt. E View Post
    And not just any hat, a western style, most likely...can you imagine what he would have said if you came on stage with a bowler or a top-hat or one of those things Frank Sinatra wore?
    Bill Monroe collaborated with John Hartford on occasion. I wonder what he had to say about John's hat?

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    My memory isnít what it used to be, so I apologize up front if Iím way off base. But for some reason I think I either read or heard that Bill Monroe did not believe in including certain instruments on gospel/spiritual music. Maybe banjo was one of the instruments? Quite possibly someone else may have said this and Iím just attributing it to Bill Monroe. I donít know, so Iím asking.

  29. #22

    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    You might be thinking of Flatt & Scruggs. Earl always played guitar on the gospel tunes. There might be exceptions but I'm not aware of them.

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by Capt. E View Post
    And not just any hat, a western style, most likely...can you imagine what he would have said if you came on stage with a bowler or a top-hat or one of those things Frank Sinatra wore?
    Wasn't he fond of Stetson's?
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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    It is sure plain to see that a hell of a lot of people don`t know what "real bluegrass" is....I see bands with a fellow sitting on a wooden box keeping time, what would B.M say about that....Most only care if their music sells and not what it really sounds like, as long as it has a tempo that makes you tap your foot then they think that is OK, on a lot of recordings the instruments drown out the vocals I guess because the singers can`t really sing worth a hoot...As far as a Dobro...UGH....

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    Default Re: The rules according to Bill Monroe

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie Poole View Post
    It is sure plain to see that a hell of a lot of people don`t know what "real bluegrass" is....I see bands with a fellow sitting on a wooden box keeping time, what would B.M say about that....Most only care if their music sells and not what it really sounds like, as long as it has a tempo that makes you tap your foot then they think that is OK, on a lot of recordings the instruments drown out the vocals I guess because the singers can`t really sing worth a hoot...As far as a Dobro...UGH....

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    Don't make us go get those videos and audio recordings of Monroe with drums, organs and other non-bluegrass instruments. And about that time he had a tenor banjo player in the group... fake news, I suppose. Carry on.



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