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Thread: Was Bill Monroe The First?

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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    Sing 'Well the road is rocky and it won't be rocky long'

    And then sing 'Well, come out of that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans'

    Not identical, but close enough ....

    It's not Rock Around the CLock - It's Shake Rattle and Roll...

    Hank did the Doghouse one which is Rock around the clock...
    'The doghouse one': Move it on over
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Mandopops, I read somewhere and it is around here in a book, about this and Berry stated that he was a fan of country music and he mentions Bill Monroe as an influence. Here's a quote attributed to Carl Perkins from Wikipedia: "He and Carl Perkins became friends. Perkins said that "I knew when I first heard Chuck that he'd been affected by country music. I respected his writing; his records were very, very great." As they toured, Perkins discovered that Berry not only liked country music but also knew about as many songs as he did. Jimmie Rodgers was one of his favorites. "Chuck knew every Blue Yodel and most of Bill Monroe's songs as well", Perkins remembered. "He told me about how he was raised very poor, very tough. He had a hard life. He was a good guy. I really liked him."[30]

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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    I'm sure Chuck Berry listened to Bill Monroe, but I expect he also listened to blues musicians like Blind Boy Fuller. Listen to this tune from BBF in 1940 and tell me you don't hear what's about to come from Chuck Berry.

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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Chuck is living on here.
    I do believe Chuck liked Country Music & Bill Monroe. No disagreement. I just believe his Guitar style was based on the names he himself has stated on film & print. Why should I argue with him? Also, they are players I would expect an African-American teenager to be listening to in the 30’s & 40’s. I’m just guessing, but I don’t suppose at the time recordings of Blind Boy Fuller or Jimmie Rodgers were readily available or getting much radio air play in St. Louis. Unless Chuck was some avid record collector scouring around for old 78’s, how many Fuller or Rodger’s recordings would he have heard? Would he know a song or 2? Sure, possible. (Am I questioning Carl’s memory? Yea, I am. No malice. Carl seemed a nice gentleman & had nice things to say about Chuck.) I think Chuck was digging Big Bands & Jump Blues in Dance halls & on the Radio. I say this because he’s talked about Basie, Jordan, & Cole. That makes sense to me. If he wanted to meet girls, better to sing a Nat Cole ballad than a Blue Yodel. When you look through the Berry catalog, when not singing his originals songs he predominantly draws on Blues, big city urban Blues.
    (As we all know, the opposite is true about Jesse McR. He did a whole album of Chuck’s tunes. He attempted to adapt Chuck’s licks to Mandolin. I love that record.)
    It’s been years since I read Chuck’s auto-bio. As I recall his upbringing was considered middle-class, not poor. In saying that, I certainly don’t want to imply that as a Black person in America his life was not tough.
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Hey, right on Joe B, Chuck lives on here, and so does Bill Monroe; great discussion.

    I think you come up just a little short by restricting Chuck's influences to the names he mentioned on film and in print. I think that if you reflect on it, you'll agree that any interview for print or the camera would represent a very tiny fraction of the man's life, and whatever he might say in such an interview could hardly be considered exhaustive. Those things are so obvious that I feel a bit foolish to have to mention them. Considered another way, when a person asks you who are your influences, what musicians come to mind? How long is the list, and how comprehensive? What if they'd asked you ten years ago? What might you say ten years from now?

    Also, I doubt it is safe to assume that Chuck hadn't access to the teens and twenties and early thirties blues records. "Race" records, in the parlance of the times. Or for that matter, Jimmie Rodgers or the Carters. I could be wrong, but I have an imagination just as you do, and I can imagine that on the radio and in the bars of St. Louis a person who aspired to be a consummate musician in that day could have been exposed to all of that relatively easily.

    So, no malice intended at all, I love the discussion, but Carl Perkins probably had a better read on it than you do, notwithstanding he could have mis-remembered or mis-spoken. I certainly do it often enough. But I have to say that although I do not see or hear the direct influence of Bill Monroe on Chuck Berry, I can easily imagine the scene Carl Perkins paints of Chuck being able to play Monroe songs and Jimmie Rodgers songs. Seems a natural sort of thing to me, for a person who is consciously exposing himself to all the music he can find.
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    For my part: It seems to me that Jimmie Rodgers often does not receive the credit he deserves from folk of our own time. Jimmie Rodgers was a very big deal nationwide. Not only did he write numerous great songs, cover numerous great songs, cut records and receive a lot of radio air play, he also appeared in film. He was featured in a Columbia short which was copiously played in theaters between feature films. People in St. Louis knew very well who Jimmie Rodgers was, and musicians in St. Louis were exposed to his music.

    The above sounds like a factual pronouncement - well, to the best of my knowledge, it is factual. I'm open to correction if it is not factual, point me to the truth.
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    I'm pretty sure that in the DVD ''Bluegrass Journey'',Tim O'Brien mentions that some of the techniques that Chuck Berry used on guitar,were 'borrowed' from Bill Monroe,who in turn,possibly 'borrowed' them from the negro bluesmen that he'd heard. I think that it's around the time that Tim O'Brien / Ronnie McCoury & Chris Thile sit down to play ''Bluegrass Stomp''. I am also sure that Chuck Berry, like almost all other musicians, freely 'borrowed' any techniques that he liked & incorporated them into his own playing - just as i've done on banjo for 50 + years. If you hear a new technique & you like it,try it on for size - why ever not ?,
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Ivan, that's the very movie (and scene) I had in mind in my earlier post when I wrote, "I've heard mention of similarities between some of Monroe's playing (as in Bluegrass Stomp) and Chuck Berry's playing but I haven't heard of any definite music connection between them; where would I find that?"

    Nothing Tim said there would lead me to jump to the conclusion that Chuck borrowed his licks from Bill Monroe. The Carl Perkins quote that RobBob brought up does help me to see a connection, though, in that I can believe it's quite likely that Chuck listened to and played some of Bill Monroe's tunes. Tunes like the Bluegrass Stomp would have been close to his wheelhouse and drawn from the same well of the blues, so to speak. Tunes like Blue Moon Of Kentucky would have been interesting to many musicians who heard that waltz and were interested in the country sound. I daresay there is not a single one of us who can catalog for certain what all our influences have been. A lot of it is subconscious. It's an interesting subject. When I hear such things, I like to keep an open mind, and at the same time avoid jumping to conclusions.
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Hi Mark - I agree,we'd never really 'know' if Chuck Berry actually did crib any of Bill Monroe's licks,but the similarities are hard to ignore. However - 'Blues style' in general, is such a wide open,'play it as you feel it' genre, that it would be hard to know ''whom'' played ''what'' first - but does it matter,not IMHO. I'm pretty sure that BM did indeed absorb a lot of the 'feel' in his playing from Arnold Schultz,something i think that we all understand.

    I think that Tim O'Brien was simply making a point regarding the similarities in CBs & BMs playing in 'Bluegrass Stomp',
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    For my part: It seems to me that Jimmie Rodgers often does not receive the credit he deserves from folk of our own time. Jimmie Rodgers was a very big deal nationwide. Not only did he write numerous great songs, cover numerous great songs, cut records and receive a lot of radio air play, he also appeared in film. He was featured in a Columbia short which was copiously played in theaters between feature films. People in St. Louis knew very well who Jimmie Rodgers was, and musicians in St. Louis were exposed to his music.

    The above sounds like a factual pronouncement - well, to the best of my knowledge, it is factual. I'm open to correction if it is not factual, point me to the truth.
    I was thinking about this very thing this morning. In the 40', 50' and 60's Jimmy Rodgers records were still easily attainable in a record store. He was still quite popular among country fans and many artists did tribute LPs to him including Grandpa Jones and much more famously Merle Haggard. Let's remember that Chuck Berry's first hit Maybelline was originally called Ida Red. The Chess brothers thought it was too corny and renamed it. Chuck was aware of the music around him, all of it that he deemed good. Like us with our favorite mandolin players. I like everyone from Charlie McCoy and Louie Bluie to Monroe, Stiernberg, Johnny Young, Johnny Gimble, Jethro Burns, Vernon Derrick, Herschel Sizemore to folks no one has ever heard of. But exploring these details, the history and speculating on how all of this is interrelated is the fun part for me.

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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Quote Originally Posted by RobBob View Post
    In the 40', 50' and 60's Jimmy Rodgers records were still easily attainable in a record store. He was still quite popular among country fans and many artists did tribute LPs to him including Grandpa Jones and much more famously Merle Haggard.
    Ernest Tubb put a great deal of energy into assuring that Jimmie Rodgers' records remained readily available for as long as possible.

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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    Sing 'Well the road is rocky and it won't be rocky long'

    And then sing 'Well, come out of that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans'

    Not identical, but close enough ....

    It's not Rock Around the CLock - It's Shake Rattle and Roll...

    Hank did the Doghouse one which is Rock around the clock...
    I don't sing but I have the use of my own two ears. Roughly the "melody" of SR&R consists of the same phrase, beginning on the tonic note, sung three times. RRB roughly repeats one phrase, beginning on the fifth, and contrasts it with another phrase in the last 4 bars. And in RARtC the three four bar periods are mutually different.

    I had never guessed that the comparison between RRB and RARtC was about their "melodies". Of course, their grooves are much different, too. RRB is very square and stompy, whereas RRAtC, like much of Haley's early work was based on country boogie, with the addition of drums.

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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    Chuck definitely got the 'shuffle' from older blues guys, who got it from St Louis piano players. You can hear Robert Johnson and Son House play it. The fact he played in Bb, Eb, C#, and other 'non-guitar' keys suggested that Johnnie Johnson had a strong case that he'd written the rhytm parts (which he later almost successfully sued Chuck for - the judgement was that Johnnie was at least co-composer, but the statute of limitations had expired).
    The guitar, just like the mandolin, is a fretted stringed instrument, allowing chord and scale patterns to be transposed up and down the neck, hence there really are no "guitar" or "non-guitar" keys. But Bb and Eb (possibly Db, too) are very comfortable keys on sax, trumpet and piano, and finally, the key is the singer's decision.

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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    I don't sing but I have the use of my own two ears. Roughly the "melody" of SR&R consists of the same phrase, beginning on the tonic note, sung three times. RRB roughly repeats one phrase, beginning on the fifth, and contrasts it with another phrase in the last 4 bars. And in RARtC the three four bar periods are mutually different.

    I had never guessed that the comparison between RRB and RARtC was about their "melodies". Of course, their grooves are much different, too. RRB is very square and stompy, whereas RRAtC, like much of Haley's early work was based on country boogie, with the addition of drums


    The differences are superficial but the similarities go right to the bone.

    If we want to get really picky look at Elvis’s blue moon of Kentucky which Monroe more or less appropriates later.
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralph johansson View Post
    The guitar, just like the mandolin, is a fretted stringed instrument, allowing chord and scale patterns to be transposed up and down the neck, hence there really are no "guitar" or "non-guitar" keys. But Bb and Eb (possibly Db, too) are very comfortable keys on sax, trumpet and piano, and finally, the key is the singer's decision.


    Yes.. which is why I put ‘guitar keys’ in inverted commas. But some keys lend themselves to guitar and mandolin and banjo a bit better. I mean we could bring in guns and roses who do a lot of songs in Eb ad D b and Ab. But then the instruments are turned down a semitone.
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    Yes.. which is why I put ‘guitar keys’ in inverted commas. But some keys lend themselves to guitar and mandolin and banjo a bit better. I mean we could bring in guns and roses who do a lot of songs in Eb ad D b and Ab. But then the instruments are turned down a semitone.
    Exactly - they are still playing in E, D and A as far as fretting.

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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    You can play in any key on guitar or mandolin, and I love learning to do it more and better, but obviously certain keys are more readily attainable for guitar players. That's why we speak of "cowboy chords" or "money chords," and that's why we have capos. My memory is not good enough to recollect the actual keys involved, but I know that Don Felder wrote the Hotel California guitar part in one key (probably E?), and when the song was fashioned by Frey and Henley they wanted it in another key ... Don's licks depended on the more open key he'd started in, so he had to use a capo on the song. I've heard him tell that story many times. Other examples abound. Nothing wrong with saying that the horn keys differ from guitar keys.

    David Lewis says, "If we want to get really picky look at ..."

    Well of course, this is our friend Ralph, his M.O. is to get really picky.

    Ralph's contrary opinions often have a lot of great information in them. It's all good.

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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    You can play in any key on guitar or mandolin, and I love learning to do it more and better, but obviously certain keys are more readily attainable for guitar players. That's why we speak of "cowboy chords" or "money chords," and that's why we have capos. My memory is not good enough to recollect the actual keys involved, but I know that Don Felder wrote the Hotel California guitar part in one key (probably E?), and when the song was fashioned by Frey and Henley they wanted it in another key ... Don's licks depended on the more open key he'd started in, so he had to use a capo on the song. I've heard him tell that story many times. Other examples abound. Nothing wrong with saying that the horn keys differ from guitar keys.

    David Lewis says, "If we want to get really picky look at ..."

    Well of course, this is our friend Ralph, his M.O. is to get really picky.

    Ralph's contrary opinions often have a lot of great information in them. It's all good.

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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    The differences are superficial but the similarities go right to the bone.

    If we want to get really picky look at Elvis’s blue moon of Kentucky which Monroe more or less appropriates later.
    Not sure that I get your point.


    When Ivan K suggested that RAtC is somewhat similar to RRB I assumed that he was referring to groove and beat, like Richard Smith on p. 134 in his bio. You support (???) his view by referring to the striking similarity between the melodies (!!!) of RRB and SR&R, indicating (?) that Jesse Stone took his melody from Monroe’s song.

    I find that highly improbable, as Stone was a black musician, 10 years older than Monroe. Also Monroe didn’t write “his” song at all. It was apparently brought to the band by Stringbean who most likely learned it from some obscure black musician, possibly a recording. And, really, the melody of RBB is composed of phrases that are as old as the blues, and have been used over and over again before and after 1945.

    As for RAtC there is no evidence that Bill Haley was aware of Monroe. You get an idea of his sources and development by listening to his Holiday/Essex recordings, e.g., the covers of Rocket 88, Rock the Joint, and Tennessee Jive (which he called “Real Rock Drive”) and his own Whatcha Gonna Do, Sundown Boogie, and Green Tree Boogie; not much Monroe there. I’ve read several interviews with Haley about his influences and never found any reference to Monroe, and I certainly don’t hear it, as I’ve explained above.

    (Incidentally, Haley’s version of RAtC differs substantially from the printed sheet music, and Sonny Dae’s version, and, like RRB, is composed of folk phrases).

    I wish people would listen instead of reading books. Smith’s bio is chock full of hyperbole about Monroe’s “astonishing versatility”,”playing the mandolin like a rock guitar”, being “the most broadly talented and broadly influential figure in the history of American popular music”, and his influence on, e.g., Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry (a dubious distinction, anyway). As others have pointed out it’s more accurate to say that he was in part influenced by the same, or similar, sources, and incorporated them in his own, somewhat square, rhythmic conception.

    Below I’ve attached a rough transcription of the first line of SR&R
    and RRB, ignoring the finer rhythmic details (which defy notation, anyway). I’ve stuck to Turner’s original key of Eb (Haley did it in F, Presley in E).

    I’m always willing to learn. Could you explain in what sense the two songs differ only superficially?
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  34. #70
    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Sure.

    This may be beyond the limitations of a forum post but I’ll press on.

    Firstly let’s make sure we’re comparing the same songs. I’m comparing 'Rocky Road blues' with 'shake rattle and roll'. At some point we’ve all got confused and my forgetting of a title earlier has compounded that. For my part in all of this I apologise.

    Before I start going to the books, let’s listen.

    Well the road is rocky but it won’t be rocky long {RRB)

    Well Get out of that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans (SRR)

    The first has 13 syllables the second 14. But Rattle has a passing syllable. So the lines are very close.

    Many times I’ve played both to university music students. Sometimes before the first line of rocky road is finished they’d start singing shake rattle and roll.

    You’re right where you say that Monroe’s is stiffer. No argument from me except that this is where the tricky and often fruitless discussion of genre pops up. The later versions are looser; but the stresses are pretty much the same.

    Tom Ewing documents Chuck Berry’s being influenced by Bill Monroe. Most of the rockers were, as were a lot of the swing guys. Armstrong and Sinatra were avid fans of the Opry. Blues men like B. B king listened as much as they could too. The was required listening if you weren’t otherwise engaged. So thanks to radio, there was a LOT of cross fertilisation. I think these tunes were older. The point really is that monroe heard it and used it first. Did others use it? Or earlier variants?

    It’s late here and I might be furiously editing for clarification in the morning. But but hopefully I’ve cleared some stuff up for you
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  35. #71
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    From Ralph Johansson - ".....I assumed that he was referring to groove and beat. " Absolutely Ralph.

    I think that it's fairly safe to assume that Bill Monroe / Chuck Berry / Carl Perkins / Elvis Presley etc.,listened to almost every style / genre of music that was around back then,& if they heard something that they liked,they'd use it in their own music - just as many musicians do today. IMHO - It's very hard not to be influenced by all the music that we hear. Whether conciously or sub-conciously,some of it sticks in our memory & becomes part of our personal box of tricks 'n licks,
    Ivan
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  37. #72

    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    I’d agree with that. Didn’t he buy it about 1934?

    The F5 was a bit of s flop I believe so I guess (and will no doubt be corrected if I’m wrong) that most professional players (Dave Apollon as a notable exception) either didn’t play one or moved it on quickly fir other instruments.
    According to Richard D Smith, Monroe came upon his instrument in a barber shop window in Miami about 1943. Still, about 3 years before Lester and Earl came along.

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  39. #73
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Inasmuch as Bill was THE first bluegrass mandolin player, then...yeah...he was also the first bluegrass mandolin player to play with a Loar-era F5.

  40. #74
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    Alex - Whilst i believe that your comment above is correct - there might have been a few 'new' mandolin players in new bands,already influenced by Bill Monroe & the 'Boys' before BM got his own 'Loar' - do we know what they were playing ?. I suppose it really depends on how many Lloyd Loar mandolins were ''running loose'' in those days. However,the music itself,hadn't become know under the name 'Bluegrass' at that time.
    What make / model of mandolin was Pee Wee Lambert toting around in 1940 for example ?. We know that he owned Loar # 71628 at one, time signed by LL Dec.20th 1922,so when did he get that ??.

    I don't suppose that there's been much research done into 'whom was playing what' back then. However,it is hard to imagine anybody playing one in a true ''Bluegrass'' context as we've come to know it prior to BM,


    Ivan
    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
    Lebeda F-5 "Special".
    Stelling Bellflower BANJO
    Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.
    Ellis DeLuxe "A" style.

  41. #75
    Registered User JAK's Avatar
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    Default Re: Was Bill Monroe The First?

    All of this begs the question, "What if Bill Monroe hadn't been born? Would somebody have come along and invented bluegrass music like Bill did, or would there be no bluegrass music even close to what Bill invented?"
    John A. Karsemeyer

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