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Thread: Bill Monroe Question

  1. #1

    Default Bill Monroe Question

    I have been listening to Will the Circle Be Unbroken alot lately and also just finished the Bill Monroe biography. Anybody out there know if Bill was asked to participate in that recording? Seems like he would have been a good fit, musically anyway.

    Neal

  2. #2

    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    The story I heard after the album came out is that Bill declined to participate... something about too much long hair involvment. Don't know how much truth there is to this, but I can certainly see that as an issue for him. There was some pretty progressive stuff on there, at least for that time period.

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    Registered User evanreilly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    Apparently Bill was put off by the the use of 'Nitty" in the name of the band. Nits lived in long hair and Bill did not approve; consequently, he declined the invitation to participate in the recordings.

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    Also, the musicianship of the backup band was not up to his standards. Just listen to Jimmy Martin chewing them out, you can imagine how Bill would have reacted. Now, playing duets with Doc, or reprising instrumentals with Vassar, I am sure he'd have been happy doing. That whole project is sub-par every time the backing musicians take a break. Luckily they hired an excellent bassman (Junior Huskey) or the whole thing would have fallen apart.

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    I have always heard the same story as Lynn has noted.

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    Making this comment, and preparing for "verbal castration"!! as well as enlightenment: I have ALWAYS been aware of Bill Monroe and his influence on Music, but have only been more interested, due to this forum, the mandolin, Bluegrass, etc., and I must admit he seems to come off to me, in my opinion, as a rather gruff, grumpy individual! While I have not read the biographies about him, (I have viewed "High and Lonesome" though!), I am somewhat puzzled as to what to think of Mr Monroe! I have read about his disdain and feelings of betrayal, etc for other Bluegrass performers, (i.e. Flatt and Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, etc.), his attitudes toward other performers, comments concerning his rumored womanizing, his use of his band members to perform manual labor,etc. for him and his personal property, the claims of composing songs that he may actually have not written, (i.e. Footprints In The Snow), etc., etc., etc.,.....please can someone enlighten me? While I DO love Traditional Bluegrass and am aware of his talent and contribution to Music in general, and feel that he is very worthy of many of the accolades and recognition that he has received, but, is my Image of the Man WAY off base??

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    mandolinist, Mixt Company D C Blood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    " is my Image of the Man WAY off base?? " Yes...and no. Read Richard Smith's "Can't You Hear Me Calling", to get both sides of Bill Monroe, the Man, The Myth, The Legend...
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    D.C. BLOOD:Yes, that is on my "Need to Read" List indeed!

    Also, as with this thread's topic and the story of his lack of participation on the project due to too much "long hair" involvement,...it seems to me that it was those very same "long hairs" that helped revive his slowly fading career in the late 60's,..am I wrong?

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Mando Bondage View Post
    ...am I wrong?
    No.
    And I'm sure Mr. Bill heavily regretted not participating in that project in retrospect...

  10. #10

    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    Quote Originally Posted by swampstomper View Post
    Also, the musicianship of the backup band was not up to his standards. Just listen to Jimmy Martin chewing them out, you can imagine how Bill would have reacted. Now, playing duets with Doc, or reprising instrumentals with Vassar, I am sure he'd have been happy doing. That whole project is sub-par every time the backing musicians take a break. Luckily they hired an excellent bassman (Junior Huskey) or the whole thing would have fallen apart.
    I respectfully disagree that the "Circle" project is sub par. Perhaps another close listen would change your perspective. As to the musicians not being up to Monroe's standards...well...Ol' Bill hit the stage with some pretty rough bands over the course of his career so that should not have kept him away from this session.
    While Jimmy is caught on tape giving McEuen a hard time about his kick off, I would be willing to bet that he was giving him a poke in fun rather than truly chewing him out. Jimmy appreciated his hosts and was thankful to the NGDB for the rest of his life for being able to participate in that record. It was a major boost for his career and got him exposed to a whole new audience. Jimmy was unique in that he was the only one of the guest musicians who realized the sales potential of that record. It was just another session for the other folks. Jimmy was also unique in that he was the only one of the guests who wanted to rehearse before the recording session at Woodland.
    It is a shame that Monroe did not have the foresight to be a part of that project.

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    I don't know if it was really a matter of the "long hair" and progressive attitudes - Bill did play with younger, long-haired musicians on occasion (although he often seemed compelled to make a joke about their hairstyles), and the mid-60s line-up of the Bluegrass Boys was, in an admittedly narrow context, a fairly progressive break from his earlier sound. From what I have read (wish I could remember where, since without citing a reference this is just a half-remembered anecdote), Bill's well-documented pride wouldn't let him be simply a guest artist on a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band record. I believe he said something along the lines of "Those boys can play on one of my records, but I'm not going to play on theirs". (Again, that is a rough paraphrase of something I read a few years back - if I can track down the actual quote I'll post it).

  12. #12

    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    "I'm sure Mr. Bill heavily regretted not participating in that project in retrospect..."

    I wonder if Ralph Rinzler was still advising/managing Bill at the time. I'm sure Mr. Rinzler would have recommended that Bill participate -- perhaps he didn't know the offer had been extended. A shortsighted decision on Mr. Monroe's part, but not "out of his character", to his misfortune.

    Look what the Circle Album did for Doc Watson's career. Ironically, Doc at first had it in his mind to reject The Dirt Band's offer because they wanted only him (and not Merle as well), but Merle advised his father to go anyway because of what it might do for his (their) career. Good advice on Merle's part, and Doc was wise enough to reconsider.

    I believe Roy Acuff was not interested at first, but was persuaded to reconsider, again put off a bit by the "longhairs" of The Dirt Band.

    I disagree with the post regarding the musicianship of The Dirt Band, as not being up to Monroe's "standards". They were a quite capable group of guys.

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    While Bill had made up his cold war with Flatt by this time (where was Flatt on the late 1971 project?) he had not been so keen to be on a project with Scruggs and Maybell taking the spotlight as he still held onto the cold war with Scruggs. I think Bill's exact words when asked to participate was "why that ain't no part of nothin' " Ralph Rinzler was not managing Monroe at this time.
    A lot of this is in Smith's book and for anyone who wants to learn more about the man and his music it is a must read as well as Tom Ewing's book and several other Bluegrass Boys books. They all give an insight into the man and the music. He never was mean towards me!

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    He never was mean towards me!
    I think Bill liked me too; he stated, in front of me to another mandolin player. that I was a "... pretty good mandolin player". He also invited me to his farm and had me onstage with him a few times.
    If Bill thought you were serious about 'HIS' music, he was pretty easy to get along with.

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    If I remember some of the discussion around the time WTCBU came out, Jimmy Martin expressed praise for the Dirt Band, and John McEuen in particular -- in his particular left-handed way, contrasting the Dirt Band's musicianship and ability to back him up, with his own banjo player, who he said was "probably asleep somewhere."

    I'm wondering if this was in the Chet Flippo Rolling Stone article about the album, or in some similar in-depth review. In any case, I haven't been able to find a specific reference in Smith's Monroe biography, to Monroe's reaction to an invitation to play on WTCBU. It's not indexed, in any case, so I've been reading through the section covering 1970-71 or so; haven't found anything.
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    From all my reading of him (and regrettably only once meeting him), also quite a bit of time I spent with the late Carl Story (who knew him very well) Bill Monroe comes over as a very, very complex individual, and also a pretty uncompromising one when he felt he was right. The story about not swerving to get out of the way of an oncoming car that led to his accident is a prime example. He was also, in many ways, very open minded and progressive. Good examples of that would be how open he was to 'northern' musicians joining the BG boys, and his considerable respect for black musicians (such as Arnold Schultz and others) - not entirely typical of the time. He could be very patient and kind, but equally, he could clearly be a rather ornery old cuss when it suited him. Certainly a man of powerful character who plowed his own furrow. The fact remains that he was without question a giant of the mandolin, and a fantastic composer of wonderful music. Those who try to paint him as a one-dimensional caricature should listen to 'My Last Days on Earth', 'Southern Flavor', 'Old Dangerfield', 'Come Hither to Go Yonder' and 'Old Ebenezer Scrooge' just for starters. Then there are the songs.....There is real depth, taste and creative genius there. I have also read the same story about declining to take part in the 'Circle' album, but cannot recall which book it is in.
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    We can't forget this side of Bill.

    or this
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    From Almeira - "....Bill Monroe comes over as a very, very complex individual, and also a pretty uncompromising one...".
    If you read either of the 2 main books about Bill Monroe,"The Bill Monroe Reader" or "Can't You Hear Me Callin'" you'll know that to be true. Re.his unwillingness to participate in the WTCBU recording,i read the same thing that Lynn D. & Evan Reilly mention.
    Complex & stubborn possibly sum up Bill Monroe very well,& praise the Lord that he was just like that. If Bill Monroe hadn't stubbornly stuck to 'his music' the way 'he' played it,we might have had watered down 'pseudo-grass' a long time before now,& many of the recordings of his that we cherish,might never have seen the light of day if he'd have 'gone commercial',
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    Tony Conway, a Kentuckian that Bill trusted, played a bit part in rescuing his career from financial disaster once he started to work for him. Bill had this idea that everyone who got near Bluegrass wanted to "steal his music" which was a ridiculous idea as there was precious little money to had from it if they did (at least the way he ran it) as his own balance sheet was showing as his finances began to implode. There is much time given in "Can't You Hear Me Callin'" to the atrocious and inappropriate ways that Bill handled money, business and people, and Tony Conway made it his business to turn that around for him. Turning down high-profile recording gigs like WTCBU because of hairstyle preference and over-weaning pride is a classic example of these blunders. If people are really interested in WSM and his legacy they should read all the books that have been published about him and his life, including Bob Black's excellent "Come Hither to Go Yonder: Playing Bluegrass with Bill Monroe" and Butch Robins' "What I Know About What I Know" as well as the Smith and Ewing books. There is a story in Butch's book about a day-off mix-up(!) that is worth the price of the book alone.
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    While Bill had made up his cold war with Flatt by this time (where was Flatt on the late 1971 project?) he had not been so keen to be on a project with Scruggs and Maybell taking the spotlight as he still held onto the cold war with Scruggs. I think Bill's exact words when asked to participate was "why that ain't no part of nothin' " Ralph Rinzler was not managing Monroe at this time.
    A lot of this is in Smith's book and for anyone who wants to learn more about the man and his music it is a must read as well as Tom Ewing's book and several other Bluegrass Boys books. They all give an insight into the man and the music. He never was mean towards me!
    The truth is that Monroe made up with Scruggs before Flatt. He invited the Revue to Bean Blossom in 1970 and also appeared with Scruggs on TV that same year.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mando Bondage View Post
    Making this comment, and preparing for "verbal castration"!! as well as enlightenment: I have ALWAYS been aware of Bill Monroe and his influence on Music, but have only been more interested, due to this forum, the mandolin, Bluegrass, etc., and I must admit he seems to come off to me, in my opinion, as a rather gruff, grumpy individual! While I have not read the biographies about him, (I have viewed "High and Lonesome" though!), I am somewhat puzzled as to what to think of Mr Monroe! I have read about his disdain and feelings of betrayal, etc for other Bluegrass performers, (i.e. Flatt and Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, etc.), his attitudes toward other performers, comments concerning his rumored womanizing, his use of his band members to perform manual labor,etc. for him and his personal property, the claims of composing songs that he may actually have not written, (i.e. Footprints In The Snow), etc., etc., etc.,.....please can someone enlighten me? While I DO love Traditional Bluegrass and am aware of his talent and contribution to Music in general, and feel that he is very worthy of many of the accolades and recognition that he has received, but, is my Image of the Man WAY off base??
    Monroe did not claim authorship to Footprints in the Snow.

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    Registered User Gary Hedrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    Complex??? That's a vast understatement...a lot to the man both in his music and in his personal makeup. He was driven by many different "fears". He was also a real set of contradictions......books could be written on the many different sides to the fellow (and they have!!!) Having seen him up close for many years he is both simple and complex at the same time. I'd suggest that many of these discussions center upon expectations that if you are a "founder" of a music.....the "greatest" mandolin player of all time...a muscial wunderkin etc that you must be beyond the typical human......he wasn't.....he put his pants on the same the rest of us do. Don't put a deity status on him and then get disappointed because parts of him don't measure up to that standard.

    I just listen to his music. I like and dislike some of it. I have fond memories of him and some memories of being intimidated out my gourd by him. I am honored to have known him.

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    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    I don't think it has ever been possible to become a successfull innovator about whom several books are written, without torking off a few people. I liken Bill Monroe to Frank Lloyd Wright.

    What an honor, to be controversial and both loved and hated, long after you have passed on. Its a worthy goal.
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  24. #24

    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    The first recordings of his that I heard were his 30's Bluebird sides with brother Charlie. It was (and still is) some of the smoothest, sweetest and most curiously exciting instrumental and vocal music I had ever heard.

    Bob Dylan has called them some of the best music recordings that have ever been made, bar none.

    When I first got hold of "The High Lonesome Sound" LP, I remember thinking that I should like it alot more than I actually did, and was actually in denial about it for a long time, and would defend him against anyone's attempt to find any fault whatsoever with his music. It wasn't until alot later that I had to admit that I had never really liked much of his post-Monroe Brothers' lead singing, with the exception of some of his amazing tenor gospel work, like on the "I Saw the Light" LP.

    It wasn't until I read what Tony Rice said in his autobiography about his feeling that Bill had "kind of blown his voice out" (a topic that Rice is intimately familiar with) in the Fifties that I was able to more realistically appreciate everything that he did in a more balanced light. Every note that has ever been or ever will be played or sung by any Bluegrass band from now until the end of time bears his Kentucky "Maker's Mark."

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  25. #25

    Default Re: Bill Monroe Question

    "Bill Monroe comes over as a very, very complex individual, and also a pretty uncompromising one when he felt he was right."

    How many folks here have ever tried reading Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead"?

    Rand's character Howard Roark was of course fictional, but if ever in this world there was a real-life version of Roark (with his uncompromising vision) -- it was Bill Monroe.

    That's why he may be the most important figure in American music that has ever lived….

    - John

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