Bill Monroe

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William Smith Monroe (September 13, 1911 – September 9, 1996) was an American musician who helped develop the style of music known as bluegrass, which takes its name from his band, the "Blue Grass Boys," named for Monroe's home state of Kentucky. Monroe's performing career spanned 60 years as a singer, instrumentalist, composer and bandleader. He is often referred to as The Father of Bluegrass.


Early life

Monroe was born on his family's farm near Rosine, Kentucky, the youngest of eight children of James Buchanan "Buck" Monroe and Malissa Vandiver Monroe. Malissa and her brother, Pendleton "Pen" Vandiver, were both musically inclined, and Monroe and his siblings grew up playing and singing music in the home. Because his older brothers Birch and Charlie had already laid claim to the fiddle and guitar, respectively, young Bill was left with the smaller and less desirable mandolin during family picking sessions. Monroe later recalled that his brothers insisted that he remove four of the eight strings from the instrument so that he would not play too loudly.

Monroe's mother died when he was ten years old, followed by his father six years later. Because his siblings had moved away from Rosine, Monroe lived for about two years with his uncle Pen Vandiver, often accompanying him when Vandiver played the fiddle at local dances. This experience later inspired one of Monroe's most famous compositions, "Uncle Pen," recorded in 1950; on a 1972 album, Bill Monroe's Uncle Pen, Monroe recorded a number of traditional fiddle tunes often performed by Vandiver. Uncle Pen Vandiver has been credited with giving Monroe "a repertoire of tunes that sank into Bill's aurally trained memory and a sense of rhythm that seeped into his bones."[1] Another influence in Monroe's musical life was a black musician named Arnold Shultz who introduced Monroe to the blues.[2][3]

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