1911 - 1996
Monroe was born September 13, 1911, on a farm near Rosine, Kentucky. His father,
Buck, was a farmer, saw mill operator and noted step-dancer. His mother, Malissa,
played fiddle, accordion and harmonica, and was a respected local singer of
old-time ballads. Among his eight siblings, older brothers Harry and Birch
played fiddle, and brother Charlie and sister Bertha played guitar. All of them
were influenced by Bill's uncle, Pendleton Vandiver, the "Uncle Pen"
about whom he would write an important song years later. Bill once told an
interviewer, "he'd bring his fiddle and he'd stay a night or so, and
after supper, why, we'd get up around him and listen to him fiddle - maybe an
hour, hour and a half. My father would call bedtime then."
By age of 18, Bill was already an accomplished musician, able to play several instruments but mandolin became his favorite. In the summer of 1929, he joined his brothers, Birch and Charlie, working at the Sinclair refinery in Whiting, Indiana.
Bill was married to Caroline Brown in 1935, and soon the Monroe Brothers were making radio appearances in Iowa, Nebraska and the Carolinas and appeared on the Crazy Barn Dance at WBT. They made their first recordings on RCA's Bluebird label, recording some 60 tracks there. Then, in 1938, the two brothers decided to go their own ways forming bands of their own.
In 1970, Bill Monroe was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. His plaque reads: "The Father of Bluegrass Music." Bill Monroe developed and perfected this music form and taught it to a great many names in the industry." The Nashville Songwriters Association elected him to their Hall of Fame in 1971.
In1991, Bill was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor. He was awarded the "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1993, and was presented with the National Medal of the Arts in 1995 by President Clinton.
He suffered a stroke in April of 1996 and passed away on September 9, 1996, just four days short of his 85th birthday. His funeral took place appropriately at the old Ryman Auditorium, where he had graced the stage of the Grand Ole Opry for decades. He was buried in Rosine, Kentucky, where he was born.
Bill will be forever remembered for that High and Lonesome Sound.
© 1999 Eddie Bear Productions