Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe was born on Sept. 13, 1911, in Rosine, Ky. Credited as "The Father of Bluegrass," the music he created evolved from the folk and country music he heard growing up in a musical family as the youngest of eight children. As a child, he also backed up his uncle Pendleton Vandiver ("Uncle Pen") at local dances.

Orphaned by age 16, Monroe eventually moved to Chicago and formed a group with brothers Birch and Charlie, with Bill on mandolin. While in Chicago, he worked in an oil refinery and as a square dancer on Chicago's WLS National Barn Dance. Birch soon dropped out, but Bill and Charlie continued on as the Monroe Brothers, finding their most enthusiastic audiences at Charlotte, N.C.'s radio station WBT. They soon recorded several sides for RCA's Bluebird label, including "John Henry," "Nine Pound Hammer" and "What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul."

In 1938, the highly successful duo split up, and Bill formed his first band, the Kentuckians. A year later Monroe changed the name to the Blue Grass Boys and soon set his sights on Nashville. Monroe was only 28 years old when he joined the Opry cast on Oct. 28, 1939. Introduced by George D. Hay, the Opry's founder, Monroe performed a the Jimmie Rodgers hit "Muleskinner Blues" and got three encores that first night at the War Memorial Auditorium. He quickly became an Opry favorite.

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