Monroe, Bill

Monroe, Bill
orig. William Smith Monroe

born Sept. 13, 1911, Rosine, Ky., U.S.
died Sept. 9, 1996, Springfield, near Nashville, Tenn.

U.S. singer, songwriter, and mandolin player, inventor of the bluegrass style.

Monroe began to play professionally in 1927 and later toured with his brother Charlie. They made their first recordings in 1936 and recorded 60 songs over the next two years. He formed the Blue Grass Boys in 1939. His bluegrass sound emerged fully in 1945, when banjoist Earl Scruggs (b. 1924) and guitarist Lester Flatt joined his band. The Blue Grass Boys established the classic makeup of a bluegrass group
mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, and upright bass
and bequeathed its name to the genre itself. Monroe continued to perform until shortly before his death.

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▪ American musician
byname of  William Smith Monroe  
born Sept. 13, 1911, Rosine, Ky., U.S.
died Sept. 9, 1996, Springfield, near Nashville, Tenn.

      American singer, songwriter, and mandolin player who invented the bluegrass style of country music.

      Monroe began to play professionally in 1927 in a band led by his older brothers Birch and Charlie. In 1930 they moved to Indiana, and in 1932 they joined a barn-dance touring show; their reputation grew, and, since Birch did not like to travel, Bill and Charlie maintained the act as a duet, touring widely from Nebraska to South Carolina. In 1936 they made their first recordings on the RCA Victor label, and they recorded 60 songs for Victor over the next two years. In 1938 Bill and Charlie decided to form separate bands. Bill's band, the Blue Grass Boys, auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry on radio station WSM in Nashville, Tenn., and became regular performers on that program.

      Monroe's bluegrass sound emerged fully in 1945, when banjoist Earl Scruggs (Scruggs, Earl) and guitarist Lester Flatt joined his band. The Blue Grass Boys established the classic makeup of a bluegrass group—mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, and upright bass—and bequeathed the band's name to the genre itself. Bluegrass was characterized by acoustic instruments; a driving syncopated rhythm; tight, complex harmonies; and the use of higher keys—B-flat, B, and E rather than the customary G, C, and D. The band played traditional folk songs and Monroe's own compositions, the most famous of which was “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Monroe's own high, mournful tenor and breakneck-tempo mandolin playing set the standard for other bluegrass performers.

      The Blue Grass Boys enjoyed wide popularity, and Scruggs and Flatt quit in 1948 in order to form their own influential bluegrass band. Soon other bands playing this style of music began to appear, many of them led by former members of Monroe's band such as Sonny Osborne, Carter Stanley, Don Reno, Jimmy Martin, and Mac Wiseman. Bluegrass was promoted at numerous annual festivals, such as the one founded by Monroe in 1967 at Bean Blossom, Ind. He continued to perform until shortly before his death.

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Universalium. 2010.

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