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Bluegrass music has an interesting local history

Brothers Bill and Charlie Monroe sang as a duet during the ‘20s and ‘30s.Their voices blended together as many brother acts did during that era. They recorded mainly on the Bluebird label. Charlie played the guitar and Bill became very proficient on the mandolin. In 1938 the brothers split up and went out on their own. Each formed his own band with Bill calling his band “The Bluegrass Boys” since he was a native of Kentucky. Charlie named his band “The Kentucky Partners,” reflecting his Kentucky heritage.
Bill and his band turned out to be more popular and claimed tremendous success during Bill’s very long career. Bill began calling his style of music Bluegrass Music. The name stuck and soon all music of that genre was called Bluegrass Music. And Bill is appropriately known as the “Father of Bluegrass.” The Monroe brothers were born into a musical family. Their mother played several instruments. Bill’s older brothers, Harry and Birch, played the fiddle. Charlie and sister Bertha played guitar. Bill learned to play the mandolin by the age of 10.

Bill Monroe’s parents died when he was young and he went to live with his uncle Pendleton Vanderver who was a known locally as a very good fiddle player. Soon he was playing in his uncle’s band around the area. Later Bill wrote a song about his uncle and performed it often.

As I think of the years gone by, I remember a number of country and Bluegrass music programs on radio that my family tuned in to on Saturday nights and noon weekdays as well. I think everyone knows about the famous Grand Ole Opry that began in 1925 over WSM, a radio station in Nashville. There were others as well: the Louisiana Hayride, the WLS Chicago Barn Dance, and the Old Dominion Barn Dance out of WRVA Richmond, Virginia to name a few. Another famous group was featured often on Radio Station WBT Charlotte: The Briarhoppers. Those programs and others were enjoyed by many over the years
The beginning of Bluegrass some believe was when Bill Monroe hired his first band in 1939. Others believe it was when that unique sound was introduced in 1945 shortly after banjo virtuoso Earl Scruggs joined Bill’s band. Scruggs was one of the earliest to employ the three-finger style of banjo picking.

Later Lester Flatt joined Bill’s band. Flat and Scruggs later formed their own band and through their radio programs, records and personal appearances were instrumental in making Bluegrass music a popular art form.
I remember tuning in to the “Farm and Fun Time” out of Bristol, Virginia in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. Some musical acts that appeared on the program went on to become quite popular. Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys were once on that program. Mack Wiseman and his band also were on Farm and Fun Time. Also featured were the Stanley Brothers (Ralph and Carter) and the Clinch Mountain Boys. After Carter’s death, Ralph continued on with the band. Bill Monroe may have invented Bluegrass, but many have embraced it since it’s beginning. It has been played in countless venues across the United States and around the world.