The first concert I attended with my friends was to see “The Father of Bluegrass Music,” Bill Monroe in 1949. Bill and his band, The Bluegrass Boys traveled throughout the south playing at schools, baseball fields, and small town movie theaters. This one was at the local baseball field and there was a huge crowd. No seats were available to us and we stood in the outfield. It was a wonderful experience, even though I only saw Bill’s head and ten gallon hat for most of the concert.
Bill Monroe was from Western Kentucky and I lived in Eastern Kentucky. It was his music that my friends and I loved. Bill was born at Rosine on the family farm in 1911 and was the youngest of eight children. His parents died while he was very young. His brothers and sisters grew up and moved away and Bill lived with his Uncle Pen. He wrote the song, “Uncle Pen’ in honor of him and recorded it in1950.
Kentucky has an official Blue Grass music song and that song is “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” written by Bill in 1947 and recorded with his band “The Blue Grass Boys”. In 2002, Blue Moon of Kentucky was chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry and in 2003 CMT ranked it as #11 on its 100 greatest Songs in country Music, according to Wikipedia.
In 1949, I was a teenager and as with most young people I loved music. We had a radio and my dad had come across a wind up record player and he traded something for it. Everyone gathered around the radio on Saturday nights, listening to the Grand Ole Opry, so we knew who the big stars in country music were. If we could find an extra 39 cents, we would buy a record. We also traded or borrowed records from friends.
It is nearly impossible to compare the life style of today’s teenagers to that of teens in the late 40s and early 50s. I never had an allowance but I did have chores to do, both before school and after school. If I needed something, my parents tried to get it for me. If I wanted something, I worked for it. Of course I and all my friends wanted to see Bill Monroe. My friend’s dad would drive us to town if we could find the $1.00 needed for admission. We lived on a farm and my dad also made mining timbers for the coal mines. He let me “help” him one day and paid me the $1.00 I needed to see my favorite singer.
I graduated from high school in 1955 and by then most areas in the country were booming, but not Eastern Kentucky. A large number of us had to leave the hills we loved to find a job and a better life. After moving to the city, I discovered other types of music, namely Rock and Roll. Along came “The King,” Elvis Presley, and after he recorded Blue Moon of Kentucky well, it was Goodbye Bill, Hello Elvis!