Monroe, William Smith

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Monroe was born on a farm at Jerusalem Ridge, Kentucky, the last of eight children in a poor, backwoods family. Both his parents were traditional Appalachian musicians (father step-dancer; mother instrumentalist and singer) and so were most of the children. His mother died when he was 10 and his father about 1922. His older brothers, Birch (1901-82) and Charlie (1903-75) moved north to work in the automobile and oil refining industries, but Bill lived first with his father's brother and then with his mother's brother, Pendleton Vanderver, who was also a considerable influence on his music.

In 1929, when he was 18, Bill moved to join his brothers in East Chicago. The three brothers and their girlfriends joined a team of dancers and also played music on local radio stations. In 1934 or 35 they were sponsored by a laxative manufacturer to go on tour, but Birch dropped out of the group (temporarily). They made their first record in 1936, for Bluebird followed by about 60 more tracks for Bluebird and well over 200 for other studios.

In 1938 the brothers went their separate ways, and Bill formed the Bluegrass Boys. His first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry was in 1939, and he was still performing there 50 years later, the Father of Bluegrass. In 1967 he established a bluegrass festival on his land at Bean Blossom, Indiana. His albums include Knee Deep in Blue Grass (1958), I'll Meet You in Church Sunday Morning (1964), Bill Monroe & The Blue Grass Boys Live at the Opry (1989) and Southern Flavor (1989). He won the first Grammy Award for bluegrass music (1989), the Smithsonian Institution's National Heritage Fellowship Award (1982), National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement Award (1993), and was elected to four halls of fame: Country Music Hall of Fame (1970), Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame (1971), International Bluegrass Association Hall of Honor (1991) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1997).

In 1995 he received the US National Medal of Arts from President Clinton.


Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1993-97
Hardy, Phil, and Laing, Dave. The Faber Companion to 20th-Century Popular Music. (London: Faber and Faber, 1995)
Gayheart, Rebecca, et al. "Kentucky Konnections: Bill Monroe." [Includes portraits]. Available at:


20th Century
Music and Dance
School-age Years, Adolescence
Orphaned (Both Parents)
Uncles and Aunts, Parents' Uncles and Aunts
Very Poor (Financially) Adoptive or Foster Families
Other or Unknown Reasons for Serial Placement
Parent(s) Died, Disappeared or Became Incapacitated
Birth Sibling(s) Separated
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