This is an incredible piece of history for any music fan. Hearing the story of Bill Monroe's musical journey in his own words is something that no fan should miss. Grab a bowl of popcorn and settle in for a 90 minutes well spent.
Bill Monroe is known as the Father of Bluegrass Music, and he has more than earned the title. He took the music and nurtured it into something that continued to grow and expand into becoming a part of American culture. A wide variety of artists trace their musical style back to his influence. Elvis Presley took Monroe's bluegrass hit, "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and restyled it into a major hit in the rock and roll genre. Bands such as the Grateful Dead credited Monroe with influencing their music. Bluegrass is truly the bones of almost every other genre of music. It's where you take the base melody that determines which genre it will fit in.
Back to the Beginning
When he first got started, he played with his brothers Birch & Charlie, starting out in the Chicago area. Birch soon dropped out but Bill & Charlie went on to become a very successful bluegrass duo with Bill on his trademark Mandolin.
While in Chicago, Monroe worked in an oil refinery as well as being a dancer on the WLS National Barn Dance show. He was known throughout his life for the flatfooted style of dancing called Buck Dancing and would often showcase his intricate rhythm keeping dance steps during his performances.
When he and his brother split up, Bill formed a band called The Kentuckians and continued to perform. A year later, he changed the name to The Blue Grass Boys and became known as Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys. He set his sights on Nashville and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1939, quickly becoming an Opry favorite.
This DVD is unique in that it isn't simply a group of performances. It is more of a documentary style with some rare footage of performances from throughout his career. It is set up in a conversational format with Bill either sitting on his porch swing or at a campfire on his farm near Nashville.
John Hartford and Ricky Skaggs talk with Monroe about various aspects of his career and he tells his story in his own words. He talks about not being a man who likes to be idle and he works around his farm. You can hear his roosters crowing, the dog occasionally barks and there is footage of him feeding the animals and working with his horses.
Some of his past Bluegrass Boys make appearances with stories and commentary about life on the road with Bill and his stringent work ethic that he lived by.
Monroe's famous Mandolin
His legendary Mandolin has a rich history and there are some stories shared both on why it looked so beat up as well as how it was restored after Monroe's home was vandalized and the prized instrument was smashed into thousands of pieces. Pieces, some no larger than a toothpick, were painstakingly put back together and the finished restoration even retained the original sound.
Marty Stuart worked for years with Lester Flatt and talks about meeting Monroe for the first time and what kind of influence he had over his own career. There are so many great clips and stories on this DVD that it is truly a piece of history. Any true music fan would appreciate the history that is shared in this project.
Release date - July 8, 2008 - MVD Visual