Bill Monroe

bluegrass musician, Nashville
National Heritage Fellowship (1982)

Known as “The Father of Bluegrass Music,” Bill Monroe (1911-1996) was among the first group of National Heritage Fellowship recipients. Born in Kentucky, Monroe was based in Nashville for most of his very long career after joining the the Grand Ole Opry in 1939. He named his band “The Blue Grass Boys” after his home state, and the term gradually became associated with the type of music he developed and popularized. Under Monroe’s leadership and his excellence as a mandolin player, singer, and writer, bluegrass evolved into a rigorous new variety of music that reinvigorated Appalachian string band and vocal traditions for modern musicians and audiences.

More Information

  • Ewing, Tom, ed., The Bill Monroe Reader (Music in American Life Series) (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000).
  • Goldsmith, Thomas, “50 Years and Counting: Bill Monroe Drives On,” Journal of Country Music 13, #1 (1989): 14-19, reprinted in Paul Kingsbury, ed., The Country Reader: Twenty-Five Years of the Journal of Country Music (Nashville: Country Music Foundation & Vanderbilt University Press, 1996), pp. 111-20.
  • Govenar, Alan, Masters of Traditional Arts: A Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2001), pp. 450-52, 728.
  • Kingsbury, Paul, ed., The Encyclopedia of Country Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 350-52.
  • Rosenberg, Neil V., Bluegrass: A History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), pp. 40-68ff.
  • ——-, and Charles K. Wolfe, The Music of Bill Monroe (Music in American Life Series) (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007).
  • Smith, Richard D., “William Smith Monroe, 1911-1996,” Bluegrass Unlimited 31, #4 (Oct 1996): 30-34.
  • ——-, Can’t You Hear Me Callin’: The Life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass (Cambridge, MA: De Capo Press, 2001).
  • Willis, Barry R., America’s Music: Bluegrass (Franktown, CO: Pine Valley Music, 1992), pp. 102-31.