Blog #35: Bill Monroe Tribute
Hello all! Seeing how this Bill Monroe tribute is coming up, I thought I'd tell you a little bit about my time with Bill Monroe many years back. In 1992, I was finishing up my first prototype mandolin of the model I still make today. At this time, I found out that Mr. Monroe was going to be playing a show at The Egg in Albany nearby. Now.. the mandolin wasn't completely finished, but some friends encouraged me to see if I could go and show it to him anyway. Bill was interested in seeing the mandolin and after the show I was able to meet with him backstage. Bill took a look at the unfinished mandolin and says to me, "Tell you what... when you are finished with this, bring it on down to the Grand Ole Oprey and I will play it for ya on stage." You can imagine the encouragement that was to me. In about a months time, I hopped on a plane and flew down to Nashville. I was going to spend a day with Bill Monroe and was looking forward to it. I was given directions to his home and was on on my way, when I decided to stop at the waffle house and pick up breakfast for us both. I called Bill and asked what he would like..he wanted waffles and bacon. I continued on and the directions were..turn left at the big oak tree and go to the end of the road. When I got to the end of the road, I saw a very large, mansion log cabin home. Come to find out, this wasn't his home and I was directed at the door to go up this little dirt road and there, was a little log cabin with the perfect porch for pickin! I knocked on the door, and Bill came to the door to let me in. Then we sat down and had breakfast together. He asked me to say the blessing and we had a good prayer together. After we finished eating, I showed him the mandolin and he played it. He then gave me his mandolin and we went out to the porch to do some pickin. He asked me, "What should we pick?" I said, "Do you know the Old Crossroads?" He chuckled and said he thought he knew that one. I tell ya, it was like the wind at your back playing bluegrass with him. He showed me something on the break of "Old Crossroads" that I will be playing this Friday at his tribute. We played for awhile, and then he said, "I tell you what, I'll come by your place with my driver Jim to pick you up, and we'll go to the Grand Ole Oprey." I went back to my hotel, and later on he came by in a white, stretch limo with his driver Jim. They both sat up front and I had the whole back to myself. All I could see was their two big, white cowboy hats up front. It was something looking out at all the city lights and the city..knowing this is a man that had a big influence on the music scene in Nashville. He said none of this was here when he first began. Well... we arrived at the Grand Ole Oprey and I was able to see the whole "Hee Haw Gang". There was Grandpa Jones and Minnie Pearl with her little tags on her hat. We went backstage and Bill was jamming on my mandolin with Buck White. Buck took a look at my mandolin, and he said to me with a discerning eye, "that is one of the most beautiful mandolins I've seen so far." I felt this was a great compliment coming from him. I realize when I took this trip back in 1992, there were not many mandolin makers around at that time. Well anyways, I tell you that when showtime came around, it was quite a delight to see and hear my mandolin being played by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys on the Grand Ole Oprey. I took lots of pictures. Towards the end of his set, he told the audience about the mandolin he was playing and asked me to come out on stage and give a little wave to the audience. That was surely an experience to remember. In the years to follow, we saw more of each other. I visited him at Christmas and we would see each other whenever he was around. I feel like I can say, he was a friend.
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Bill Monroe pickin with my mandolin
In the limo with Bill and driver Jim
My evening with Bill Monroe at Grand Ole Oprey
Bill and Buck White
Bill Monroe and Bluegrass Boys
Bill playing Macica Mandolin
Bill and I playing together at Christmas