BLUEGRASS has its origins with Bill Monroe of Kentucky. Monroe played mandolin and his brother Charlie played guitar. The Monroe Brothers performed as regulars on Charlotte’s WBT beginning in 1936. This led to a RCA recording contract; however, by 1938 Charlie had left to form his own band called The Kentucky Pardners along with newcomer Lester Flatt of Overton, Tennessee. Bill formed his legendary Blue Grass Boys landing a spot on the Grand Ole Opry by 1939, where he became a regular for the next 50 years.
Actually the music we know as BLUEGRASS did not fully develop until 1945 when Bill signed with Columbia, recording his famous signature Kentucky Waltz. By 1946 his Blue Grass Boys included Flatt on guitar and Earl Scruggs on banjo, Chubby Wise on fiddle and Howard Watts on bass.
By 1948 Flatt and Scruggs left to form their own band. Bill helped numerous BLUEGRASS performers with their careers including:
In the 1960s Bill became a star on the college campus FOLK singing tours. In 1967 he began his famous BLUEGRASS festival and in 1989 he celebrated 50 years with the Grand Ole Opry.
Another famous BLUEGRASS group was The Stanley Brothers of Virginia – Ralph and Carter. The Stanley Brothers became known for their raw, emotional duet and trio vocal harmonies. After Carter’s death in 1966, Ralph formed another band which later included well known performers Keith Whitley on guitar and Ricky Skaggs on mandolin. In 1980, Ralph performed with Emmylou Harris on his The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn.
Ricky Skaggs has returned to his roots and become one of the leading BLUEGRASS performers and most importantly a spokesman for BLUEGRASS. Skaggs began his BLUEGRASS career at 5 and by the time he was 15 he was a member of Ralph Stanley’s band. His recording of Bill Monroe’s Uncle Penn became the first BLUEGRASS number by a solo artist to reach #1 on Billboard’s COUNTRY chart. Also 1982 he became the youngest member at the time to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.