Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Comes Full Circle


Bill Monroe photo courtesy of

Oct. 3, 2008 — Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder paid homage this year to the version of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys that had the biggest impact on bluegrass music with the release of Honoring The Fathers Of Bluegrass: Tribute To 1946 And 1947.

Neither Ricky nor the album won any trophies during Thursday’s International Bluegrass Music Awards, but the CD set an unspoken tone for the evening, demonstrating that more than six decades into the genre’s evolution, even its newest stars continue to owe a debt to Bill.

Many argue that bluegrass was fully shaped after Bill hired guitarist Lester Flatt and banjo player Earl Scruggs, introducing the lineup in December 1945 at the Ryman Auditorium, the same building where the awards were held.

"That last guy came in and put that last piece in there, Earl Scruggs," said IBMA host Del McCoury, a former Blue Grass Boy. "It was just like God said, ‘Well look, if we’re gonna have a bluegrass band, let’s get the best.’ And He did. Those guys , they set a standard that today you can’t surpass it."

Ricky, at just six years old, played with Bill at a concert and would bring the Blue Grass Boys’ music to the masses by earning a No. 1 country single with a 1984 cover of Bill’s "Uncle Pen." He also inserted Bill into a subway scene in his Manhattan-set video for 1985’s "Country Boy."

Ricky’s current band, Kentucky Thunder, graduated Darrin Vincent, of the new duo Dailey & Vincent. By the same token, Jamie Dailey worked for nine years with Doyle Lawson, who started playing mandolin after hearing the Blue Grass Boys on the radio and got one of his first key gigs with Bill’s former lead vocalist, Jimmy Martin.

Thus, Dailey & Vincent’s seven wins at the IBMA awards on the Ryman stage, where the sound of bluegrass was publicly cemented, had a certain full-circle ring to it.

"That," Darrin said, "really is awesome."

Mr. Monroe’s music has seen a significant influx of new talent in recent years — Dailey & Vincent, Cherryholmes, the Grascals, the Infamous Stringdusters and the SteelDrivers, among others — and that’s a trend that’s likely to continue.

"There are so many great young musicians today," Del observed, "and they have a better chance than I did, ‘cause all we had was like radio and personal appearances. It was before TV even when I started playin’, but now they’ve got instructional videos and all that, so they learn young and they get good young. That’s really good for the music."

"There’s so much talent out there," Dan Tyminski agreed. "I think we’re gonna see that every year — were gonna see these new bands that just pop up and knock your socks off."