Come Hither to Go Yonder
Playing Bluegrass with Bill Monroe
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: Music in American Life
In 1988 Bill Monroe said: “I believe Bob Black is the best playing fiddle tunes of any banjo player.”1 His statement came in an interview by Tony Trischka and Peter Wernick for their book Masters of the Five-String Banjo. They asked...
I couldn’t have written about these experiences at the time they were happening. I had to wait and see how the story ended. Time and distance have sharpened my focus, and larger truths have now become apparent. I feel vulnerable...
...That was how announcer Grant Turner introduced Bill on stage at the Grand Ole Opry, and as we took our places at the microphones, Mr. Turner continued in his well-practiced yet sincere tone of voice: “Give him a great big hand—Bill’s coming out...
1. Remembering the Old Days
“Let’s never forget the old days.” Bill’s voice was soft and sincere. He always spoke from his heart. My wife, Kristie Black, and I were visiting my old boss on his farm just outside of Nashville one day in early November 1992. We were on our way to Cedars of Lebanon State Park where I had been invited...
2. My First Days as a Blue Grass Boy
When I got to VanAtta’s, I found that we wouldn’t be taking Bill’s tour bus, the Blue Grass Special, because it was having mechanical problems. Instead we would be riding in Bill’s station wagon, a brand new shiny red Pontiac Safari with matching red interior. (Later on we occasionally used bass player Randy...
3. Live and Unrehearsed
Bill never walked out on stage with a script. His musical performances weren’t planned out ahead of time. Many entertainers (including me) write themselves a list of the songs they intend to play during their show, along with the key in which each song is to be played. Performing came naturally for Bill...
4. Bluegrass 101
I thought I was a good banjo player when I first joined the Blue Grass Boys. I quickly found out, however, that I didn’t know as much as I had thought; to quote Ralph Lewis: “I thought I knew all the answers, but I didn’t even have the questions right.” To Bill Monroe, rhythm and timing were all-important...
5. The Children of Bluegrass
Because Bill Monroe was the Father of Bluegrass, his songs could appropriately be called the Children of Bluegrass. Their ancestry is traceable to the traditional musical influences to which Bill had been exposed from early childhood. Modern-day descendants of old-time melodies, Bill’s compositions were...
6. A Tough Act to Follow
I was still a Blue Grass Boy—I would always be one. Playing with Bill Monroe was something that would never leave me. You could never forget Bill, once you got to know him; he stayed with you in spirit, influencing your habits and ways...
7. Just Like the Old Days
Bill Monroe walked straight into a beam of sunlight striking the stage, bowing his head and raising his arms while the audience roared. Rumors had been flying—it was going to be the last Bean Blossom bluegrass festival. Bill was...
I told Bill before I left the Blue Grass Boys that I was going to write this book. At that time, I asked if he would be willing to write a few words as a foreword. He said to me: “I’ll be glad to help you any way I can.” Bill’s endorsement...
Appendix A: A Record of Personal Appearances
Appendix B: Additional Information about Some of the People and Groups Mentioned
Suggested Listening and Reading