Bill Monroe

Induction Year: 1971

Birth Name: William Smith Monroe

Birth Date: 09-13-1911

Place of Birth: Rosine, Kentucky

Death Date: 09-09-1996

Place of Death: Nashville, Tennessee

An enormously influential figure in twentieth-century American music, Bill Monroe is rightfully known as "The Father of Bluegrass." He mixed the old-time country music of his Kentucky upbringing with blues, jazz and gospel, added an energetic drive and a focus on instrumental virtuosity, and pioneered a genre that has resonated for decades.

The youngest of eight children, Monroe was born into a farming family that loved music. At age 10, Bill took up the mandolin. Within a few years, he was performing at country hoedowns with his uncle, Pendleton Vandiver, a champion fiddler (later immortalized in Monroe's classic song "Uncle Pen"). From 1934 to 1938, Bill and his older brother Charlie performed as a popular duet act on record and at several radio stations. Following his split with Charlie, Bill formed the Blue Grass Boys, which became the platform for his greatest work.

From 1946 to 1948, when the group featured Earl Scruggs on banjo and Lester Flatt on guitar and lead vocals, the Blue Grass Boys were to hillbilly music what Duke Ellington's orchestra was to jazz — that rare band that was equally innovative and commercial. The Boys' high lonesome harmonies and breakneck instrumental solos were all delivered with easy showmanship. Led by Monroe, the band created bluegrass music. And what gave the music its riveting emotional center were Monroe's "true life" compositions. Raw and direct, like those of his country counterpart Hank Williams, Monroe's songs became the core of the bluegrass repertoire: "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "Will You Be Loving Another Man," "Rocky Road Blues" and "Can't You Hear Me Calling."

The rhythmic drive of Monroe's music was also a big influence on rock & roll. Carl Perkins once claimed that the first thing Elvis Presley ever said to him was, "Do you like Bill Monroe?" The flip side of Presley's first single was a revved-up version of "Blue Moon of Kentucky."

Ignoring trends, Monroe remained unwavering in his dedication to the acoustic purity and thematic integrity of bluegrass, touring and recording through the decades. In the 1980s and '90s, he beat cancer and double bypass surgery, and kept performing right up until his death in 1996.

In acknowledgment of his cross-genre influence, Monroe is a member of both the Rock and Roll and Country Music Halls of Fame. Of his sound's enduring appeal, Monroe once said, "It's plain music that tells a story. It's played from my heart to your heart, and it will touch you."

"Blue Moon of Kentucky"

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1947 
Elvis Presley1954 
Ray Charles1956 
Rose Maddox1962 
Patsy Cline1963 
George Jones & Melba Montgomery1964 
Porter Wagoner1965 
Jerry Reed1969 
Hank Locklin1970 
Roy Clark1974 
Sonny James1976 
Earl Scruggs1980 #46 country
Paul McCartney1991 
LeAnn Rimes1997 
John Fogerty2000 
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers2001 
Wanda Jackson2006 
Brian Setzer2011 

"Can't You Hear Me Calling"

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1949 
Ricky Skaggs1981 
Dwight Yoakam2006 

"Get Up John"

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1954 
Jerry & Tammy Sullivan1991 
Emmylou Harris1992 
Ricky Skaggs1997 

"I'll Meet You in Church on Sunday Morning"

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1951 
Rose Maddox1962 
Porter Wagoner1965 

"Kentucky Waltz"

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1946 #3 country
Cowboy Copas1947 
Eddy Arnold1951 #1 country
Red Foley1951 
Ernest Tubb1956 
Hank Locklin1963 
Doc Watson & Dave Grisman1997 

"Little Cabin Home on the Hill"

(written with Lester Flatt)

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1948 
Porter Wagoner1965 
Elvis Presley1971 
Lester Flatt1973 
Ricky Skaggs1979 

"Little Community Church"

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Quartet1948 #11 country

"Molly and Tenbrooks"

The Stanley Brothers1948 
Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1949 
Rose Maddox1962 
Osborne Brothers1968 
Tom T. Hall1976 

"Rocky Road Blues"

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1946 
Ronnie Self1957 
Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps1958 
Jim & Jesse1993 
Dwight Yoakam1995 


Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1959 #27 country
Chet Atkins1975 
Emmylou Harris1992 

"Summertime Is Past and Gone"

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1948 
Seldom Scene1972 
Osborne Brothers1975 

"Sweetheart You Done Me Wrong"

(written with Lester Flatt)

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1948 #11 country

"The Old Cross Road Is Waiting"

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1948 
Rose Maddox1962 
Ricky Skaggs1980 

"Toy Heart"

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1949 #12 country
Ricky Skaggs1982 

"Uncle Pen"

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1950 
Porter Wagoner1961 #14 country
Rose Maddox1962 
Roy Acuff1967 
Buck Owens1971 
Leon Russell1973 
Mel Tillis1975 
Hank Williams Jr.1978 
Ricky Skaggs1983 #1 country

"Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine"

(written with Jake Landers)

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1969 
Kentucky Headhunters1989 #25 country
The Dixie Chicks & Ricky Skaggs2000 

"Walls of Time"

Bill Monroe1968 
Peter Rowan1982 
Emmylou Harris1992 
Ricky Skaggs1999 

"When You Are Lonely"

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1948 #12 country

"Wicked Path of Sin"

Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper1947 
Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1948 #13 country
New Grass Revival1981 

"Will You Be Loving Another Man"

(written with Lester Flatt)

Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys1947 
Porter Wagoner1965 
The Osborne Brothers1968 
The Grascals2006 

Bill Monroe

Induction Year: 1971