James Monroe to perform at Centennial Celebration

James Monroe, son of the “father of bluegrass music,” will perform at the RiverPark Center on Sept. 13 as part of the three-day Bill Monroe Centennial Celebration.

The celebration is sponsored by the International Bluegrass Music Museum.

Bill Monroe was born on Jerusalem Ridge near Rosine on Sept. 13, 1911.

He died on Sept. 9, 1996, and is buried in Rosine Cemetery.


Gabrielle Gray, the museum’s executive director, said having James Monroe perform on his father’s 100th birthday will make the event more special.

The Centennial Celebration lineup includes banjo great Earl Scruggs, whose banjo playing as a member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in the mid-1940s set a standard for future generations of bluegrass musicians.

“I remember Earl from when I was a little boy and he was in my father’s band,” James Monroe said Thursday.

He was born in 1941, four years before Scruggs became a Blue Grass Boy in 1945.

James Monroe was recruited by his father to play bass in the Blue Grass Boys in 1963, when he was 22.

He switched to guitar in 1969 and became the band’s lead singer when Roland White left the band.

White, a member of the faculty at this year’s Monroe-Style Mandolin Camp at the museum, is slated to perform with other faculty members at the Monroe Centennial on Sept. 12.

Monroe said he’s looking forward to being part of the event.

“It’s really big,” he said of the celebration of what would have been his father’s 100th birthday. “Bluegrass fans are doing things all over the world. There are celebrations in England, Scotland, Australia. Scotland is where the Monroes came from.”

Monroe recorded with his father on 35 sessions through the years.

James Monroe left his father’s band in 1971 to strike out on his own with a new band, The Midnight Ramblers.

In 1983, he took a brief stab at country music, exchanging The Midnight Ramblers for Tennessee Thunder. But a few years later, Monroe was back in bluegrass with James Monroe & The Midnight Ramblers.

In 2008, he was inducted into the North American Country Music Hall of Fame.

Monroe has performed several times in Rosine, but he has rarely been in Owensboro.

In 2002, when the bluegrass museum opened on a daily basis, Monroe came to the celebration to present the museum with one of his father’s stage costumes.

“They really outdid themselves,” he said at the time. “I think it’s wonderful. They did a great job on my father’s room.”

Monroe said he has cut back on touring in recent years and doesn’t perform nearly as much as he used to.

But he said he’s working on a tourism project in Ohio County.

“I still own the Uncle Pen property at Rosine,” he said. “I want to build it back the way it looked and make a little tourist attraction.”

Pendleton Vandiver, an Ohio County farmer and well-known fiddle player, took in  Bill Monroe, his nephew, when Monroe was orphaned at 16.

Bill Monroe wrote the bluegrass classic, “Uncle Pen,” in honor of Vandiver.

Gray said tickets are still available for the Sept. 12-14 Monroe Centennial Celebration.

“This is for people who adore Bill Monroe” and traditional bluegrass music, she said.

Gray said tickets have been sold to fans across the country as well as in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.

Several Japanese fans are coming, she said.

Other performers include Ralph Stanley, Curly Seckler, J.D. Crowe, Everett Lilly, Jesse McReynolds, the Lewis Family, Rodney Dillard, Melvin Goins, Paul Williams; Bill Clifton, Tom Gray and Eddie Adcock.

Tickets — which range from $100 to $175 for all three days — can be purchased at the museum at 117 Daviess St. or by calling 926-7891.

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