Bill Monroe is known around the world as the “Father of Bluegrass Music.” He created a specific type and sound of music that has garnered a dedicated following of both fans and players alike.
Most knowledgeable bluegrass music fans would say that the genre began in 1939 when “Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys” first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry. Monroe and his group quickly became one of the most popular touring bands of their time. Monroe came from Kentucky, known as the Bluegrass State, and he used the term in the name of his band. It wasn’t long before the public started referring to this new genre of music as “bluegrass music”.
Although Monroe had significant success performing his new music across the country, many believe that the true, classic bluegrass sound never really developed until 1945 when he was joined by Lester Flatt on guitar, Earl Scruggs on the 5-string banjo, Chubby Wise on fiddle and Howard Watts on the upright bass fiddle. This talented group of musicians formed the basis and set the standard for thousands of bluegrass bands to follow that love this style of music and continue to perform it to this day.
Even though Monroe’s band had always had the ability to stir and excite the audiences, it was the addition of Earl Scruggs on the 5-string banjo that really set this new form of music on fire. Until Scruggs developed the 3-finger style of banjo picking the instrument was usually played in a frailing or clawhammer style. But the new 3-finger method added a whole new dynamic to the genre. Scrugg’s banjo picking gave Monroe’s music a hard-driving, powerful sound and level of energy that just wasn’t there before.