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7 Times Bill Monroe Did Anything But Play a Mandolin

Jul 21, 2023

7 Times Bill Monroe Did Anything But Play a Mandolin

If there’s a common ground most bluegrass musicians share, it’s a virtuoso mentality and an extreme level of skill. Most pickers jam on more than one instrument, and the Father of Bluegrass himself was no exception.

Born in 1911 in Rosine, Kentucky, many folks credit Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys as founders of the genre. Monroe was best known for playing mandolin, churning out driving tunes like “Uncle Pen” and “Jerusalem Ridge,” but he had quite a few other skills as well.

Let’s take a quick peek at a few of the times Bill Monroe broke his own mold and put down his classic mandolin.

Pickin’ a Pink Telecaster

In this old-school, infamous footage shot at a home jam circle, Monroe shows off “Ozark Rag.” A fellow jammer hands Monroe a pink Fender Telecaster with a black pick guard as he sets aside his mandolin. At just two-and-a-half minutes long, this clip is short, but it’s still extremely entertaining and showcases what an incredible musician Monroe was.

Buck Dancing with Ricky Skaggs

This charming clip shows Bill Monroe buck dancing while Ricky Skaggs plays a blazing guitar. The traditional dance style is popular in Appalachia and the South, and Monroe’s steps are pretty slick! Monroe also appeared in the now-iconic official music video for this hit, “Country Boy,” buck dancing in a NYC subway set alongside street dancers.

Playing an Ovation Guitar

Another YouTube throwback shows Monroe in footage from a Homespun tutorial video, playing an Ovation acoustic guitar. Like the first clip, Monroe plays “Ozark Rag,” a tune he wrote later in life.

Playing Muleskinner Blues

This clip shows Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys on the iconic Grand Ole Opry stage. Monroe kicks off “Muleskinner Blues,” which according to other concert footage, was originally debuted by Monroe on the Opry in the 1940s with Big Mon picking guitar, rather than mandolin.

Singing with the Osborne Brothers

In this clip, Monroe leaves the mandolin playing to recently-departed Bobby Osborne of the Osborne Brothers at the Berkshire Mountains Bluegrass Festival. Instead, he provides backup vocals on the gospel number, “I Hear a Sweet Voice Calling.”

Dancing with Emmylou Harris

Like the other buck-dancing clip, Monroe comes out on stage to show off his traditional dance skills — but this time, with a friend! Here, he takes to the stage with singer-songwriter and fellow dancer Emmylou Harris. The pair even do a little do-si-do as Harris dances in cowboy boots.

Playing an Acoustic Guitar

From the plethora of online footage, it’s pretty clear Monroe loved picking “Ozark Rag,” and preferred to do so on guitar. This video is a clip taken from the longer concert above. It was made in 1994 – Monroe died in 1996.


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7 Times Bill Monroe Did Anything But Play a Mandolin
7 Times Bill Monroe Did Anything But Play a Mandolin