By Douglas B. Green
Where the 1930s
was unquestionably country music's most explosive, creative decade,
the 1940s was for the most part a decade of refinement and consolidation.
One band, however, maintained that creative head of steam, and excited
vast audiences with their fiery, passionate music. That band, of
course, was Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys.
They had two
fine solo singers, a rafter-reaching yodeler, three of the top instrumentalists
in country music, consistently great vocals, powerful songs, excellent
comedy... all the while shaping and creating the form known as bluegrass,
the music named for this band.
long and still thriving career has been detailed often; it is a
marvelous struggle against personal and musical adversity, a saga
of flinty determination and the surprising and gratifying success
of a purely personal musical style of intensity and integrity. The
history of the comings and goings of such great musicians and entertainers
as Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Stringbean, Chubby Wise and many
others has also been told many times.
Still, it is
important to realize that these were formative years for Bill Monroe
and his music; he was still evolving his unique band sound after
having left the extremely successful duet with his brother Charlie
known as the Monroe Brothers, one of the most popular and creative
groups of the 1930s. Bill's first solo recordings, for RCA in 1940,
are a study in transition from the old duet style to this evolving
band sound, a sound which had advanced considerably by his first
sessions for Columbia in 1945.
was at this time 34 years old, having maintained this successful
Opry band for over five years, continually striving for that sound
developing in his mind and on the stage. He had pretty much achieved
that sound when he and his Blue Grass Boys first recorded for Columbia
on February 13,1945, and it was a sound which crystallized with
the addition of Lester Flatt, then Earl Scruggs to the band. Their
first efforts were recorded September 16-17, 1946. Their sound was
astonishing in their day and in many ways remains unequalled
to this day and they showed marked improvement during
their three years as a cohesive band.
come and go, of course, as eventually did Lester Flatt and Earl
Scruggs, and Chubby Wise a little later. Still, it was an exhilarating
era while it lasted for both musician and listener.
recalls, "Through those years I knew that I had my music going in
the right direction, where I wanted it. A lot of them that came
with me wanted to take it in other ways, and I had to hold it in
there just the way I wanted it. I'd take what they had that was
good for this music and throw out what wasn't. It was a hard time,
but a great time, because bluegrass music was really forming to
what I knew it could be."