"The Father of Bluegrass"
A mandolin is an eight stringed instrument in the string family, used predominantly in bluegrass music. It is usually used with a pick and is tuned like a violin. The roots of the mandolin can be traced to Italian folk instruments in the lute family.
This past week, many celebrated the 89th anniversary of an instrument that pioneered an American style of music, Bill Monroe’s mandolin. The Gibson F5 Mandolin constructed by Lloyd Loar was completed on July 9th, 1923, residing in Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame.
William Smith Monroe was a Kentucky native, born into a musical family in 1911. By age 16, Monroe had lost both his parents. After being shuffled around between family members, he eventually settled down with his uncle, a fiddler named Pendleton Vandiver. ‘Uncle Pen’ imparted a repertoire of fiddle tunes that shaped Monroe’s musical career.
In 1938, Monroe started a band called the Blue Grass Boys. They played a new style of music that featured fast tempos and lots of instrumental solos worthy of Grand Ole Opry audiences. The addition of a new member and banjo player, Earl Scruggs, prompted the band’s distinct sound deemed, bluegrass. The Blue Grass Boys featured a number of notable musicians over the years including Doc Watson, Lester Flatt, Ricky Scaggs, and Del McCoury.
So why is this mandolin so important?
Bill Monroe is often referred to as ‘the Father of Bluegrass music.’ In other words, the music that this mandolin played was the first of it’s kind. With this very instrument a style of music was born.