What a terrible year for Bluegrass, we lost another original member of the founding generation last night, Doc Watson.

Here’s the intro to the obit from the NYTimes…

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Doc Watson, the blind Grammy-award winning folk musician whose mountain-rooted sound was embraced by generations and whose lightning-fast style of flatpicking influenced guitarists around the world, died Tuesday at a North Carolina hospital, according to a hospital spokeswoman and his manager. He was 89.

Watson died at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, where he was hospitalized recently after falling at his home in Deep Gap, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He underwent abdominal surgery while in the hospital and had been in critical condition for several days.

I had a few brushes with Doc at Merlefest over the years, but every time I’d see him I was so star struck I couldn’t even formulate words except, “good pickin Doc.” I bet he’d never heard that one before!

Happy Birthday Bill Monroe

Ok, so Bill’s birthday isn’t until tomorrow, but that didn’t stop NPR from running the story last night. See this link here for audio and a transcript. The part about Thile getting a quarter is pretty hilarious. But Better yet, I wish they would haven told the story about how he told Sam Bush’s mak-up artist at the Opry to put the scissors to good use, now that is BILL!

Bill Monroe, known as the “Father of Bluegrass Music,” was born 100 years ago this week in rural Kentucky. He influenced early country music and rock ‘n’ roll, as well as the hard-driving, high-lonesome genre he created — bluegrass.

William Smith Monroe was a man of few words, but he opened up to fellow bluegrass musician Alice Gerrard, who recorded him in 1969.

“I was brought up the best way that I could be brought up with what we had to do with,” Monroe said. “I could have had a better education, and I could have had better clothes to wear to school. I could have had a better chance, you know. But if I’d had the best education in the world, I might have not played music.”

It’s a short piece that only scratches the surface of a complex and interesting person who lived a long and full life. I really wish they would have interviewed Mike Compton. The sense I got from him in the few times I’ve met him, was that when Bluegrass was in it’s dark days, Mike was there on Bill’s farm painting the barn and hanging out, being there. There were a select group of people who were there and not in some academic biographer type of mode, but there with him, helping him, being someboy when nobody cared. These folks probably would have a more interesting perspective than, yeah he gave me a quarter one time. Hell, at Bean blossom they used to have line that would form where anyone in the audience could go up on stage to take break with him…

On a related note David Grisman is honoring Old Bill’s birthday with a cool tribute album called Dawg Plays Big Mon. You can download the directly from Acoustic Oasis and preview two tunes here as well. Honestly from looking at the liner notes (available for download here) it looks like a must have. Some of the stuff is previously released but as a collection, it looks pretty top notch with a few of the tunes previously unreleased. There are a few really interesting line ups ont the disc that some, even hardcore bluegrassers, might not be aware of. Like for instance, the track from Jethro and Tiny’s Back to Back with Eldon Shamblin on rhythm guitar, it ain’t Bluegrass but it’s darn good.

Cool photos of Bill Monroe.

The good folks over at the BluegrassBlog.com posted a link to some great classic photos of Bill Monroe. Apparently taken by Bill’s friend Jim Peva author of Bean Blossom: Its people and its music the photos show both the stage and personal side of the father of Bluegrass Music. My personal favorites are the ones of him and his mules. Preicelss! All the photos are available on Bean Blossom.com

Bill Monroe’s Mandolin Headstock Overlay Sells for $37,500

Monroe's Peghead Overlay

This week the legendary Bill Monroe’s defaced peghead overlay sold at auction for a whopping $37,500. The story goes that he gouged out the name of the maker because he thought they did a poor job repairing it. The identity of the person responsible for the winning bid is being kept secret, however it wasn’t the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. According to this article, the party who owned it was the maker. Now what kind of greedy SOBs does it take to auction of a piece of musical history like this. Its not like those folks over at the big factory are hurting for $30,000, that’s less than hour’s worth of overhead for them. So why on earth didn’t the big factory dorks just donate it to the museum instead of letting of some other greedy SOB buy it and put it in their personal collection only to wake up every morning and rub up against it. Some people, I swear!

Since the details aren’t out as to who bought it I guess I will leave my rant at that, and hope that the person who bought it has good intentions beyond their own personal gratification. Details of the auction can be found over at the Christie’s site.

This just in from the corrections department…

Gibson didn’t own the overlay. The overlay was given
to Rendall Wall by Bill Monroe after he successfully negotiated the repair
of the headstock. Rendall split the proceeds from the sale with Pat
Aldworth who assisted Rendall in the negotiations with Bill along with
overseeing the repair.

A more informative story than the one linked above is available here.

Thanks to Andrew J. for the heads up.