As a member of The Blue Grass Boys for the band’s last decade, Tom Ewing was well-positioned to observe its leader, Bill Monroe. As a veteran journalist, he’s applied his skills to recording these observations in a new biography of the Father of Bluegrass. Bill Monroe: The Life and Music of the Blue Grass Boy is billed as an authoritative account of Monroe’s life, based on hundreds of interviews and Ewing’s personal archive of materials. It set out to examine Bill Monroe’s life in careful detail, moving beyond hearsay and sensationalism to explain how and why he accomplished so much.
Ewing tells the story of the Monroe family’s musical household and Bill’s early career in the Monroe Brothers duo. He brings to life Monroe’s 1940s heyday with the classic bluegrass band, the renewed fervor for his music sparked by the folk revival of the 1960s, his declining fortunes in the years that followed and the ultimate success of bluegrass around the world. Throughout, Ewing deftly captures Monroe’s relationships and the personalities of an ever-shifting roster of band members while shedding light on his business dealings and his pioneering work with Bean Blossom and other music festivals.
The book is published by the University of Illinois Press as part of its Music in American Life series. It’s available from the publisher and other booksellers, as a hard copy or e-book.