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Happy 100th Birthday to Bill Monroe

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The Father of Bluegrass turns 100 today.

More than any other musician in American history, Bill Monroe can claim to have invented a genre of music. He took elements of traditional and modern music, including jazz, mountain music, blues, the developing genre of country music, Tin Pan Alley, and pretty much everything available to him at the time (a musician friend swears he can hear a Norteno influence in the bass, claiming that Monroe picked that up on a brief stint when he worked in the Southwest and tuned into border radio) and melded it into a new style that became one of the most unique American forms. Monroe turned the mandolin, considered a woman’s instrument at the time, into the centerpiece of his new music, as opposed to the fiddle and banjo of mountain music or the guitar-driven early country music. He was a fantastic songwriter, telling stories of his childhood in ways previously pretty foreign to American popular music. For years, he was the only bluegrass musician who was a member of the Grand Ole Opry, showing both his undeniable creativity and the way the country music establishment always considered bluegrass a slightly embarrassing stepchild. He also mentored any number of young musicians, ranging from Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in the early years to Peter Rowan in the 1970s. A very shy man, he originally shunned the spotlight entirely until folk music magazines began crediting the genre’s invention to Flatt and Scruggs, which Monroe, who was always extremely competitive, did not appreciate.

More than any of that, Bill Monroe was just awesome.

This is an amazing performance:

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