Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys

John Byrne Cooke


Image No. 63-2N-6
Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys

1963 Newport Folk Festival

(Left to right) Bessie Lee Mauldin (bass), Billy Baker (fiddle), Bill Keith (banjo), Bill Monroe (mandolin), Del McCoury (guitar)

Shortly after World War II, Bill Monroe added a 5-string banjo player named Earl Scruggs to his band. Scruggs' revolutionary melodic fingerpicking style of playing the banjo, together with Monroe's mandolin playing, high-tenor lead singing, and his close-harmony vocal arrangements, created the distinctive sound that came to be called bluegrass music. In the early 1960s, it was Earl Scruggs, together with Lester Flatt, another alumnus of Monroe's group, who introduced bluegrass to folk audiences in the northeast. It seemed the folk revival might pass the founder by, until Ralph Rinzler brought Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys to the 1963 Newport Folk Festival.

Bill Monroe, Bill Keith, Del McCoury "Brad" Keith on banjo Bill Monroe at Club 47, no. 1 Bill Monroe at Club 47, no. 2