Bill Monroe

bluegrass musician, Nashville

National Heritage Fellowship (1982)

Photo by Robert Cogswell


Known as “The Father of Bluegrass Music,” Bill Monroe (1911-1996) was among the first group of  National Heritage Fellowship recipients.  Born in Kentucky, Monroe was based in Nashville for most of his very long career after joining the  the Grand Ole Opry in 1939.  He named his band “The Bluegrass Boys” after his home state, and the term gradually became associated with the type of music he developed and popularized.  Under Monroe’s leadership and his excellence as a mandolin player, singer, and writer, bluegrass evolved into a rigorous new variety of music that reinvigorated Appalachian string band and vocal traditions for modern musicians and audiences.


For Bill Monroe’s National Heritage Fellowship profile, go to

For more about Bill Monroe and his recordings, go to:

There are far too many printed and internet sources about Bill Monroe to be listed here.  For further reading, the following are some of the best books about him:

Ewing, Tom, ed.  The Bill Monroe Reader.  Music in American Life Series.  Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Goldsmith, Thomas, “50 Years and Counting: Bill Monroe Drives On,”  Journal of Country Music 13, #1 (1989): 14-19, reprinted in Paul Kingsbury, ed., The Country Reader: Twenty-Five Years of the Journal of Country Music (Nashville: Country Music Foundation & Vanderbilt University Press, 1996), pp. 111-20.
Govenar, Alan, Masters of Traditional Arts: A Biographical Dictionary (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2001), pp. 450-52, 728.
Kingsbury, Paul, ed.  The Encyclopedia of Country Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 350-52.
Rosenberg, Neil V.,  Bluegrass: A History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), pp. 40-68ff.
-------, and Charles K. Wolfe,  The Music of Bill Monroe.  Music in American Life Series.  Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.
Smith, Richard D., “William Smith Monroe, 1911-1996,” Bluegrass Unlimited  31, #4 (Oct 1996): 30-34.
-------,  Can’t You Hear Me Callin’: The Life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass.  Cambridge, MA: De Capo Press, 2001.
Willis, Barry R.  America’s Music: Bluegrass.  (Franktown, CO: Pine Valley Music, 1992), pp. 102-31.


Masters of Traditional Arts, Documentary Arts (CD-Rom, 2002)
High Lonesome Sound: The Story of Bluegrass Music, by Rachael Liebling, Shanachie (VHS 1994)
Bill Monroe: Father of Bluegrass Music, by Steve Gebhardt, Original Cinema (VHS 1993)
The Mandolin of Bill Monroe,  Homespun Videos (DVD Set 1992?)
See sources above for information about Monroe’s many recordings