He formed a group named the Blue Grass Boys in the late 1930s, with whom he initiated the bluegrass genre. Among his many achievements, Monroe was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and given together with the National Medal of Arts. He died in Springfield, Tennessee, on September 9, 1996. One of eight kids in a musical family, Monroe learned to play the guitar as well as the mandolin at 9 years old. His mother died when he was 10, so when his dad died shortly afterward he was sent to reside with his mom’s brother, Pendleton Vandiver. Monroe after credited “Uncle Pen” with being one of his early, significant musical influences.
Already a seasoned musician in the age of 18, Monroe and his brother, Charlie, formed The Monroe Brothers duet in 1934. The brothers recorded dozens of songs but parted in 1938, prompting Monroe to take up a new but short lived group, the Kentuckians. After moving to Atlanta, he’d more success together with the creation of the Blue Grass Boys, who became regular performers on the weekly Grand Ole Opry radio show in 1939.
The Blue Grass Boys, comprising banjo, fiddle, guitar, upright bass and Monroe on mandolin, birthed a fresh music genre of music that came to be known as “bluegrass.” Players came and went in the group, but in 1945, together with the improvement of Earl Scruggs on banjo and Lester Flatt on vocals and guitar, they recorded the iconic tune “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”
After years of touring, Monroe began his own music festival at Bean Blossom, Indiana, in the late 1960s. In 1970, he was named to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, as well as the subsequent year, he was inducted to the Nashville Songwriters Association’s Hall of Fame. In 1979, the famous musician appeared at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., to perform for President Jimmy Carter.
Monroe beat a cancer diagnosis in 1981 and continued touring. In 1988, Monroe was honored together with the choice of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” as an official song of the state. Monroe endured a stroke in April 1996 and expired in Springfield, Tennessee, on September 9, 1996, four days before his 85th birthday. The bluegrass leader was entombed in Rosine, Kentucky, near where he was born.