We’re here. I’ve read about this historic place in two biographies of Bill Monroe. After a quarter century of attending festivals, and after hearing about this legendary park so often, I have never been here until now. Bean Blossom Music Park, Indiana.
When Bluegrass Festivals evolved in the ’60s, Bill Monroe decided to have his location north of Kentucky. Today it’s both heartwarming and a little eerie, believe it or not, to be here without Bill. To see the different areas of the park dedicated to heroes like Ralph Stanley, Curley Ray Cline, and Arnold Shultz is both satisfying and sad. It’s so hard to believe some of them are gone. It’s also hard to believe that as deeply involved as I’ve been with the music and its pioneers that when I finally get here their final sets are over. There’s a message there…
The inspiration, however, of all these legends is VERY much alive. We know that Bela Fleck, Tony Rice, and Peter Rowan began careers because of Bill. What is especially rewarding is hearing all the younger bands who are here who simply wouldn’t be if not for Monroe. Take Hot Buttered Rum, for example. Five young guys in their 20s who play mandolin, banjo, and twin fiddles with the same rhythm and drive as the Bluegrass Boys. They’ve added to the sound by including accordion and flutes and unexpected time changes. As you listen, however, you realize that even their young fans digging the contemporary approach recognize that the foundation is Monroe’s.
The same can be said of The Duhks, Uncle Earl, Shawn Camp, and Drew Emmit. Bill’s music may not sound exactly like it did, but it’s all perspective. When Monroe combined country, gospel and blues with the arrangement of jazz, he was considered an upstart, even a renegade. Today, he is considered a patriarch.
The moral of story is that all of the best things in life came from people who had an idea and took a risk. Perhaps in small way the chances that Folk Alley are taking will pay off for all of us.