During the fall of 1999 James Monroe, Bill's son called and asked if I would organize a Blue Grass Boy Reunion for the Memorial Day Weekend for 2000. He wanted to start a Blue Grass Festival in Rosine Kentucky where Bill was born. I was honored, James went on to say that he knew that his Dad put a lot of trust in me and I could do it in a way that Bill would have wanted it done.
I first sent out invitations to the many individuals that I had kept in touch with since the late 70's when I started searching for all the men who had worked with the Blue Grass Boys. Over the years about 175 individuals worked for Bill Monroe on a regular basis playing music. David Deese was the first to call, then Guy Stevenson....they kept calling and dropping letters and emails. Over the next several months I got response after response…(professional musicians aren't quick to commit to a weekend of "no pay") They play music as their livelihood so making a living had to come first. This was to be a reunion of those who could and wanted to come.
Since I had arranged some birthday celebrations for Bill starting in 1982...I had seen how much fun Bill had arranging some last minute things for Kenny Bakers Birthday in June of that year(http://doughutchens.blogspot.com/2012/02/kenny-bakers-birthday-june-26th-1981.html) …I decided we need to do something special for Bills birthday. So I started in early July (for the next several years I put the information in the mail over the first weekend of July for Bill's Birthday Celebration) and we were able to pull it off as a surprise in Louisville in September just a day or two before Bill’s birthday.
I had many ideas going at the same time trying to come up with a worthy celebration for The Blue Grass Boys......
I did a lot of behind the scenes work; contacting the offices of Governor Patton of Kentucky, Governor Jim Hunt of North Carolina and Governor
Don Sundquist of Tennessee. I also contacted former President Jimmy Carter who Bill had played the White House during his term in office.
I started on a special cancellation for the Post Office in Rosine...
As I was working I kept thinking; How can we make this an event that Bill would be so proud of...there was no budget so kept digging.... finally I got an idea and contacted Willard Gayheart who is one of the greates pencil artist I've ever seen and asked if we could work it out to do a special "Commemorative Print" for the occasion.......... Willard was a big Bill Monroe fan and had known of the Birthday Celebrations I'd put together for Bill and was very willing....It was decided that he would draw it, and could sell some copies to pay for his time and I'd take care of the printing cost and I would have some to give the guys who took the time and effort to join us in Rosine. I had hopes of selling enought to take care of the printing cost to cover my investement.
But what kind of illustration would be best…..
(Fall Back in time to 1982) During the first Birthday Celebration I arranged for Bill in Louisville, Kentucky in 1982, I had hired a professional photographer, Jim Silliman, to go and capture the proceedings on film. I had no idea of why I was doing it, but it just seemed to the right thing to do. Jim shot several rolls of both black and white and slide film...(looking back I wish he had shot 10 times more than he did, but hindsight is usually 20/20). But I had this one special photo of Bill on stage that stood out ...I thought back to Arnold Banker's Shinnhopple New York festival a couple of years before. John Hartford and I had become friends and I was traveling at the time with the "Lost and Found". John came by the bus one afternoon and asked if I was on board, to which Dempsey said I think he's in the back....John came on in and I got up out of the bunk and went to the lounge area and met him....He said that he had found some things while spending some time around Rosine that I might like to see.....They were photo's of Uncle Pen, Bill Uncle who he lived with after his parents died, and the person he had learned to play music with....These were photo's that I had never seen except for one which Bill had shown me. That photo Bill had carried it around in his wallet for so many years it was difficult to see any details.... I asked John if there was a possibility I could get copies of the photos....John, in only the way he could, just grinned and said "I knew you would appreciate them....these copies are yours"... (John Hartford my friend I sure miss you)
So...we had the main photo of Bill and in what we called the "dream world" we put Uncle Pen....now the photo's; one had Uncle Pen sitting but he had a hat and its shadow was over his face...one of the others he didn't have a hat on...In one he had his dog with him, another his crutch that he had to use in his later years after being thrown by a mule...
I took all these elements and told the story........Willard took his pencil and did his magic....He created a drawing of a photo that didn't exist...I decided we would title the print after the tune Uncle Pen and it was named Blue Grass Boy Print 2000 "Late in the evening..."
Late in the evening about sundown
High on a hill and above the town
Uncle Pen played the fiddle and how it would ring
You could hear it talk, you could hear it sing.
By the time we got to Rosine in late May the electricity was in the air.....
possibly too much ...as it rained all day every day for 4 days.. The Festival was a disaster.......The crowd was sparce, but those attended witnessed history.
There is a little Music Barn in the center of village of Rosine and the folks there took us under their wing..
They were gracious to let us hang out in the barn... It was kind of our unofficial meeting place, we ate our meals there, stayed out of the rain and even did some of our "Reunion" there.
Our Reunion consisted of two or three hours each day of telling stories of things that happened on the road…many were very funny.
Soon everyone was saying that someone should "write this stuff down"..(I had a friend Rob Marshall with me who taped everything). It took some time but the modest publication Howdy Folks, Howdy appeared in 2003... The cover: Howdy Folks, Howdy.....
Janet Davis Music http://www.bluegrasscenter.com/howdy.html
and Elderly Instrument http://elderly.com/books/items/638-1.htm
...or from me at DMHutchens@aol.com
Everyone really enjoyed the gathering and looked forward to doing it again next Memorial Day Weekend (2001)