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Can't You Hear Me Callin': The Life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass Paperback – October 2, 2001
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Bluegrass audiences required a rural, Southern authenticity from the "Father of Bluegrass," and Monroe was slow to deny their exaggerations. Smith, however, dismisses many of the backwoodsy stories that grew up around the Monroe myth, instead emphasizing truer biographical elements: loneliness, fear of abandonment, compulsiveness with women. Perhaps the book's main scholarly step forward is the depth of interviews and research the author conducted with the women in Monroe's life. Indeed, Smith remarks that "without exception," none of Monroe's platonic or romantic women friends had been interviewed before. These women reveal a second Bill Monroe, relaxed and gentle in private despite his imperious manner onstage.
Much of the book relies on the archives of the late Ralph Rinzler, a Smithsonian folklorist whose plans to write a Monroe biography were thwarted by his untimely death. Taking up where Rinzler left off, Smith employs solid scholarship and thorough fieldwork, yet he remains clearly in awe of his subject, ranking him as a "true giant of American music" on the level of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, and Charles Ives. Can't You Hear Me Callin' is the first published attempt at a comprehensive, critical biography of Bill Monroe. Surely, it won't be the last--a testament to the enigmatic genius whose every note extended one of our most emotive and demanding musical genres. --Edward Skoog --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
I am very glad Smith accurately and fairly portrayed the role the late Ralph Rinzler played in really saving Monroe's career and making him more known in the folk revival.
What is interesting is what the book shows about Monroe's character. Despite Smith's desire to guild the lily and create a halo around his hero, he unearths a history of great emotional problems that had a heavy impact on Monroe's life. Smith traces them from the difficult, lonely, childhood Monroe had all the way to Monroe's last days very consistently. Monroe was a compulsive womanizer throughout his life, never faithul in any relationship, usually having a semi permanent mistress in addition whatever common law or legal wife he had, and usually having several other women out on the road.
Plainly, Monroe was small minded and propriatorial about "owning" Bluegrass. He was especially hateful to others like his former employees starting with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs who dared to play it on their own. Monroe refused to speak to Lester and Earl for decades, threatened to fire his own band members for merely talking to Lester and Earl or members of their band, and refused to appear on the same bill at Bluegrass Festivals with them until he was forced too. This despite the fact both Flat and Scruggs retained a professional respect for Monroe then and now, while Lester Flatt and his wife always had a deep personal admiration and care for Monroe.Read more ›
There's been quite a bit of discussion of the book on several Bluegrass oriented internet lists, most of it positive, although there have been a few carping posts on the decision to expose some of unpublished, but oft-rumored, facts and incidents in Monroe's life.
Wisely bypassing the on-going "what is Bluegrass, anyway" debate, the book offers a very common-sensible approach to whether or not Monroe indeed invented the genre -- RDS posits an "auteur" theory of the foundation of Bluegrass, giving WSM the principle credit, but also elevating several others to near-founder status: Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin and, to a lesser, but important extent, Don Reno.
Richard talked to many (if not most) of the (surviving) women in WSM's life; they were seemingly very forthcoming about Bill and his good and bad traits, and their stories are integral to the overall picture. The one person who did not talk to him, who's input would have been invaluable, but who come across much better than I (and, I suspect, many others in the BG world) expected, was Bill's son, James. Input from surviving members of the BG Boys is also critical to the overall success and utility of the book.
One of the complaints that I have: the book is too short, and neglects to cover many of the stories that circulate in the Bluegrass world, either to confirm or debunk.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
very complete and fully informative of this megastar of Bluegrass-the information is high quality and fully informative -great readingPublished 1 month ago by Rev. Elliot
Found out so many things I didn't know about one of my favorite country stars.Published 2 months ago by Border Mom
Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, was man with a rich and full life, for nearly every day of his 85 years. Richard D. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Bradley L Kautz
Great book, can't wait for the sequel! Actually, I'm a big Bill Monroe fan and Bluegrass Musician myself. Really enjoyed this read.Published 20 months ago by Jeff
If you are interested in the history of bluegrass this is so informative.Published 21 months ago by cooking