Allow me one more trip into Kentucky and then I’ll get back to Tennessee.
Bill Monroe is one of the few people who created a musical genre, and visitors to Rosine, Kentucky can see his birthplace and his grave. The 1994 documentary, High Lonesome, depicted him walking around the house in which he was born and reminiscing about Uncle Pen and family life on Jerusalem Ridge. The house at that time was an abandoned wreck. Monroe died in 1996, and the Bill Monroe Foundation has restored the house and opened it for visitors.
No admission is charged to see Monroe’s home, which includes period furnishings and Monroe family items. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9 to 5 and on Sundays from 1 to 5. While we were there, a visiting picker asked if he could play his guitar on the front porch, and the lady in charge said that many people want to do that. Permission was granted. I was surprised to learn that the Monroe farm was so large–over 1,000 acres when Bill was born. His family was not poor.
The Foundation has big plans, which include reconstructing various farm outbuildings, brother Charlie Monroe’s home, and the cabin where Uncle Pen lived. According to a “membership opportunity” sheet handed out at the the home, the Foundation also wants to purchase the entire acreage once owned by the Monroe family and restore the town of Rosine to its 1920s appearance and build a music hall.
Pretty ambitious, I’d say. I was surprised to see that the Foundation has no web presence right now, with a dead link.
Nearby Rosine is where Monroe is buried. So many visitors come to the cemetery that a sidewalk has been built to his grave.
Monroe’s tombstone eulogist, who appears to be his son James, could have used a bit of editing, but it’s easy to wax rhapsodic about the father of bluegrass music. In the photo below, the colorful items that look like leaves are actually plastic picks left in tribute by, I assume, visiting musicians.
Of particular delight to me was finding the lesser-trafficked path to the grave of Pendleton Vandiver, Monroe’s maternal uncle, whose evening music sessions in the Monroe home were immortalized in the lyrics of “Uncle Pen.”
And here’s a close-up shot: