Review by Booklist Review
Ewing, a singer and guitarist in the last configuration of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, is also Monroe's principal nonacademic scholar. He edited The Bill Monroe Reader (2000) and now presents not a biography, he says, but a chronicle of the man who invented a musical style that has millions of fans and thousands of players worldwide. It's a record of facts, events, and comments by others besides Ewing, presented without color commentary and either musical or psychological analysis. That granted, Ewing interviewed 68 fellow former Blue Grass Boys and many other musicians and Monroe acquaintances as well as poring over every available pertinent document. He writes very well, indeed, if, as chronicles are wont to encourage, without razzamatazz. He presents information narratively, not via charts, lists, itineraries, and the like, and he preserves the vernacular wording, grammatical gaffes and all, of his informants. Every performance and recording seem accounted for, and any future biographers per se will just have to make this book their number-one resource. Plain bluegrass fans will worship and adore Ewing's achievement.--Ray Olson Copyright 2018 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In exhaustive detail, Ewing, who was a guitarist and singer in Bill Monroe's band, the Bluegrass Boys, for 10 years, provides a workmanlike chronicle of Monroe, known as the Father of Bluegrass. Drawing on interviews with 68 former Blue Grass Boys and hundreds of conversations with Monroe's family and friends, Ewing presents a complete story of the musician. Monroe was born in 1911 in Rosine, Ky., where as a kid he hauled lumber, dug potatoes, and watched his brothers sing with the Rosine Methodist Church choir. Ewing then traces Monroe's rise to fame decade-by-decade, from the mandolin player's early years with his brothers Charlie and Birch to their radio performances in the 1930s. In his 20s, Monroe formed his own band, which became known as the Bluegrass Boys, and developed a signature style of playing mandolin, marked by speed and accuracy. Ewing clearly illustrates that Monroe was instrumental in bringing bluegrass to a wider audience in the 1940s and 1950s through radio and, later, TV appearances. Before his death in 1996, Monroe was inducted into both the Country Music and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Although Ewing was close with Monroe, he offers a fair, objective, and entertaining chronicle that's never fawning or hagiographic. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A band mate recalls the life of Bill Monroe (1911-1996), perhaps the best-known popularizer of bluegrass in American musical history.Guitar, mandolin, banjo, stand-up bass, and a high-lonesome yowl: Those are the classic elements of bluegrass, codified by the man from Kentucky. As so often happened, that highly stylized variant of country music was the product of the big city, courtesy of a Chicago-based radio program that propelled Monroe to early fame. Ewing (editor: The Bill Monroe Reader, 2000), who played guitar with Monroe for a decade, serves up a cognoscenti's deep-dish version of bluegrass history that is not for the uninitiated: He writes in a typical passage of an influential forerunner of Monroe's "who owned and played a snakehead A-4 (but who usually picked a mandola or tenor banjo) and whose musicianship and style had a definite impact on Bill." If you don't know that a Snakehead A-4 was a kind of mandolin made by Gibson in the 1920s, then you'll be forgiven for being a little lostbut this is the kind of book whose readers will have command over the bluegrass arsenal. Without saying as much, the author shows how Monroe pioneered the festival circuit, jump-starting the famed Brown County Jamboree in Indiana. Though a purist in many ways, Monroe was also a pioneer of modern technology, perhaps the first major bluegrass musician to record digitally ("you can do several takes in a row and combine the best parts of each performance later," explained his producer). Ewing also offers casual, unlabored portraits of other key players in the bluegrass scene who admired one another while nursing deeply competitive streaks, as when Monroe expressed some pique when the music magazine Sing Out! dubbed Earl Scruggs "the undisputed master of Bluegrass music." That Monroe's is a household name among roots-oriented country fans speaks to his endless touring, recording, and self-promotion, helped along by a battery of fine players.Fans of bluegrass and old-school country will enjoy this behind-the-scenes look at Monroe's storied career. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.