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‘Back to the old home’: Bill Monroe

Photo: Kentucky Dept. of Tourism
Photo: Kentucky Dept. of Tourism
Photo: Kentucky Dept. of Tourism
Photo: Kentucky Dept. of Tourism

When the “Father of Bluegrass” moved with his family to Jerusalem Ridge, he was 7, the youngest of eight children. When the circa-1917 house was restored in 2001, Bill Monroe worked with artists on the restoration, choosing, as nearly as he could remember, the same shades of blue as the original. Today, those blue walls are the backdrop for his mother’s rocker, his parents’ bed and marriage license, a handmade wooden trunk possibly made by his grandfather, a wood stove that heated the boys’ room, pictures, and more.

“This home was built for Bill’s mother, Malissa Monroe, for his parents’ 25th anniversary—we think,” says Jody Flener, executive director of the Ohio County Tourism Commission. “The fireplace is original to this house. There is a ‘tater bug’ mandolin that, although not Bill’s, is the style of mandolin he learned to play on.”

Visitors to the home have included such noted musicians as Tom T. Hall, Ricky Skaggs, Ralph Stanley, and Ronnie Reno. They see the belongings that were used by the family and get a glimpse into the growing-up years of the boy who would go on to create a music genre.

A portrait of Monroe’s beloved Uncle Pen, handpainted by a local artist, hangs above the fireplace in his parents’ room. Pen would come for dinner and play his fiddle by the fireplace with his sister Malissa and nephews Bill, Charlie, and Birch, and then walk back over the hill to his cabin.

“The original setting is peaceful, calming—and one can almost hear the sounds of music in the atmosphere of the hills,” says Flener. “Stories are told by folks in Rosine of the times their grandparents would go up to the Homeplace, push back the furniture in James and Malissa’s room, and play music and dance.”

The legacy of the man himself is a talent that crosses multiple genres—Monroe has been inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. A groundbreaking for the Bill Monroe Museum in nearby Rosine is set for May 22 with plans for completion by his birthday in September.

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