Bill Monroe, whose centennial occurred just last year, is renowned for creating the country style known as bluegrass. His career as a musical performer began in the 1930s, when he and his older brother Charlie played as the Monroe Brothers; their recordings from 1936 to 1939 are available on a two- volume collection from Rounder Records. After they parted ways, Bill headed a group called the Blue Grass Boys. Among the band’s members were Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, who latter performed together as a duo and then separately.
The main instruments of the bluegrass style are the guitar; the resonator banjo; and the mandolin, which Monroe himself played.You can find a quick rundown here Each of these musicians took turns playing solo between verses, unlike “old time music,” where they played together throughout. The soloists improved extensively, as in jazz. Occasionally, other instruments were used: In his 1981 instrumental “My Last Days on Earth,” Monroe used an orchestral string ensemble.
Many of Monroe’s songs were gospel tunes; others were about work, lost love, or other subjects. His best-known song is “Blue Moon of Kentucky” others include “Uncle Pen,” “Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine,” and a version of Jimmie Rodgers’s “Muleskinner Blues.”