Brown County Bluegrass Music

Location: 5163 SR 135, at the Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park, Morgantown (Brown County, Indiana)

Installed 2016 Indiana Historical Bureau, Peaceful Valley Heritage Preservation, Inc., and Brown County Community Foundation

ID#: 07.2016.1

Visit Blogging Hoosier History to learn about the Brown County Jamboree and Bill Monroe in Indiana.

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Side One

The Brown County Jamboree began informally in Bean Blossom as a free outdoor show featuring local musicians. Gradually commercialized and professionally promoted, the Jamboree drew large crowds by 1941, including attendees from other states. The rural country music park brought live country music to thousands of people and increased exposure for its musicians.

Side Two

Bill Monroe, award-winning musician and “Father of Bluegrass Music,” took charge of the music park by 1952 and continued the regular Jamboree shows. He hosted an annual festival starting in 1967. By 1971, it included international performers and by 1976 drew over 30,000 attendees. Monroe died in 1996, but the festival continues at the Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park.

Annotated Text

The Brown County Jamboree began informally in Bean Blossom as a free outdoor show featuring local musicians.[1] Gradually commercialized and professionally promoted,[2] the Jamboree drew large crowds by 1941, including attendees from other states.[3] The rural country music park brought live country music to thousands of people[4] and increased exposure for its musicians.[5]

Bill Monroe,[6] award-winning musician and “Father of Bluegrass Music,”[7] took charge of the music park by 1952[8] and continued the regular Jamboree shows.[9] He hosted an annual festival starting in 1967.[10] By 1971, it included international performers[11] and by 1976 drew over 30,000 attendees.[12] Monroe died in 1996,[13] but the festival continues at the Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park.[14]

 

[1] Lester C. Nagley, "Sunday 'Recitals' Make Bean Blossom 'Brightest Spot' In Brown County," Indianapolis Star, August 10, 1941, Part One, 19, accessed Indiana State Library, microfilm; “May Broadcast Brown County Jamboree Soon,” Brown County Democrat, August 28, 1941, 1, Indiana State Library, microfilm; "Jamboree Under New Management," Brown County Democrat, April 10, 1952, 1, submitted by applicant; Thomas A. Adler, Bean Blossom: The Brown County Jamboree and Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Festivals (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011), 12-20.

The Brown County Jamboree began informally with local musicians meeting to play country music. Secondary sources and recollections of attendees (gathered by bluegrass historian Thomas Adler) agree that this occurred circa 1939. However, primary sources, including the area’s main newspaper, the Brown County Democrat, do not mention the Jamboree until 1941 when it was more regularly held and formally organized. On August 28, 1941, the Brown County Democrat reported on the Jamboree using language and phrasing implying that the paper’s readers were familiar with the event and thus that it had been established for some time – at least since the previous spring. The same article gives a further glimpse into the origins of the program:

The Brown County Jamboree, which it has been commonly named, was not formally planned but just grew out of an evening when a passing truckman with a loudspeaker system proposed that he connect it up and play records which he was allowed to do. The first performance proved so popular that it was repeated until local talent was added and the present programs are the result.

In August 1941, The Indianapolis Star described the stage as "a rustic platform, electrically-lighted and equipped with an amplifying system” and explained that the musicians were a mix of fiddlers and “rural crooners.” In the section “The Free Show and the Open Air Platform, 1939-41” in Chapter Two of Bean Blossom, Adler gives more information about the early Jamboree performers. (See also, footnote five).

[2] "Local News in Brief," Brown County Democrat, December 1, 1938, 4, Indiana State Library, microfilm; "Over The County," Brown County Democrat, August 1, 1940, 2, Indiana State Library, microfilm; Lester C. Nagley, "Sunday 'Recitals' Make Bean Blossom 'Brightest Spot' In Brown County," Indianapolis Star, August 10, 1941, Part One, 19, accessed Indiana State Library, microfilm; "May Broadcast Brown County Jamboree Soon," Brown County Democrat, August 28, 1941, 1, Indiana State Library, microfilm; Frank M. Hohenberger, photograph, 4" x 5", Brown County Jamboree Tent, September 29, 1941, Box 17, Item 6, Hohenberger Collection, Lilly Library, Indiana University, copy submitted by applicant; "Beanblossom Gets Community House," Indianapolis Times, October 10, 1941, 11, accessed Indiana State Library microfilm; "Plans Drawn for Building to House Jamboree," Brown County Democrat, October 23, 1941, 1, Indiana State Library, microfilm; "In Brown County," Tipton Tribune, October 6, 1942, 4, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; Advertisement, Brown County Democrat, May 25, 1944, in Adler, 43; Warranty Deed, Francis Rund and Mae Rund to Birch Monroe, August 17, 1959, [Deed Record #1129] Recorded August 21, 1957, Brown County, Indiana, submitted by applicant; Adler, 12-20, 23 [map], 36 [map], 38 [barn diagram], 43 [advertisement].

On August 10, 1941, the Indianapolis Star reported on the location of the Jamboree grounds, noting it was "the intersection of Ind. 135 and Ind. 45” in the “crossroads village in the Bean Blossom valley.” On August 28, 1941, the Brown County Democrat reported that the Jamboree was hosted by “Dan Williams, proprietor of the lunch room at the south edge of Beanblossom.” By September of 1941, the event was being held in a large circus-type tent as seen in a photograph from this period by well-known local photographer Frank M. Hohenberger.  The Indianapolis Times confirmed this, reporting on October10, 1941, "Recently the Sunday night entertainments have been held in a large tent.” In the same article, the Times reported on the grounds: “Dan Williams, filling station owner, permitted local entertainers to use his yard for singing and dancing."

Local couple, Francis and Mae Rund were building cabins on their Bean Blossom property for a tourism-related business as early as August 1940, according to the Brown County Democrat.  According to an August 10, 1941 Indianapolis Star article, by the summer of 1941, the large crowds coming to the Jamboree were causing traffic and parking problems and more seating was needed at the outdoor venue (see footnote three). On August 28, 1941, the Brown County Democrat reported that a permanent building (as opposed to a tent) would be erected so the programs could also be held in the winter. The Indianapolis Times reported the weekend of October 10, 1941: "Construction work was started this week on a community building to house the Sunday night Brown County Jamborees." The barn-like building was funded by residents and was to seat 2,500 attendees. On October 23, 1941, the Brown County Democrat reported:

 Plans for a large permanent building to be used for the Brown County Jamboree in Beanblossom to replace the tent which is now being used have been completed. . . It is to be located on the land owned by Francis Rund just north of Beanblossom where the tent which houses the jamboree now stands.

The 1959 Warranty Deed shows that this land was bounded by Indiana Highway 135 and the Bean Blossom cemetery, Township 10 North, Range 3 East, Brown County, Indiana. Adler’s book Bean Blossom contains a map of the grounds in 1941 on page 23, a map of the grounds with the permanent “barn” structure on page 36, and scale plan of the “barn” on page 38.

Like the organization, the promotion for the Jamboree began locally. Local merchants donated prizes, often in the form of groceries or cash, “to lure folks and their families to come out for the recitals,” according to an August 10, 1941 article in the Indianapolis Star. The lack of an admission fee was also a draw as was the lack of other organized local entertainment.  The aforementioned Star article attributes some of the success of the Jamboree to a lack of movie theaters or taverns. However, Francis and Mae Rund further professionalized the endeavor. The Runds ran large advertisements for the Jamboree in the local newspaper and made partnerships with nearby radio stations, notably WIRE and WFBM, Indianapolis.  The best advertisement for the Jamboree may have been the musicians themselves, who performed across the state and, more importantly, on the radio. See footnote five for more information on the musicians’ performances.  According to Adler, however, the advertising and perhaps the Runds’ interest waned by 1951. The Jamboree needed a new owner.

[3] Lester C. Nagley, "Sunday 'Recitals' Make Bean Blossom 'Brightest Spot' In Brown County," Indianapolis Star, August 10, 1941, Part One, 19, Indiana State Library, microfilm; “Over the County,” Brown County Democrat, August 14, 1941, 2, Indiana State Library, microfilm; “May Broadcast Brown County Jamboree Soon,” Brown County Democrat, August 28, 1941, 1, Indiana State Library, microfilm; “Plans Drawn for Building to House Jamboree,” Brown County Democrat, October 23, 1941, 1, Indiana State Library, microfilm.

Using his idea of a colloquial Hoosier dialect (such as referring to out-of-towners as “furriners”), Lester C. Nagley wrote for the Indianapolis Star August 10, 1941:

Brown count has developed here in this peaceful village in the Bean Blossom valley a crossroads style of outdoor-caberet entertainment each Sunday evening. Thousands of furrriners who have been touring Hoosierdom on their vacations and have been visiting Brown county’s hills are writing postcards to send back-home, telling their acquaintances about this rustic program of Sunday evening recitals of Brown County Music . . . Well, the fiddling and the ballad singing has gone over big for the last six weeks and traffic jams at this crossroads village in the Bean Blossom valley from sundown to almost midnight have required special duty by state police. Cars bearing many foreign tags . . . are thronging the village. Parking space is becoming a problem too.

The Brown County Democrat reported August 14, 1941, “Another large crowd was here Sunday evening attending the free show.”  The Democrat reported August 28, “Large crowds have been attracted to the place and each evening the performance has been staged the crowds have been becoming larger. Attendance was estimated at over 4,000 for last Sunday night.” On October 23, 1941, the Democrat reported, “The Jamboree given each Sunday night has attracted large crowds from far and near with cars from sixteen different states bringing customers last Sunday night.”

[4]Lester C. Nagley, "Sunday 'Recitals' Make Bean Blossom 'Brightest Spot' In Brown County," Indianapolis Star, August 10, 1941, Part One, 19, accessed Indiana State Library microfilm; "Beanblossom Gets Community House," Indianapolis Times, October 10, 1941, 11, accessed Indiana State Library microfilm; Adler, xv- xxii, 40.

After the Runds took over the Jamboree in 1941 (see footnote three), the show continued to draw large crowds.  Even gas rationing during World War II couldn’t keep the attendees away.  One participant joked that the limited gasoline only kept people from leaving Bean Blossom. Adler explained, “Rationing took effect locally in late 1942, but audiences never abandoned the Jamboree. Weekly attendees from inside the county sustained the show through the war and the following years; this pattern remained unchanged until late-1960s bluegrass festivals began to draw national and international fans.” (Adler, 40)

The shows during the Rund decade (1941-51) generally featured a variety show format hosted by an emcee, which included comedic performers as well as music.  However, the country and “hillbilly” music was always the main draw. Adler writes, “Brown County Jamboree shows were professional, fast paced, and entertaining. From the beginning, the music, comedy, and ambience of the site combined to present a nostalgic and entertaining whole.” (Adler, 28) The Indianapolis Star on August 10, 1941 described the Jamboree as “a co-operative program providing real, homespun talent, rail-fence variety of music and frivolity . . . old fiddlers and rural crooners, who would sing and warble Brown county ballads brought over the mountains by their pioneer ancestors.” The Indianapolis Times noted October 10, 1941 that in addition to “singing and dancing” the Jamboree included “vaudeville skits.”

According to Adler, the site soon became an important “rural country music park,” one of several venues in the country that shared some common characteristics: a rural setting, simple facilities and sound systems, private ownership, family orientation, accessibility, and available picnic and camping grounds. Individuals and families built rural country music parks beginning in the period after the Great Depression, when individual wealth increased along with mobility stemming from greater access to automobiles. Most were located in the Midwest, the South, and Pennsylvania. Sunday afternoon shows were a regular feature at these venues. (See the map of rural country music park distribution in Adler’s “Introduction.”)

[5] "Plans Drawn for Building to House Jamboree," Brown County Democrat, October 23, 1941, 1, Indiana State Library, microfilm; "In Brown County," Tipton Tribune, October 6, 1942, 4, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; "Hill Billies to Perform at Picnic; Wakeman Soldiers To Be Guests," Jewish Post, July 27, 1945, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Advertisement, Jasper Herald, April 12, 1947, 6, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; Advertisement, (Putnum County) Daily Banner, August 30, 1955, 6, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; "Jamboree Under New Management," Brown County Democrat, April 10, 1952, 1, submitted by applicant; Advertisement, Tipton Tribune, November 8, 1955, 8, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; "Big Brown County Jamboree at Cooper Theater Saturday," Brazil Daily Times, November 28, 1955, 16, accessed NewspaperArchive.com.

The large numbers of Jamboree attendees helped several local Brown County musicians make a name for themselves across the state. Additionally, radio exposure and other concerts around the state under the Jamboree moniker raised the musicians’ renown.  On October 23, 1941, the Brown County Democrat reported that the Indianapolis radio station WIRE referenced the Jamboree many times during its programs.  On October 6, 1942 the Tipton Tribune reported that the special attraction at the Brown County Jamboree was a band from radio station WIRE, Indianapolis. The band was Ace Bailey and his Utah Trailers.

By 1945, the musicians who played the Bean Blossom concerts often used the name “Brown County Jamboree” when performing across the state and on radio stations. On July 27, 1945, the Jewish Post reported that twenty-five “members of the Jamboree” would perform at the congregation picnic for 200 soldiers from Wakeman Hospital. On April 12, 1947 the Jasper Herald ran an ad for a performance by Ace Bailey's Famous Utah Trailers in Huntington, reading "Brown County Jamboree presents…"

The Brown County Jamboree continued to help local musicians garner exposure under Bill Monroe.  Monroe brought in “big names” from the Grand Ole Opry and billed local musicians along with them.  The Jamboree musicians, and Monroe himself, continued to perform around the state and on the radio. 

On August 30, 1955 the Putnam County Daily Banner ran an ad for the Brown County Jamboree, referring to the musicians, performing at the Maplecroft Auto Theatre. These ads ran in the paper throughout the summer and fall of '55. On November 8, 1955, the Tipton Tribune ran an ad for a performance by Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys at the Ritz Theater.  The show also included Birch Monroe and the Brown County Jamboree band. On November 28, 1955, in an announcement about a live performance, the Brazil Daily Times noted that the Brown County Jamboree band was "heard daily during the noon hour over radio station W.I.B.C., Indianapolis.”

[6] 1920 United States Census (Schedule 1),  District 130, Rosine, Ohio County, Kentucky, Roll T625_594,  page 18B, Line 68, February 6, 1920, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; U.S. Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014, Number 242-09-9641, Issue Date Before 1951, Social Security Administration, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; Photograph, “William ‘Bill’ Smith Monroe,” Rosine Cemetery, Rosine, Kentucky, accessed Find-A-Grave; Ralph Rinzler, Annotations/Liner Notes, Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys: Live Recordings 1956-1969, Off the Record, Volume One, Smithsonian Folkways, (Washington DC: Smithsonian/Folkways Records, 1993), 6, 8; Richard D. Smith, The Life of Bill Monroe Father of Bluegrass (Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 2000), x-xi.

William (Bill) Monroe was born September 13, 1911 in Rosine Kentucky. As a boy Monroe learned to play the mandolin and by the early 1930s, along with his brother, formed a successful country music duet, the Monroe Brothers. (Listen to “New River Train” by the Monroe Bothers). By the late 1930s, Monroe formed the Blue Grass Boys, a group which would eventually earn him international renown. (Listen to “Uncle Pen” by the Blue Grass Boys). In 1939, Bill Monroe won a regular spot on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville Tennessee. The Opry was significant because it was nationally broadcast over the radio, turning its performers into household names. According to Richard S. Smith in his acclaimed biography The Life of Bill Monroe Father of Bluegrass: “His chief claim to fame has been as the creator of a highly personal and instantly recognizable style of acoustic country music. . . This music was eventually termed ‘bluegrass’ in honor of Monroe’s band the Blue Grass Boys.” His high vocals and mandolin lines were accompanied by vocal harmonies and other traditional country instruments such as the fiddle and standup bass. He is credited with creating the entire genre of Bluegrass.  For more information see footnote seven.  See Ralph Rinzler’s annotations for the Smithsonian Folkways collection of Monroe’s live recordings for a five part explanation on Monroe’s influence and significance to Bluegrass.

[7] Robert Shelton,"Bluegrass, from Hills and City," New York Times, September 30, 1962, X15, accessed ProQuest Historical Newspapers; "Merle Haggard Takes Country Music Honors," Kingsport (Tennessee) Times, October 15, 1970, 4A, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; Bill Shaw, "Bluegrass Fans Gathering for 11th Bill Monroe Festival," Indianapolis Star, June 9, 1977, 34, Indiana State Library, microfilm; Sheila Rule, "The Pop Life," New York Times, February 24, 1993, C17, accessed ProQuest Historical Newspapers; "Remarks on Presenting the Arts and Humanities Awards, October 5, 1995," Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton, 1995, Book II, July 1 to December 31, 1995 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1996), 1540-41, accessed GoogleBooks;  Jon Pareles, "Bill Monroe Dies at 84; Fused Musical Roots into Bluegrass," New York Times, September 10, 1996, n.p., accessed NYTimes.com; "Inductees List," Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, accessed countrymusichalloffame.org; "Lifetime Achievement Award," GRAMMY Awards, accessed grammy.com; "Inductees," International Bluegrass Music Museum, accessed bluegrassmuseum.org; "The 1997 Induction Ceremony," The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum, accessed rockhall.com/inductees/ceremonies/1997; Jon Pareles, "The Rock-and-Roll Honors in Cleveland" New York Times, September 10, 1996, n.p. accessed NYTimes.com.

Writing for the New York Times in 1962, music critic Robert Shelton stated, “The consensus is that Bill Monroe, mandolinist and tenor, is the 'father' of Bluegrass. From his various bands formed in Kentucky and from his performances on 'Grand Ole Opry' since 1939, a whole new breed of music and musicians has been sired." In 1977, the Indianapolis Star reported that the Smithsonian Institute declared Monroe “the Father of Bluegrass.” He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (1970), Bluegrass Hall of Fame (1991), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1997) for his contribution to the creation of the genre of bluegrass. At the 1993 Grammy Awards, Monroe won the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' Lifetime Achievement Award.

On October 5, 1995, President Bill Clinton presented Bill Monroe with the National Medal of the Arts Award for "his truly innovative and inventive style" which "embodies the essence of the American spirit."  President Clinton stated," Bill Monroe is truly an American legend. He's added so much through his lifetime career to the rich heritage of this great Nation's music." Upon receiving the medal, Monroe stated, "I have played for the last four Presidents of the United States...and they all tell me that the music I originated belongs to America. And I'm really proud of that. It's a great honor."

Upon his death in 1996, the New York Times referred to Monroe as "the universally recognized father of bluegrass" and reported that he "helped lay the foundation of country music." The writer, Jon Pareles, continued:

Mr. Monroe, who played mandolin and sang in a high, lonesome tenor, created one of the most durable idioms in American music. Bluegrass, named after his band, the Blue Grass Boys, was a fusion of American music: gospel harmonies and Celtic fiddling, blues and folk songs, Tin Pan Alley pop and jazz-tinged improvisations. The Blue Grass boys sang, in keening high harmony, about backwoods memories and stoic faith; they played brilliantly filigreed tunes as if they were jamming on a back porch, trading melodies among fiddle, banjo, and Mr. Monroe's steeling mandolin. By bringing together rural nostalgia and modern virtuosity, Mr. Monroe evoked an American Eden, pristine yet cosmopolitan.

[8] “Brown County Jamboree Sold,” Franklin Evening Star, April 1, 1952, 1, Indiana State Library, microfilm;  "Jamboree Under New Management," Brown County Democrat, April 10, 1952, 1, Indiana State Library, microfilm; Warranty Deed, Francis Rund and Mae Rund to Birch Monroe, August 17, 1959, [Deed Record #1129] Recorded August 21, 1957, Brown County, Indiana, submitted by applicant; "Bill Monroe Heads Annual Blue Grass Festival," Indianapolis Star, June 13, 1971, Section 8, 8, accessed Indiana State Library, microfilm; Bill Monoe Interviewed by Pete Churton, Recorded by Duane Busick at the 1976 Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival, accessed YouTube; Warranty Deed, Birch Monroe to Bill Monroe, May 24, 1976, [Deed Record #8993] Recorded May 28, 1976, Brown County, Indiana, submitted by applicant; Adler, 48-57.

The Franklin Evening Star reported on April 1, 1952:

Mr. and Mrs. Francis Rund, of Stones Crossing, founders and managers for the last 13 years of the famous Brown County Jamboree, located on Ind. 135 at Beanblossom, announced the sale of their business today. The widely-known entertainment mecca has been purchased by William Monroe . . .

 The Brown County Democrat confirmed on April 10, 1952:

The famous Brown County Jamboree at Bean Blossom has new owners. Mr. and Mrs. Francis Rund, founders and owners for 13 years, have sold the Jamboree Hall to the Grand Ole Opry entertainer, Bill Monroe, of Nashville, Tennessee.

 Monroe himself confirmed the 1952 date in a later interview, stating:

This festival here in Bean Blossom Indiana . . . It means a lot to me. I bought this place here back in ‘52 and to set out to have a home base here where we could play to the folks and give them a chance enjoy and to learn about bluegrass music.  And It’s really growing in this state and I’m glad that it has.

Adler collected several recollections that claim Monroe, with the support of fellow musicians and local investors purchased the property from the Runds in 1951 with his “functional acquisition” occurring in the spring of 1952. In 1959 Francis and Mae Rund officially transferred the property to Birch Monroe, Bill’s brother, for the price of one dollar. Birch acted as groundskeeper as Bill commuted from his farm in Nashville Tennessee to Bean Blossom. In 1976, Birch deeded the property to Bill.

[9] "Jamboree Under New Management," Brown County Democrat, April 10, 1952, 1, submitted by applicant; “Fox Hunters to Meet at Bean Blossom,” Brown County Democrat, May 1, 1952, 1, Indiana State Library, microfilm; Advertisement, Brown County Democrat, November 5, 1953, 6, Indiana State Library, microfilm; Advertisement, Brown County Democrat, September 19, 1963, submitted by applicant; Adler, 54. See footnote 5 for advertisements for the Brown Bounty Jamboree musicians playing around the state.

The Brown County Democrat reported April 10, 1952 that when Bill Monroe purchased “the famous Brown County Jamboree” the show continued to operate “every Sunday night from the first Sunday in May until the first Sunday in November.” Advertisements promoting the park and musicians under the moniker “Jamboree” continued throughout the 1950s and 60s. However, according to Adler, in the Monroe years, there was much less advertising.  The regular show was well-known and attended and so most of the advertising was done through posters.  Adler also states that the Jamboree under Monroe fell into a regular pattern: “Bill opened each season and played frequent shows in the barn and also used the park for other non-Jamboree events, especially those involving rural pursuits like fox hunting…” (Adler 54)

            One example of an advertisement which ran in the Brown County Democrat September 19, 1963 read:

Bill Monroe’s Brown County Jamboree, Beanblossom, Ind.
Sunday, September 22, 2 shows 3 & 8 p.m.
Local Talent Hootenanny at 6 p.m.
From the Grand Ole Opry: Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys
Bluegrass by: Roger Smith, Vern McQueen and the Boys, Bob Krise and the Indiana Playboys
Bluegrass and Folk Music Headquarters in Indiana

[10]Robert Shelton, “Bluegrass Style: Mountain Music Gets Serious Consideration,” New York Times, August 30, 1959, X17, accessed ProQuest Historical Newspapers; Advertisement, Brown County Democrat, June 22, 1967, Indiana State Library, microfilm; Advertisement, Brown County Democrat, June 19, 1969, Indiana State Library, microfilm; Adler, 66-75, 92-93.

With the rise of rock and roll in the first half of the 1950s, people were much less interested in country music, according to Adler.  This affected attendance at the Jamboree and fewer people visited Bean Blossom.  However, with the revival of the folk movement in the late 1950s and early 60s, Bill Monroe and his unique style of bluegrass attracted national attention once more. Long time New York Times music reporter Robert Shelton noted in 1959 that bluegrass “is enjoying a vogue in city folk music circles.” Shelton wrote that, through changing tastes, bluegrass was “earning the reconsideration of many serious listeners.” This reinvigorated interest in Bean Blossom as well, and the time was right for Monroe’s next move: a large annual bluegrass festival.

The first yearly festival hosted by Bill Monroe in 1967 was called the “Big Blue Grass Celebration.”  (According to Adler, Bill Monroe did not want to put his name on the event and did not want the word “festival” included because competing bluegrass and folk events used the term.) It was officially a two day event, June 24 and 25, but according to Adler, there were a few performances and a dance June 23 as well. The advertisement for the festival read “Brown County Jamboree Presens” before the event title, emphasizing the renown of the Jamboree. According to a June 22, 1967 advertisement in the Brown County Democrat, the main performers were Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mt. Boys, Benny Martin and Rudy Lyles, Hylo Brown, and the McCormick Brothers.  The post also advertised the camping grounds.  Other than the advertisement, the Brown County Democrat did not cover the event.  IHB staff searched the newspaper from June 15 through July 13, 1967 and there was no coverage.  Adler uses recollections obtained in interviews to paint a picture of the first event. See Adler, 90-98 for more information.

 According to a June 15, 1969 article from the Indianapolis Star, the 1968 three-day event attracted ten thousand people. By 1969 the event was billed as “Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Festival” and the location referred to as the “Brown County Jamboree Park.” Again according to the Indianapolis Star, the 1969 festival was extended to a four day event. Highlights included “a banjo-pickin’ contest,” a bluegrass band contest, a “sunset jam session,” an “old-time square dance,” a workshop for learning bluegrass instruments, and church services. When the headlining musicians weren’t performing, they participated in “pick and sing” sessions, improvisational jams where the professionals and amateur players exchanged ideas.

[11]“The ‘Bluegrass Sound,’” Indianapolis Star, June 15, 1969, 42, Indiana State Library, microfilm; Frank Overstreet, "Bill Monroe's Fifth Annual Bluegrass Festival (First International Bluegrass Festival)," Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine (1971): 6-7, submitted by applicant; "Bill Monroe Heads Annual Blue Grass Festival," Indianapolis Star, June 13, 1971, Section 8, 8, accessed Indiana State Library microfilm; "Beanblossom Hills Alive with Sounds of Banjos," Indianapolis News, June 15, 1972, 16, Indiana State Library, microfilm; Adler, 109

The Indianapolis Star reported that the 1969 festival included “Pete Sayers, country singer from London, England,” and Adler writes that Sayers returned in 1970.  However, Sayers appears to be the only foreign performer until 1971. Writing for Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine in 1971, Frank Overstreet, a musician and festival attendee, reported, "Judging by the number of people, the festival was a huge success.”  He also reported on the event being the first international festival at Bean Blossom. He wrote, "The international aspect of bluegrass was brought to light at the festival this year by the presence of a New Zealand group, the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band and a Japanese one, The Bluegrass 45.” In June 1971, the Indianapolis Star described Monroe as "an adopted Hoosier" and "the founder of the annual Blue Grass Music Festival to be held this week at the Brown County Jamboree in Bean Blossom."  The paper noted that the festival included concerts, jam sessions, dancing, a church service, a bluegrass music school, and bands which travelled from all over to perform, including from other countries. Nonetheless, the main attraction remained Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys "who started it all." In June 1972, the Indianapolis News reported that the previous year’s festival drew 15,000 people.

[12] Frank Overstreet, "Bill Monroe's Fifth Annual Bluegrass Festival (First International Bluegrass Festival)," Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine (1971): 6-7, submitted by applicant; Bill Knowlton, "Monday 21 June 1971 (Blue Monday Morning)," Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine (1971): 5, submitted by applicant; "Beanblossom Hills Alive with Sounds of Banjos," Indianapolis News, June 15, 1972, 16, Indiana State Library, microfilm; Phillip Allen, "Strings Whine, Toes Tap At Blue Grass Hoedown," Indianapolis News, June 13, 1973, 1, accessed Indiana State Library, microfilm;"Preview of Coming Attractions," Anderson Sunday Herald, June 13, 1976, 30, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; John S. Mason and William M. Shaw, "Bill Monroe Father of Bluegrass," Indianapolis Star, June 16, 1976, 1, accessed Indiana State Library, Clippings file; Bill Shaw, "Bluegrass Fans Gathering for 11th Bill Monroe Festival," Indianapolis Star, June 9, 1977, 34, Indiana State Library, microfilm; Bill Monroe Interviewed by Pete Churton, Recorded by Duane Busick at the 1976 Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival, accessed YouTube; "Preview of Coming Attractions," Anderson Sunday Herald, June 13, 1976, 30, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; Adler, 123-4.

According to Adler, the “golden age of the festival” was 1972-1982, a period which saw steady growth in attendance. In June 1972, the Indianapolis News reported that the previous year’s festival drew 15,000 people and that organizers were expecting up to 35,000 people for the 1972 event. In June 1973, the Indianapolis News reported that 35,000 people attended the festival. In June 1976, just ahead of the festival, the Indianapolis Star reported that festival organizers again expected up to 35,000 people to attend. In the midst of the festival, Monroe confirmed in a locally televised interview that the numbers of attendees was above 30,000. Monroe also stated that attendees represented thirty-six different states and eight foreign counties. In 1977, the festival was extended to nine days (from seven days the previous year) to accommodate the growing crowd.  The Indianapolis Star reported on June 9, 1977 that organizers were expecting crowds of up to 50,000 people. 

[13] “William S. Monroe,” U.S. Social Security Death Index 1935-2014 database, Number 242-09-9641, Social Security Administration, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; Photograph, “William ‘Bill’ Smith Monroe,” Rosine Cemetery, Rosine, Kentucky, accessed Find-A-Grave; Jon Pareles, "Bill Monroe Dies at 84; Fused Musical Roots into Bluegrass," New York Times, September 10, 1996, n.p., accessed NYTimes.com; Diana Penner, “Bluegrass Giant Recalled As Honest, Friendly, Caring,” Indianapolis Star, September 10, 1996, A2, accessed ProQuest.com; Jon Pareles, "The Rock-and-Roll Honors in Cleveland" New York Times, September 10, 1996, accessed nytimes.com.

Bill Monroe died September 9, 1996 in Tennessee days before his 85th birthday. According to the Indianapolis Star, even while he was sick in the hospital, he played his mandolin for the other patients. On September 10, 1996, New York Times reporter John Pareles wrote:

He perfected his music in the late 1940's and stubbornly maintained it, and he lived to see his revolutionary fusion become the bedrock of a tradition that survives among enthusiasts around the world . . . Every musician now playing bluegrass has drawn on Mr. Monroe's repertory, his vocal style and his ideas of how a string band should work together. And his influence echoes down not just through country music but from Elvis Presley (who recorded Mr. Monroe's 'Blue Moon of Kentucky' on his first single disk) to bluegrass-rooted rock bands like the Grateful Dead and the Eagles.

The following year Bill Monroe was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

[14] Warranty Deed, William S. Monroe’s to James Monroe, 1998 [Deed Record #9800001164] Recorded March 18, 1998, Book 4, pp 460-1, Brown County, Indiana, submitted by applicant; Scott Hall, "Blossoming Anew," (Johnson County) Daily Journal, June 11, 1998, Section B, 1, 9, submitted by applicant; Photograph of Sign, “Bill Monroe’s Memorial Music Park & Campground” in Adler, last page of unpaginated photo section after Chapter 7; “About Us,” Bill Monroe Music Park & Campground,” http://www.beanblossom.us/; Advertisement, “Images to Share, Bill Monroe Music Park & Campground,” http://www.beanblossom.us/.

Upon Monroe’s death in 1996, the deed was transferred to his son James. In 1998, Dwight Dillman purchased the park and named it “Bill Monroe’s Memorial Park & Campground.  At time of writing (February 2016), the music park was advertising the “50th Annual Bill Monroe Memorial Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival” to be held June 11 – June 18, 2016.