Nearly a year ago, ahead of the arrival of the first edition of the IBMA World of Bluegrass extravaganza in Raleigh, I began searching for a direct, deep connection between the city and the storied genre of bluegrass. There are several, but one of the most neglected and notable, it seemed, involved the “Father of Bluegrass” himself, Bill Monroe.
Bill and his brother, Charlie, lived in Raleigh for a few years while working on a radio program for WPTF. They recorded in Charlotte and played shows throughout the region. They split in Raleigh and went their separate ways, with Bill eventually reaching iconic status.
So, how best to share that tell?
I searched for an extant location with ties to Monroe, somewhere I could film a handful of today’s bluegrass musicians keeping alive the spirit of the Monroe Brothers. WPTF doesn’t exist in the same location, but thanks to a chat with local musician Phil Cook, I hooked up with historian, preservationist and record producer Marshall Wyatt of Old Hat Records. Wyatt provided details on Bill Monroe’s former home at Filmore Street in Raleigh, saying it was still standing near downtown. He offered proof with an old Raleigh city directory.
With a little bit of gumption, Grayson Currin and I walked up to the front door of the house, knocked on the door and met the Storino family. Kim Storino graciously stood at her front door and heard the plea of two burly gentleman hoping to make movies in her house. She agreed. On the Friday of the festival, we invited a handful of folks to come discuss Monroe’s time in Raleigh and play a few songs the Brothers recorded while living in town.
First up was Marshall Wyatt himself, who offered an incredibly detailed account of the Monroe Brothers in Raleigh.
Chatham County Line came next. Below, you’ll hear them play “What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul?” And in the spirit of Bill Monroe and his ability to turn a quick buck, the group also played the title track from their new album, “Tightrope”.
Our next installment in The Monroe Reels will feature former Bluegrass Boy Peter Rowan, joined by a couple of special guests as he sang Monroe’s songs on the front porch on that sunny afternoon. Thanks to Gabe Nelson, Evan Lamb and Alysse Miller Campbell for their assistance with this project.
IBMA’s World of Bluegrass returns to Raleigh Sep. 30–Oct. 4, 2014. Chatham County Line plays a release show tonight for Tightrope at the Carolina Theatre in Durham.