About The Artist
James William Monroe is the son of bluegrass creator Bill Monroe. After working for several years as part of the Blue Grass Boys he formed his own band. While his group the Midnight Ramblers never attained the fame that the Blue Grass Boys did they remained an active outfit for several years.
James started in the Blue Grass Boys by playing bass fiddle, probably late in 1963 after the departure of Bessie Lee Mauldin. He does not appear on Decca sessions, however, until 1965. By 1969, he had moved on to playing guitar and singing duets with his father on such songs as Damon Black's "I Haven't Seen Mary in Years." The next year, James had his first and only solo release on Decca with a Damon Black follow up, "Sweet Mary and the Miles in Between" backed with "Bonny." He continued to record with the Blue Grass Boys until 1973 including duets with Bill, but had no more solo releases.
Not long afterward James formed a bluegrass band of his own — the Midnight Ramblers — and began booking festivals. His initial recordings were on the Atteiram label and included three albums: Something New! Something Different! Something Good! (API-1507), Midnight Blues (API-1524), James Monroe Sings Songs of "Memory Lane' of His Uncle Charlie Monroe (API-1532).
The Atteiram label was headquartered in Smyrna, Georgia. In 1974, it was seen as specializing in bluegrass music products. But its talent roster also included country artists, a top 40 group and one rhythm and blues and one sould artist. While their studios were in Smyrna, some two miles from the Atlanta loop, some sessions were done in the Hilltop studio in Nashville to gain access to particular musicians. National promotion for the label was handled by Little Richie Johnson. Its bluegrass roster included James, Carl Story, the Bluegrass Generation Bob and Hazel Wolfe and others.
For a time, James also had a bluegrass magazine Bluegrass Star which was later bought out by the more successful Bluegrass Unlimited.
He was part of the Bluegrass festivals in Bean Blossom, Indiana that were put on by his father, Bill. Many of the artists in the 1970 festival had played with Monroe at one time or another. The masters of ceremonies of the event in 1970 included Grant Turner, Paul Mullins, Jeff Cook and Glen Thompson. One highlight was to be the "...world's largest jam session, involving nearly 100 musiicans on stage at one time performing in the Monroe bluegrass style."
James was also part of the entertainment at the International Fan Fair gatherings in Nashville as well as the annual Opry Birthday celebrations over the years.
In 1973, James led the effort to renovate the recently purchased home of "Uncle Pen" (Pendleton Vandiver) and use it as a museum and showplace for the memorabilia of Bill Monroe. Some 6,000 spectators were present when a monument to Vandiver was unveiled during a bluegrass festival.
James hosted what was considered the first Bluegrass Festival held in Tennessee on July 2, 3 and 4, 1971.
In 1981, James opened a restaurant and listening room in the Madison area of Nashville. The venue was to feature regular performances by his father, Bill Monroe. The "Monroe Manor and Steakhouse Lounge" was housed in a remodeled mansion that was more than 100 years old. It had a showroom capable of holding 130 to 140 people along with several large private dining rooms. The location also had an outdoor listening area that was in an orchard next to the building that could accommodate about 1,500 people. The venue would cater to country music, bluegrass, western wsing and even have an "Urban Cowboy" night. Diners would not have to pay a cover charge with their meal, but if fans attended for only the music, charges were made depending on the day of the week.
As the years went by James and his band became less active. His most recent effort (date unknown) seems to have been a blue grass gospel compact disc, I Can Live Forever.
In 1997 at the age of 56, Chet Flippo reported on a new recording effort by James Monroe. He had returned to the studio for the first time in many years to record a tribute album to his father, the late Bill Monroe. "...It includes two previously unrecorded songs: "Bean Blossom Memories" is a tribute to Bill written by Damon Black, and "Roxanna Waltz" is a Bill Monroe composition that James found on an old Opry rehearsal cassette. "My Father: In Memory Of Bill Monroe," on the Raintree label, is (was) available through the Ernest Tubb Record Shops and Record Depot ...
At age 80, his musical career is likely over.
Credits & Sources
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