For more than half a century, Bill Monroe songs helped shape bluegrass with his mandolin playing blended with his high, lonesome singing and, of course, the prowess of his band, the Blue Grass Boys.
That being the case, Monroe is regarded as The Father of Bluegrass who gave older country sounds a brand-new life and turned the mandolin into a lead instrument – not only in country music but also in pop and rock. Most importantly, he has set a standard for musicians as distinct as Elvis Presley and George Jones just by treading his own musical path.
Today, we’re going to check out some of his greatest hits. Keep on scrolling below.
1. Blue Moon of Kentucky
Bill Monroe wrote the song, “Blue Moon of Kentucky” in 1945 and later on recorded it with his band, the Blue Grass Boys. Since then, it’s been considered as Kentucky’s official bluegrass song and was recorded by several artists, like Elvis Presley and Paul McCartney.
In 2002, Monroe’s version was chosen by the National Recording Registry as one of the fifty recordings added to the Library of Congress.
2. Uncle Pen
His fiddling uncle Pendleton Vandiver seems to have made a huge impression on Monroe that he wrote a song in his honor. In the country ballad, Monroe recounted some of his earliest musical influences and remembered his Uncle Pen, who would play his fiddle at town dances – and the moment he picked up his bow, the instrument would sing under his masterful command.
3. Kentucky Waltz
Monroe sings about lost love in “Kentucky Waltz,” which became his most successful release on Billboard’s Country & Western charts – peaking at No. 3. What makes it stand out is the way Monroe sang the ballad with heartbreaking loneliness as his mandolin gently trills behind him.
4. Mule Skinner Blues
This classic country ballad was first recorded by Jimmie Rodgers in 1930. Nine years later, Monroe performed “Mule Skinner Blues” for his debut on the Grand Ole Opry, where he successfully secured a spot.
In 1940, the song about a down-on-his-luck mule skinner hoping to land a job became Monroe’s first solo studio recording and eventually one of his signature tunes. Monroe re-recorded the song in 1950 as “New Mule Skinner Blues” with updated lyrics.
5. Swing Low Sweet Chariot
This is one of the best-known Christian hymns, with the earliest known recording can be traced as early as 1909. The song is a great reminder of the glory that’s waiting in Heaven, when Christians believe they will go beyond the earthly world of misery and pain and come to rest in their final home.
In 1951, Monroe released his version – which truly stood out among the countless recordings of the hymns because of its instrumental accompaniment combined with the soulful tenor he brought to the song.
6. I’m Working on a Building
“I’m Working on a Building” has become a standard of the genres. It was recorded countless times by countless artists, including The Carter Family, Elvis Presley, the Oak Ridge Boys, and of course, Monroe – who added the song to his regular set-list because of the numerous requests coming from his fans.
7. Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)
This country-folk song first gained attention when folk music group, the Carter Family, recorded it in 1927. Since then, the song about grieving a mother’s death has been recorded by different generations of artists – ranging from Bob Dylan to Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Monroe’s version was also one of the most notable ones.
8. I Hear a Sweet Voice Calling
Written by Monroe himself, the song appears on his 1947 album Blue Moon of Kentucky. It tells the story of a dying girl who faces the sure hope of going to Heaven. Monroe once performed the emotional ballad live with the Osborne Brothers, which music critics described as an “achingly beautiful yet electrically exciting music.”
In 1956, Elvis Presley – who was a big fan of Monroe – recorded a rough version of the song, giving it some boogie beat.
9. I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome
While the song’s authorship remains hazy, it’s the only tune credited to Monroe and Hank Williams – who worked together on several shows for many years. According to Colin Escott’s book, Hank Williams: The Biography, Williams played the song for Monroe while the two were on tour in Texas. In some way, Monroe wound up with a credit.
10. Molly and Tenbrooks
The song about two champion horses racing against each other was recorded by Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys in 1947. However, it was only released two years later. The Stanley Brothers also recorded the song, showing how strong and enduring Monroe’s influence on bluegrass style was.
Some More Bill Monroe Songs That Helped Shape The Bluegrass Genre
Truly, Bill Monroe was responsible for producing a plethora of bluegrass standards. Here are some more of his greatest hits.
These Bill Monroe songs are absolutely a work-of-art that will be as relevant as ever.