Author: Rhynes, J.D.

Ten Reasons to Admire Rick Cornish
The year was 1973,and boy was I excited! I'd just found out that Bill Monroe was going to be playing at the Marin Civic Center in Marin County. Here it was late October and the show was only about two weeks away in early November. You talk about excited! Finally, a chance to see in person, the father of BluegrassMusic, the music that is still today the very heart and soul of my existence.As I write this today, it has been 34 years since, but the memory is so vivid, it seems like yesterday!

I got ahold of my pickin' buddy Vern Williams, and we agreed to go see Bill,no matter the cost. As Vern said; I dont care if it cost's Daddy a Mule, I'm a'goin! So, come the appointed day, Vern and I, along with Del, Vern's son, and Keith Little, all loaded up into Vern's Volkswagen Beetle, and off to Marin county we went. Of course, on the way over we sang a lot of Bill's songs, and quite a few were four part Gospel numbers. [If I could extract all of those notes that are stuck in that car, WHAT a treasure that would be!] We got to the Civic Center in plenty of time, went in and found our seats, and visited with a lot of folks that were there that we knew. Everybody that was into Bluegrass music at the time was there that night. There were two opening acts, the first one was a duo, that I cant remember the name of, but the second one was none other than the band High Country. Butch and the band were running on at least 150 Octane that night! Ed Neff fiddled one of the hottest versions of The Orange Blossom Special, that I'd ever heard up to that time. THEN, came the MAN! The band members that night was Bill on Mandolin, of course, Joe Stuart on guitar, and Jack Hicks on banjo, Kenny Baker on fiddle, and I think Monroe Fields was playing bass. Bill was in his prime back then, and did he ever put on a show. Toward the end of his show, he asked if any one had any requests/ Well, you know me, so I yelled out , as loud as I could; UNCLE PEN! Bill said, that's a good 'un, Kenny kick it off, and away they went on one of my favorite's!

Too soon, the show was over, and the Emcee for the evening, our very own Cuz'n Al thanked the folks for being there, and I turned to Vern and the boys and said; I'm going back stage and shake Bill's hand, wanna go with me? I dont remember if they did or not, as I wasn't going to miss this chance of a lifetime. I got back stage, and stood in line to get Bill to autograph my ticket stub. When my turn came, he autographed my ticket on the back of his Mandolin, and I told him; Mr Monroe, I'd like to shake your hand. Bill grasped my out reached hand, and it was like I'd got it in a vise! That man had the strongest grip of any man I've ever shook hands with, and that includes up to today. Bill was a HOSS![ Sonny Osborne told me one time, that Bill was the strongest man both physically, and mentally that he ever knew, and I believe it!

Well, by the time that we got out of the show, it was approaching 11:00 PM, and all four of us were as hungry as a bunch of winter starved Wolves! We agreed to head over the Golden Gate bridge to fisherman's Wharf and have us a nice late seafood supper. When we got on the 'Frisco side, the fog was about 20 feet thick on the ground, and we were kinda lost. I knew where we were, but I couldn't SEE where we wanted to go. Well, I was driving, so I stopped the car, jumped out and started looking at the stars. Keith said, Vern, what the hecky darn is J.D. doin? Vern jes answered in his inimitable country style, he's a'lookin fer the North Star. About that time I spotted it, jumped back behind the wheel, and headed straight to Fisherman's Wharf! Keith was laughing, and said: You can take the boy out of the country, but you sure cant take the "Country" out of the boy! We had a real good supper of wonderful seafood, loaded up and headed back to Calaveras County , arriving there in the wee hours in the morning. That was the first time that I got to see and meet my all time musical hero. It wasn't until after his passing that I realized how much this one man had affected my life. I tried to write this same story that I've written here for you folks, back in Sept. of 1996, but I just couldn't do it, as it was too hard to come to the realization that Bill was gone from this earth. Time is the great healer, and I ran across this story that I had started to write, but couldn't finish, in my binder where I keep my writings. I knew that the time had come to where I could, and should share this with all of you that love this man's music as much as I do.

Soo, that's the story of how i met Bill Monroe for tthe first time, and had a great time with Vern and the boys, a'singin four part harmony fer most of the trip, to and from Marin County, and 'Frisco.

Oh yes. About the title of this article. Rick Cornish called me earlier this week to remind me that I "was up" this Thursday for the Welcome Message, here on our web site, and could he suggest a title for today's column? I said, sure 'ol pal, and here ya are Rick. I took yer suggestion, but I have to confess that the original title that I wrote down back of September of 1996, was Bill Monroe Remembered. I hope that you folks enjoyed it as much as I do remembering those glory days of yesterday. Oh, to do them all again!

Yer Friend, J.D.Rhynes
Posted:  8/23/2007

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