Bluegrass music is among Kentucky’s greatest cultural legacies. Musicians from Kentucky played key roles in crafting the trademark sounds of bluegrass so easily recognized today.
Groups can learn about how immigrants from England, Scotland and Ireland helped shape bluegrass music at one of Kentucky’s music museums. The Bill Monroe Museum, the Bluegrass Museum Hall of Fame and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum delve into the roots of Kentucky bluegrass, its talented musicians and its far-reaching influences.
Music fans can hear performances at the state’s many music venues, which play traditional bluegrass as well as other genres, such as gospel, country, jazz and pop. Travelers sit back and enjoy the sounds of the region and beyond at the Paramount Arts Center, the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center and the Mountain Arts Center.
Bill Monroe Museum
When Bill Monroe formed the Blue Grass Boys band in 1938, no one imagined he would birth a new genre of music. The group booked a regular spot on the Grand Ole Opry with its fast tempos, experimental style and instrumental virtuosity, signature elements that would become defining characteristics of bluegrass music. Monroe’s stardom and eventual influence earned him the moniker “The Father of Bluegrass.”
A museum dedicated to his life and legacy opened in 2018 in Rosine, his hometown. The Bill Monroe Museum features memorabilia from his life, such as the last car he drove, the porch swing from his Tennessee cabin and the last mandolin he ever played.
The museum also features awards and other exhibits from his long-lasting career as a recording artist and performer at the Grand Ole Opry. He remains the only person to be inducted into halls of fame that honor bluegrass, country and rock ’n’ roll.
The museum sits across the street from the Rosine Barn Jamboree, which plays live bluegrass music every Friday night. Groups can listen to modern takes on Monroe’s musical stylings and visit the nearby Bill Monroe Homeplace.
Guided tours of the homeplace reveal how the Monroe family of eight children worked at the farm without the aid of machinery. Restored in 2001, the home holds family belongings, early-20th-century furnishings and rare photographs of Monroe. The family’s cemetery plot lies just down the road.
“Rosine is a music attraction itself,” said Jody Flener, executive director of the Ohio County Tourism Commission. “Everything works together to retrace Bill’s life. When groups come, we can arrange for musicians to play at all the places they visit. We also arrange a special guided tour with storytelling. We have people in Rosine who knew Bill that can tell stories about him.”