Watch Billy Strings Cover Bill Monroe

By Andy Kahn Nov 5, 2020 12:45 pm PST

In 2016, guitarist Billy Strings was named Instrumentalist of the Year as part of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Momentum Awards recognizing early-career achievements of bluegrass musicians. In 2019, Strings earned Guitar Player of the Year recognition at the IBMA Awards, along with New Artist of the Year and being named among the Instrumental Performers of the Year.

The 31st Annual IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards were held virtually this year. Strings was nominated for Entertainer Of The Year and Guitar Player Of The Year, while his album Home was up for Album Of The Year and its track “Guitar Peace” competed for Instrumental Recording Of The Year. Strings did not add any trophies to his collection this year, but along with other four Guitar Player Of The Year nominees — including 2020 winner Jake Workman — he participated in a tribute to bluegrass legend Doc Watson.

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While Watson is frequently cited by Strings as an influence, another legend has no doubt impacted Strings’ playing: the Father Of Bluegrass himself, Bill Monroe. Strings’ appreciation for the Big Mon was on full display back on September 13 — what would have been Monroe’s birthday — when Strings incorporated several classic bluegrass tunes associated with Monroe into his setlist on his Meet Me At The Drive-In Tour stop at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Further examples of Billy picking Bill’s tunes can be found in the JamBase Live Video Archive. Here are five such instances of Strings covering Bill Monroe available via the JBLVA.

Can’t You Hear Me Callin’

Another bluegrass legend keeping Bill Monroe’s legacy alive is one-time member of Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, Del McCoury. While Del’s stint in the Big Mon’s renowned band was short, he nonetheless was able to share the stage with the bluegrass pioneer. Strings shared the stage with the Del McCoury Band at the 2019 Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, New York. Watch above a collaborative rendition of Monroe’s “Can’t You Hear Me Callin’’ which dates back to the late-1940s.


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Blue Moon of Kentucky

Other than bluegrass, the thing most associated with Bill Monroe is his home state of Kentucky. Monroe wrote several songs about the Bluegrass State, and recorded several more composed by others. One of Monroe’s best-known odes to his home commonwealth is “Blue Moon Of Kentucky,” which Strings is one of many to have covered. The video above from 2019 features Strings covering the song in Kentucky.


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Shenandoah Breakdown

The instrumental “Shenandoah Breakdown” is another of Monroe’s best-known compositions. Going back to Billy’s IBMA Momentum Award winning year, the video above features Strings performing live in 2016. The compact set featured not only “Shenandoah Breakdown,” but another tune often associated with Monroe, “Roll On Buddy, Roll On.”


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Little Cabin Home on the Hill

Billy also counts his father, Terry Barber, among his musical mentors. The father and son have shared the live stage together on numerous occasions, including earlier this year during their pre-pandemic “Family Strings” run of shows in their home state of Michigan. The video above features Billy and Terry teaming up on Monroe’s “Little Cabin Home on the Hill,” a late-1940s co-write by Monroe and bluegrass guitar legend Lester Flatt.


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Billy Strings (See 97 videos)
Billy Strings (See 726 videos) and Terry Barber (See 5 videos)

Southern Flavor

In 1988, Monroe released a studio album entitled Southern Flavor, that went on to win the first Grammy Award given in the Best Bluegrass Recording (Vocal or Instrumental) category (now called Best Bluegrass Recording). Strings can be seen playing the award-winning album’s title track during a recent socially distanced concert held at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado.


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