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Program 611

1. Bill Monroe’s hometown
2. Howard Brandon’s antique cars
3. Catherine Smart Wells’ paintings
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Ohio County

Producer: Aaron Hutchings
Videographer: Gary Pahler

The Town Where Bluegrass Was Born


Rosine, located in Ohio County between Beaver Dam and Caneyville, is one of those sleepy little backroads towns with friendly people and a few stores. Its days as a lumber boomtown (thanks to the area’s native cedars) are long gone, and the population has dwindled so much that the city was unincorporated in 1990. But it has one claim to fame that no other town can make: As the birthplace of one William Smith Monroe, it is also the place where bluegrass music was born.

Bill Monroe was born in 1911 into a musical family. He was also the youngest of eight children, so the story goes that he picked a musical instrument more or less by process of elimination, choosing the mandolin because no other Monroe brother was playing it.

Both of Bill’s parents died while he was still a boy, and he moved in with his uncle Pendleton “Pen” Vandiver. Uncle Pen, a fiddler himself, helped Bill learn the mandolin, and Bill further refined his technique by studying Ohio County’s “Mandolin King,” Walter Taylor. At dances, he sometimes got to play along with African-American guitar man Arnold Shultz. Eventually, Monroe would synthesize Uncle Pen’s fiddle timing; Taylor’s mandolin licks; Shultz’s bluesy, hard-driving rhythms; and the high-pitched singing he heard in church into a new form of music—first called “bluegrass” in the 1950s.

In this Kentucky Life visit, long-time residents of Rosine remember the Monroe clan and talk proudly about the far-reaching musical influence of one of their native sons. (Bill Monroe is one of only a few performers who are members of both the Country Music and Rock and Roll halls of fame.) They include County Judge Dudley Cooper, Gail Taylor of the Ohio County Historical Society, and boyhood Monroe friends Wendell Allen and Otis Stogner. Allen died shortly after the interview in 1999; this segment is dedicated to his memory.

Calloway County

Producer, videographer: Dave Shuffett
Editor: James Walker

Classic Cars

Collector Howard Brandon

Howard Brandon was still five years shy of a driver’s license when he acquired his first car. At 11, he traded a shotgun for a classic car.

It was the beginning of a lifelong obsession, and the start of a collection that would eventually number in the hundreds. In this segment, host Dave Shuffett visits the Murray collector and takes a close look at just a few of his outstanding automobiles.

Johnson County

Producer, videographer, editor: Gale Worth

A Portrait of the Artist

Painter Catherine Smart Wells

The scenery around Flat Gap, in Eastern Kentucky’s Johnson County, is enough to inspire any artist. One who makes her home there is Catherine Smart Wells, who paints those natural surroundings in oils and watercolors.

Wells’ work has been exhibited at the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion, at the Mountain Arts Gallery, and in a traveling exhibit called “Images from the Mountains.” Of the last, one critic observed that “her show will make you feel good about living in Kentucky.”

Bringing a colorful ending to this program, we visit Wells at home and watch her at work as she translates nature to canvas.

SEASON 6 PROGRAMS: 601602603604605606607608: The Dixie Highway609
610: Along U.S. 68611612613614615616617618619620621622623

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