An encounter with Monroe, and beans…

I responded today to a request on a bluegrass forum for a receipe for beans (I’ll add that in a comment below).  Dan Cook, who originated the request, replied:

Hey thanks Peter. I agree with you that simpler is better. I've been
getting recipes with carrots, celery, mashed potatoes, shredded chicken
and everything else. I just want tasty beans and maybe a little ham in

Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, 1963, by Peter Feldmann

Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, 1963, by Peter Feldmann

By the way, I was listening to the old Bill Monroe & Doc Watson duet CD on Folkways the other day and noticed your name in the photo credits. Seeing them perform together must have been quite an experience. I was a latecomer to bluegrass music myself, never having been exposed to it until about 1984 or 1985 but Monroe and Watson were immediate favorites of mine. I had taken on a roommate who had a banjo and an enormous record collection. The 2 albums that caught my attention were _The High Lonesome Sound of Bill Monroe_ and a Doc Watson album whose title escapes me at the moment. I remember that parts of it at least were recorded live and included cuts of "Cypress Grove," "Darlin Cory," "Where I'm Bound," "Love Please Come Home," and an unusual rendering of "John Henry / Take This Hammer." Anyway, it was either Rinzler or Rosenberg who wrote the cover notes for the Monroe album and whet my appetite for bluegrass lore. I remember Monroe being described as a "terse Kentuckian" with an "intransigent spirit." I ended up buying my own copy of that album and having Monroe sign it just a couple of years later. I was taking my first few faltering steps as a rhythm guitar player and singer at the time. I'd taken the empty album jacket with me in the hopes of getting him to sign it. I was still not accustomed to the idea that fans could approach someone of Monroe's stature and I was very nervous. Bill was seated on the stairs at the side of the stage and when my turn came I wanted to say something to him besides just "please give me your autograph." The only thing I could think of was to ask him the lyrics to the chorus of "On My Back To The Old Home." (I knew about 5 songs at the time and that was one of them but the guys I was playing with couldn't agree on the lyrics in the chorus.) Bill asked me my name, signed the record cover and extended his arm as if to shake my hand. I'll never forget what he did next. He grabbed my hand and then my arm, pulled me toward him and sang the chorus into my ear from a distance of about 6 inches. I've heard all kinds of stories about Bill's physical strength and it's true, he had a grip like a vise on my hand and arm.It was a weird, riveting moment for me. When he released me, he made some kind of remark about making sure I played plenty of bluegrass on the radio. I was so startled by the greeting that I didn't really pay any attention to the radio remark until several minutes later. It was only then that I realized that he had seen an envelope sticking out of my shirt pocket with the logo and call letters of the local radio station that had comped me the tickets to the show. Even at that late stage of his career and in declining health, he was still remarkably strong and mentally sharp. It must have been something to see him in 1963! Dan

About Peter Feldmann

Peter Feldmann has long been a musical mainstay in Santa Barbara and Southern California. Besides actively performing bluegrass and old time music with a variety of groups, Peter is also known as a bluegrass historian, collector, music consultant, teacher, and producer, both of live concerts and radio/tv programs throughout the area. His music has been heard in clubs, concerts, saloons, universities, pre-schools, at weddings, wakes, parties, barn-raisings, calf-ropings, rodeos, auctions, fund raisers, wine tastings and chili cook offs. Peter founded Santa Barbara's Old Time Fiddler's Convention (1972), UCSB's Old Time Music Front (1964), and The Bluebird Cafe (1971). Through these and other outlets, he was the first to bring many prominent folk, blues, and bluegrass artists, including Bill Monroe, Mance Lipscomb, The Stanley Brothers, The New Lost City Ramblers, Fred McDowell, Furry Lewis, Rose Maddox, the Balfa Brothers, and many others to the Santa Barbara area. Peter also helped others access the music by teaching privately, and in group classes for Santa Barbara Continuing Education, UCSB Extension, and McCabes Guitars. He was the first on the West Coast to produce and market instruction Lps - three on How To Play Country Fiddle, and one each on Clawhammer Banjo, and Maybelle Carter Style Guitar. He still presents lectures on country music history at UCSB, Santa Barbara area libraries, and for various interest groups, festival workshops, etc. In 2006, he presented his monograph titled "The Big bang Of Bluegrass Music" (describing the origins of bluegrass 1938 - 1946) to the worlds first International Music Symposium at the University of Kentucky at Bowling Green. He has also been very active in radio, television, and film work, producing weekly shows on country and bluegrass music over a 21 year period on various commercial and public stations. Peter currently maintains three music-related websites, a music blog, and an entertainment service company, "BlueGrass West!", based in the Santa Ynez Valley in Southern California. Peter performs tunes and songs from the heart of America's musical treasure chest. His shows can include fiddle, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Well-known as a historian and teacher, Peter is first and foremost an entertainer, sharing his respect, energy and love for the music with his fellow musicians, friends, and audiences.
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1 Response to An encounter with Monroe, and beans…

  1. Pete says:

    The bean recipe:

    With beans, simpler is better. Best way I know is to soak them overnight, after a thorough washing in cold water. Take out any rocks, bottle tops, etc. you may find mixed in there.

    Your pot needs to be about 3x the size of the uncooked beans. They tend to swell up, like other certain things. Put some fat (olive oil, cut up bacon rinds, drippings, etc.) in the bottom of the pot and add an onion, cut up fine. Let it cook a little while and get nice and translucent, then add the beans + liquid. While they are cooking, keep them covered with water! They’ll use up an amazing amount of it. You can also use beef or chicken stock instead of plain water. Salt & pepper to taste. I like to add a bit of powdered cumin, but I live in the west. Cook ’em at low heat until they’re tender — time varies depending on the type of bean and how long they’ve been soaked.

    They’ll keep in the fridge for about a week if covered. I do not like to
    freez them, as freezing destroys the structure of the bean (like overcooking).

    Those beans will go well with a lot of things. Out here, of course, we love ’em with tortillas.

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