Please send us your memory
We recommend that you visit Jim Moss’ website to see old photos
Below is a collection of memories of both Bill Monroe and the music park as told by fans, friends and visitors. If you have a memory you would like to share, please email our Historian, Jim Peva and we would be more than happy to add to the collection.
A Collection of Memories………….
B.C. Joins The Navy from Jim Peva
B.C. Returns from Jim Peva
Bluegrass Cold War Ends from Jim Peva
A Friendship Blossoms from Jim Peva
Front Porch Memories from Linda Mae Palmowska
Jams All Over the Park from Mitzi Oden
Mary Had A Little Lamb from Jim Peva
Max From Bloomington from Jim Peva
Memories of Bill Monroe from Mitzi Oden
The Music At Night from Mitzi Oden
The Outhouse Scare from Jim Peva
The Peace Offering from Lisa
Rain, Sleet & Snow from Jim Peva
Renewed Interest from Jim Peva
Toenail Guitar Picks? from Jim Peva
James A. Shelton, Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys
Another regular at Bean Blossom in the old days was B.C. ______, who was a native of Brown County. I don’t know what the “B. C.” stood for, maybe is was “Brown County”. B. C. was in his mid-20s and he was very thin and narrow and tall and he had extremely long legs. When he walked at his normal gait, it looked like he was loping. Somebody said that he reminded them of Ichabod Crane. He always had a smile on his face and was very good natured and he would stop around and visit with all the campers at Bean Blossom. His regular sidekick was a black dog named “Tyrone”. We always looked forward to seeing B. C. at the festival, but one year he didn’t show up and we heard that he had joined the Navy as a career. Tyrone didn’t show up either. – JIM PEVA
“Those of us old enough to remember World War II can remember that when General Douglas MacArthur was ordered by the President to leave the Philippine Islands before they were captured by the enemy, he made his famous statement, “I Shall Return.” B.C. Hanneman is no General MacArthur, but he did return to Bean Blossom after a career in the U.S. Navy. One of the greatest pleasures of the Bean Blossom festivals to me is the totally unexpected reappearance of old friends who I thought I might never see again. So there he was, all 6 feet 7 inches of him, with a long walking stick and his new dog “Harvey,” ambling up to our campsite — he knew exactly where we would be — and I almost fell out of my chair. He had the same wide grin as 27 years ago, on a slightly more lined and weathered face, and he stuck out his hand with the same demeanor as if he had seen me yesterday. All the way from Florida, where he now works as a courier, B.C. had to come back to his beloved Bean Blossom because the word is out that Dwight Dillman is bringing it back. B.C. has recently bought a mandolin and I am looking forward to seeing him again this year — he and a lot more of those returning “old-timers” who have heard about the new Bean Blossom.” – JIM PEVA
“I believe the one musical performance that stands out in my mind over any other after 32 straight June Bean Blossom festivals is the year that Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt sang together after the BGCW (bluegrass cold war), ended. All bluegrass fans know the story about the BGCW – but there are some different theories about its cause. In any event, after Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs left the Blue Grass Boys and formed their own band, the Foggy Mountain Boys, there was a period exceeding twenty years in which Bill Monroe did not acknowledge the existence of Lester and Earl. No speaking, even when in the same room or on the same stage. It was Bill’s way of handling a situation when he thought he had been wronged. But, as happens in the life of most of us, with the aging process comes a “mellowing”, and hatchets are buried. The day that Lester appeared at Bean Blossom and walked out on the stage and Bill held out his hand and said, “welcome to Bean Blossom”, followed immediately by a duet of the two famous voices, is a day to remember. I was sitting very close to the stage in front of the wooden boards/benches that used to be there, and just before Lester came out, all of the entertainers came out from backstage around in front to witness the historic event. Don Reno spotted an empty fold-up aluminum chair next to me and sat down in it so hard that it broke, slowly settling him to the ground – but he didn’t even seem to notice. The audience went wild, seeing the two legends reunited on the stage, their voices blending as perfectly as they had thirty years before. - JIM PEVA
“In 1961, I was in charge of arranging a yearly banquet given in connection with my work. I was aware of Bill Monroe and his music as a Grand Ole Opry listener since childhood, but I would not have considered myself a “bluegrass fan” at that time. I thought Bill and the Blue Grass Boys would be a good choice for entertainment at the banquet, and I was aware of the fact that Bill Monroe often played shows at the Brown County Jamboree Barn in Bean Blossom, IN, just 42 miles from where I lived, but I had never attended a show there. One Sunday I drove to Bean Blossom and met Birch Monroe, who managed the Jamboree at that time. Birch was putting up signs advertising a fiddle contest to be held at the Barn the next week. He told me when Bill was next scheduled to play the Jamboree, so I made it a point to be there so I could talk to him about playing for the banquet. I had my wife and 3 small daughters with me. None of us had ever attended a live music performance before. When Bill and the Blue Grass Boys took the stage and played “Watermelon hanging on the Vine”, the hair stood up on the back of my neck! Something about that music and the high-pitched fiddle activated a genetic memory deep within my DNA! I was hooked!
I talked with Bill after the show and we agreed he would play the Wednesday-night banquet, (which happened to be on his 50th birthday), for $250, with an extra $50 to bring a comedian/impersonator (Rusty Adams).
Following that initial exposure to live bluegrass music, my family and I seldom missed a Bill Monroe show in the Jamboree Barn, and when the outdoor festivals came along, we attended them all, (including the 32nd annual, last month). Bill watched my 3 daughters grow up on the front row of the Jamboree Barn and we developed a close friendship with he and Birch and James. My wife and I attended both Birch’s and Bill’s funerals at the little white church in Rosine, but only now are we coming to realize how very privileged we were to be friends of these true pioneers of America’s music. And to me, Bean Blossom is the “mecca” of bluegrass music, and it always will be.
To view a few photographs that I took back in those early days, and an interview, see Jim Moss’s website – JIM PEVA
“My mother often tells of Bill and Charlie sitting on my great grandfather’s porch with her sitting on Bill’s lap and him singing to them. My great grandfather was Richard (Sweet Apple Dick) Ray from Pike County Kentucky…a little town called Indian Creek.
Just wanted to share a wonderful mwmory my mother Edith Burke Hall has of Bill and Charlie before they broke up.” – LINDA MAE PALMOWSKA
“I recall seeing a band from New England called Traver Hollow, and they played all of my favorite songs of Bill Monroe’s, Flatt & Scruggs, and many others. They jammed all day and half the night of my first day there, and then played shows the next day. Many people stood around their canopy in the drizzle listening to them for a very long time. I was in awe of all the talent there, both on stage and off.
I had never seen so many musicians in one place! I stayed up very late every night, sometimes all night just listening to the jam sessions all over the park. I was a beginning banjo picker at that time, and tried to devour every bit of good picking I could listen to. It will remain one of my favorite memories for years to come.
I stayed for about 5 days and really hated to leave there. I knew I would return as often as possible, and have been back many times since then.” – MITZI ODEN
“At the recent Gospel Jubilee at Bean Blossom (1999), a nightly jam session took place at the camper of Talmadge Law. The regular members of Talmadge’s band participated, plus a few others. On fiddle, was Roger Smith, a former Blue Grass Boy, who with his friend, Vern McQueen, also present, played in Bill Monroe’s band way back in the ’50s. If you would add all the years each individual in that jam session had been playing bluegrass music, it surely would add up to more than 150 years.
There are so many times at Bean Blossom when the thought strikes me, “If only a network TV news camera could be here now”. Because into the middle of that jam session involving so many bluegrass veterans, walked a father with his young (7 or 8) year-old daughter sporting a gleaming miniature fiddle. The father expressed the wish that his daughter might be allowed to play along with the musicians gathered there, to improve her timing. All thoughts of doing anything else immediately disappeared, and Roger gently took the little fiddle and checked its tuning.
The graciousness and patience displayed by this group of very talented musicians struck me as being something quite rare in today’s world. Soon, the child was playing “Mary had a little lamb”, to the accompanyment of 150 years of bluegrass talent-to the great delight of everybody present. A typical heartwarming happening at Bean Blossom that few people, except those present, would ever be aware of.” – JIM PEVA
“Max from Bloomington”, the man with the toenail guitar picks, came back to Bean Blossom for the first time in 16 years (at the 1st Annual Bean Blossom Gospel Jubilee). A friend had told him of the article on the BB website. Max Sullivan, now retired, lives in a motor home and spends about 6 months in Indiana (Solsberry, just outside Bloomington) and then heads south to Florida for another 6 months when the hummingbirds leave Indiana for the winter.
Max hasn’t changed much except he has shaved off his beard. But he still carries a walking stick, this time, a beautiful one he picked up in Florida which has a handle resembling a snake’s head. It was good to visit with Max-brought back Bean Blossom memories of years ago.” JIM PEVA
“Some of my memories of Bill Monroe include seeing him taking walks up and down the road through the park, stopping to chat with the people he met, shaking a hand here and there, and sometimes signing autographs for them. He liked liked to joke around with them often too, sometimes teasing them.
Other things I recall are the times he would ride the mule drawn wagon down the road that leads up to “Hippie Hill” and then turning off to pass behind the stage, doffing his hat to crowd that was cheering him.
Many times I had seen him sneak up on an unsuspecting musician onstage, sometimes he switched hats with them, or would take theirs off. Often he would dance at the side of the stage while the crowd roared in appreciation.” – MITZI ODEN
“Listening to the music at night in Bean Blossom Park was such a treat. The sound was perfect in the heavy evening air coming through the trees. I recall a particular time when Mr. Monroe sang “The Old, Old House” and on the chorus dropped his voice down to almost a whisper. It was so still you could hear every word clearly and almost see the scene he was singing about-all that emotion in his music was very inspiring to this would-be musician. When I heard him singing “I’m On My Way Back to the Old Home” it instantly became my favorite Bill Monroe song and still is.” – MITZI ODEN
“One of the funniest experiences I had at Bean Blossom involved the old double three-holer outhouse. Photo on Jim Moss’ website. The men’s and the lady’s facilities adjoined and were separated by a wall. The men’s entrance was on the stage side and the women’s on the opposite side.
In the early 1970s I had a small, self-contained camper with a rather small sewage holding tank. Because the festival lasted several days, I would get up very early in the morning every other day and drain the trailer sewage holding tank into a portable 5 gallon plastic tank and carry it over to the three-holer and dump it down a hole.
One morning I got up at about 6:00 a.m., (in those days some of the jam sessions lasted until the sun came up, so not many people were up and stirring at 6:00 a.m.). On this particular day it was very quiet. The early morning mist was hanging about 8 feet off the ground, being fed by several still-smouldering campfires, and the only noise was from the birds and little woods critters getting ready for another day. No thumping bass fiddles, just nature’s early morning quiet.
I drained the holding tank into the portable tank, screwed on the lid, and proceeded to carry it over to the three-holer, about 50 yards away. Nobody was in sight. I entered the men’s side quietly, unscrewed the cap and poured the contents down one of the holes. It made a horrendous splash and immediately the morning quiet was pierced by a blood-curdling woman’s scream, OH MY GOD!!! Unknown to me, there was a lady using the other side.
Soon, the door slammed and I could hear footsteps scurrying away. I waited several minutes before I came out because I didn’t want the startled stranger to see who had nearly scared her to death. The next day I told Bill Monroe about this experience and he had a good belly laugh.” – JIM PEVA
“My Mom was doing some summer mailing for Bill. She told me a story about Mr. Bill. Anyone that knew Mr. Bill knew he had a way of doing things that we will say was a little different. Mom said Mr. Bill asked his booker Chuck Campbell to go get a pair of white shoes with tan soles that he had seen earlier that day. Upon returning Mr. Bill took the shoes into Mr. Flatts dressing room and gave them to him. That’s the day they made up and Lester agreed to come to Bean Blossom. I thought you might enjoy this. Mom said she had never seen a pair of shoes used as a peace offering before. I thought this really needed to be shared. Mom also said Mr.Bell, the man in charge of the “Members” stage door at the Grand Ole Opry, was laughing and shaking his head saying, “Only those two, only those two”. LISA
“WM Bentley is from southeastern Kentucky, but he has lived in Brown County, Indiana for several years, just up the road from Bean Blossom. Some folks think the WM stands for William, but WM will tell you it just stands for WM. Balding, with a patch of gray chin whiskers, WM is thin, a little over 6 feet, with a middle-age belly. He looks at home at Bean Blossom, which he is, because he works there, living in his camper and seldom getting more that two hours of sleep at night during the festivals. One morning I was sitting at my campfire and it looked like it was going to rain that day. When Bentley walked up, I asked him if he had heard a weather forecast. “Rain, sleet & snow,” he said, “lacks 12 inches of bein’ a foot of snow at Louisville, and movin’ this away.” A typical Bentley answer – you have to listen closely because WM’s total lack of teeth makes him somewhat hard to understand and you might miss some of his homespun wit.” JIM PEVA
“I believe that most seasoned bluegrass festival-goers will agree that after you have attended the same festival for several years, the anticipation of seeing old friends from far away sooner or later outweighs just looking forward to the music. In other words, the festival takes on the character of a family reunion. That happened to my wife and I at Bean Blossom. Of course, some of these friends included Bill Monroe, Kenny Baker, Wayne Lewis, Roland White, and many of the other Blue Grass Boys. Curly Ray Cline was a “regular” at our campfire late at night after the shows concluded for the day. But far outnumbering the performers who would stop by, were the regular fans – friends from all walks of life and from all over the United States and many parts of the world. Sadly, father time is taking his toll, and many of these Bean Blossom friends have passed on to a greater festival, and our yearly trek to the June festival was becoming in some ways a painful experience.
Then the phone rang last March and Ailene, my wife, answered. At first, she didn’t recognize the voice – until it said, “this is Dwight Dillman and I bought Bean Blossom”. Having known Dwight since the days that he played with the Blue Grass Boys and the Sunny Mountain Boys, we were delighted to hear the news, in view of his extablished reputation as a successful businessman and his enthusiasm for bluegrass music.
So now the trips to Bean Blossom involve another type of anticipation – that of seeing the festival grow and prosper and improve each year until it takes its rightful place as the proud living memorial to Bill Monroe that it should become – a mecca for bluegrass fans – where the memories of those now gone, performers and fans alike, will live on in the beautiful hills of Brown County and where the memories of future generations will contunue the process.” – JIM PEVA
“There was a fellow who used to come to Bean Blossom and I believe he lived near Bloomington, Indiana. His first name was “Max” but I could never remember his last name, so I just remember him as “Max from Bloomington”. Max nearly always stopped by our campsite to chat when he was there. He was a big man, over six feet, 230 pounds, middle-aged with a gray beard and he always wore a cap like the golfers wore in the ’20s & ’30s, a tee shirt, and bib overalls. Max used a cane, and he had some ornate ones, like Irish shillalahs, which he made himself. Max was a musician and an instrument trader, especially guitars and mandolins. One striking thing about Max was that he usually wore sandals with no socks and his toenails were very long. After I got to know him well enough, I asked him why he let his toenails grow so long. His answer was, as I remember it, “Because they make good guitar picks”. (Bud Freedman has a slightly different recollection; he says that a hippie offered to buy one of Max’s big toe nails to use as a guitar pick).” – JIM PEVA
“The Stanley Brothers played their last full show together at the old barn at Bean Blossom on Sunday October 16, 1966. From there they travelled to Nashville, TN for the annual DJ Convention where they were honored by their fan club for 20 years in the business. They had a show the following Friday in Hazel Green, KY. Carter Stanley became ill after only a few numbers and never performed again. He died at Bristol Memorial Hospital in Bristol, VA on December 1, 1966.” James A. Shelton
Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys