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Born in 1911 in Rosine, Kentucky, Bill Monroe grew up in a family of amateur musicians. Taking up mandolin, he started his professional music career in a duo with his brother Charlie. The Monroe Brothers sang about sin and redemption with ethereal, haunting harmonies, the music reflecting the hardscrabble lives of their rural audience. After the brothers split up in 1938, Bill formed His Blue Grass Boys and in the process created bluegrass, a hybrid of old-timey string music, gospel, blues and mandolin-driven hoedown music. A brilliant songwriter, Monroe developed a repertoire featuring classics like his home state homage "Blue Moon of Kentucky"; his heartfelt paean to the relative who encouraged his music, "Uncle Pen"; and his supercharged version of Jimmie Rodgers' "Muleskinner Blues." Monroe's distinctive tenor personified the high lonesome sound of mountain music. As a band leader Monroe discovered and nurtured numerous instrumentalists who populated his group until 1996, when a stroke finally sidelined him at age 85.

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