CD-259 Monroe Fields "1950s-60s Broadcasts"
One of the secret strengths of bluegrass is the list of people with talent, imagination and musicianship who prefer to play supporting roles instead of being headliners: Paul Warren, Joe Stuart, Curly Lambert, Ernest Ferguson, George Shuffler, Roy Self, Ralph Mayo, Claude Boone and Bobby Hicks are just a few names that come to mind. Bluegrass, for all its stars, is ensemble music and a gifted leader depends on gifted side men and women to fill in the holes, underscore the rhythms and enhance the final sound.
Monroe Fields is one of this select group. His name is well known to those who pay attention to the inner workings of bluegrass. His mandolin and high tenor have graced the music of Jimmy Martin, David Houston, Flatt & Scruggs and, most notably, Carl Sauceman and the Green Valley Boys from the late 1950s through the early 1960s. He was born December 31, 1928 in Berry, Alabama and turned to music after hearing his neighbor Austin Kimball play “Kentucky Waltz” on the mandolin. Fields bought that instrument and only replaced it with a Kay when he needed something louder. Monroe Fields joined Carl Sauceman's Green Valley Boys in Carrolton, Alabama in 1953 and stayed for ten years, doing live shows and making records at WRAG radio and producing a syndicated TV show that was seen in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. In 1973 Sauceman remembered making their first records together : “We did an extended play gospel thing, and a tune called "Who-ah" that Monroe Fields and I wrote…That record went to number two on Ralph Emery's (WSM) hit parade and it lasted there for seventeen weeks. It was our best-selling record by far.”
Carl retired permanently from music at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1962. By then Monroe Fields was a seasoned, versatile musician, singer and composer who found himself in demand. He played bass with Jim and Jesse and sang baritone on a number of their recordings in 1964. He played bass with Bill Monroe from 1971 to 1973 and sang lead on Monroe's 1972 recording of “My Old Kentucky and You.” He toured with Charlie Louvin three times, frequently singing high harmony on Louvin Brothers classics. Over the years he's appeared with Jimmy Martin, David Houston, and Flatt and Scruggs .
Carl Sauceman called Monroe Fields “a great singer and songwriter.” Look for Carl on Youtube to see and hear the one he admired: “Who-ah, who-ah, who-ah, whoo, you love me and I love you” was featured by the band for years. “Locked away From Your Heart” is there too, from a 1976 Sauceman reunion album. George Jones recorded other Monroe Fields successes: “Size Seven Round, Made of Gold,” “Keep the Change” (with Tammy Wynette), and “Please Be My Love” with Melba Montgomery. John Anderson sang the humorous “Chicken Truck.”..........
This collection is made up of audio clips from Sauceman broadcasts in the late '50s and early '60s that featured Monroe Fields on lead vocal. At the time the Green Valley Boys included Carl Sauceman-guitar, J.P. Sauceman-bass, Jim Brock-fiddle, Monroe Fields-mandolin, and Fred Richardson or Baskell (Buddy) Rose-banjo. Monroe's choice of songs reminds us that bluegrass and country styles weren't considered as remote from each other as they are today. The sounds of Lester and Earl, the Louvins, Bill Anderson, Jimmy Work, George Jones and Mac Wiseman are all present here, either as composers or singers whose versions caught Monroe Fields's ear.
“Hillbilly Fever” is an infomercial featuring country song titles from1949-50 that became standards thanks, in part, to this song. “Treasure of Love” is credited to both George Jones and J.P. Richardson, better known as the Big Bopper. “Shackles and Chains” is credited to Jimmie Davis, who recorded it in 1937 with a somewhat different melody. Mac Wiseman's 1952 version has always been the bluegrass model. “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” first appeared on a1950s Wanda Jackson record and it's become a standard in the folk, country, pop and crossover fields. Monroe Fields learned “There's Only One Way to Heaven” from the radio by a singer whose first name was Ida, who worked with the Shorty Sullivan band. Rebe and Rabe wrote but didn't record “Out of My Mind.” Monroe heard them sing it on WVOK in Birmingham. His own songs are represented here by “Poor Me,” originally designed as a trio for himself and the Sauceman Brothers.
- Dick Spottswood 2014