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Bill Monroe's Formative Years

His parents died when he was young, so Bill Monroe spent much of his early years with his mother's brother, Uncle Pen, a renowned old time fiddler, and an African-American blues guitarist, Arnold Schultz, whose musical talents allowed him some freedoms otherwise not afforded blacks in a region marked by segregation.
Clip Length 02:35 Premiere: 08/30/19


The story of bluegrass music isn’t simple. Bluegrass is old and young, traditional and progressive, heartfelt and technical. It’s from the Appalachian Mountains, the big cities, the whole world. Some say bluegrass is stubborn music, best bound in tradition. Others love it for its unfettered possibilities, an empty canvas for the next generation. But everybody agrees with Bill Monroe, the father of this musical family: “Bluegrass has brought more people together and made more friends than any music in the world.”

Narrated by actor and bluegrass enthusiast Ed Helms, Big Family: The Story of Bluegrass Music, produced by KET (Kentucky Educational Television) for national distribution via PBS in August 2019, provides a comprehensive look at bluegrass music — what it is, key musicians who have shaped its sound, and its worldwide appeal. The film explores the evolution of the bluegrass sound through generations of musicians, from early pioneers to young contemporary performers.

At the heart of the two-hour film is the music itself, as recordings and performance footage showcase and celebrate its unique sound. More than 50 musicians appear in the film, including Alison Brown, Dale Ann Bradley, Sam Bush, JD Crowe, Bela Fleck, Laurie Lewis, Del McCoury, Bobby Osborne, Ricky Skaggs, Chris Thile, and many more.

Big Family: The Story of Bluegrass Music is not available on Blu-Ray or DVD.

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Connections host Renee Shaw smiling in a gray suit along with the show logo and a "Check Schedule" button.Connections host Renee Shaw smiling in a gray suit along with the show logo and a "Check Schedule" button.

Season Episodes

Big Family: The Story of Bluegrass Music

S1 E1 Length 1:55:46 Premiere Date 08/30/19


Preview Length 00:30 Premiere Date 08/30/19

Bill Monroe's Formative Years

Clip Length 02:35 Premiere Date 08/30/19

Earl Scruggs Joins Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys

Clip Length 03:31 Premiere Date 08/30/19

Bluegrass: A Singular Musical Ensemble

Clip Length 01:55 Premiere Date 08/30/19

Bluegrass Musicians Receive Hero's Welcome in Japan

Clip Length 01:52 Premiere Date 08/30/19

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