More Bill Monroe Sayings

This Contest is Closed
The winner is Andy Bing

Well, over the past few years we’ve discussed a number of famous sayings from Bill Monroe. “That ain’t no part of nothin” and “The fiddle is the King instrument” and “The banjo is the fifth child”.

Almost like the joke about the prisoners who kept repeating a few jokes and they got so familiar they just numbered them and yelled out the number to get a big laugh, one of Bill’s sayings is so well known that folks just repeat the “punch line” and everybody knows what it means.


What are the circumstances, or “back story” if you will, of the Bill Monroe saying:

“No, YOU back up!”

A. Bill’s bus and a car were competing for the exit lane at a bluegrass festival. Monroe asserted his priority!

B. A fan/photographer was trying to get Bill and a bunch of fans and sidemen into her camera viewfinder and kept telling them all to “Back up!” Monroe got tired of it and suggested another solution.

C. Bill was trying to explain “the old Kentucky Backstep” dance lick to a woman who jumped on stage out of the crowd to dance with Bill, as they collided during the dance.

D. Bill had to help fiddler Billy Joe Foster get a mule Bill had just bought to back out of a trailer. Monroe looked the mule in the eyes and made it clear what he expected.

E. In his younger days Bill would fist fight at the drop of a hat, and loved it. A tough guy met Bill in a restaurant door and warned Bill to back up and let him through. That didn’t end well.

F. Bill loved baseball and playing a little “catch” during rest stops on the road. He got banjo man Butch Robins to squat down and catch some pitches. Butch thought Bill was too close and told him to back up. Monroe stood his ground until Butch backed up, until his back was a couple of feet from a cement wall. Monroe let fly with a fast ball that knocked poor Butch ass-over-bandbox right into the wall!


Additional Bowden Comments

Andy got it. The lady photog kept saying “back up, back up!” until Bill got sick of it and replied “No you back up!”

A is something I made up, but it sure sounds like it could be true!

C is made up and doesn’t have that ring of truth. Bill more likely have cooed sweet nothings in the lady’s ear!

D is a twist on a true story. Billy Joe couldn’t get the mule to back out of the trailer, so Monroe came up to the front, grabbed the mule by the halter and JERKED the mule’s lower jawbone down onto Bill’s knee cap with a BANG! The mule backed right out! Billy Joe told this story in the wonderful but mostly unseen documentary called “Powerful” — stories about Bill Monroe’s “power moves”.

E Bill didn’t start fights, he finished them. In public he was usually very polite and mostly interested in meeting everybody in the place and reminding them he was Bill Monroe of the Grand Ole Opry.

F. Andy Bing remembers right about this story. The only untrue thing is that they didn’t exchange “back up!” commands. Bill threw a pile driver at unsuspecting Butch and knocked him backwards into a cement wall. Butch saw little birdies flying around his head.

Dick Bowden

Dick Bowden recently retired after a 45 year career in the paper industry, and moved from Connecticut to Big Indian NY (Ulster County) where he ekes out a precarious existence as a groundskeeper. Dick has been performing bluegrass music on banjo and guitar since 1966 in his home state of Maine, throughout New England, and internationally with The Case Brothers - Martin & Gibson. He has performed for HVBA with the Old Time Bluegrass Singers, and also sent in a squadron of Dick Bowden's Flying Circus. Most recently Dick has played Dobro (tm) with the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Dick has written many articles for Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Today, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass magazine) and HVBA.

One Response

  • B-he told the photographer to back up. At least, that’s the version of the story I heard.

    I also heard the story in F about Bill’s fastball almost ending Butch’s music career, but without the famous quote. Who knows what a spectacular baseball career Bill might have had? He could have been another Bob Feller. Oh, well, I guess we have to settle for Blue Grass.

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