The official song of Kentucky? That’s “My Old Kentucky Home,” an 1853 ballad, but appropriately enough, the Bluegrass State has an official bluegrass state song: “Blue Moon of Kentucky” by Bill Monroe. Often considered a musician most instrumental in forming the current sound of today’s bluegrass music, Monroe’s 1946 “bluegrass waltz” became so popular that several artists have re-recorded it, including Elvis Presley.
The late Monroe created much of his sound in Rosine, Ky. Such a history led to the International Bluegrass Music Museum’s presence in Kentucky’s third largest city, Owensboro, 40 miles north of Monroe’s former stomping grounds. Museum officials pick and pluck every year to carry on Monroe’s legacy, and the River of Music Party (ROMP) is a showcase celebration with national bluegrass acts performing in Daviess County’s Yellow Creek Park (June 23-26).
In its seventh year, ROMP brings together the surviving members of Monroe’s band, the Blue Grass Boys. Through decades of performing, Monroe featured 155 members in the band. According to Gabrielle Gray, the executive director of the bluegrass museum, 91 still carry on the bluegrass tradition, and she expects scores to reunite for a ROMP performance. Their music hits the right chords, she says, and so, too, will the dozens of other bluegrass acts at the four-day festival. “A museum can be a hopping place,” Gray says. “That’s what we strive for.”