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Playing Since: 1978
Experience Level: Purty Good
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Saturday, March 03, 2012 @1:57:55 PM
Standing in the Shadows
D. Stout and Monroe Queener
Two of the deepest influences on my personal musicianship are bassist D. Stout (Knoxville, TN) and dobroist Monroe Queener (Jacksboro, TN), whom I had the good fortune to meet and befriend, and share much music together. I met D. Stout in the summer of 1985 at Bradbury Community Center, a local weekly jam session (which is still ongoing) located off Interstate 40 west of Knoxville. I had seen D. many times before but one day he approached me and wanted me as part of his jam group. That began a friendship that lasted for many years. I met Monroe through D. as the two had been friends for many years. The three of us clicked musically, as though we had played together for years.
Both D. and Monroe were alumni in the mid 1950s to the early 1960s of the legendary radio and TV program The Mid-Day Merry Go-Round, a live performance show aired on Knoxville station WNOX. Broadcast from 1937 until the early 1960s, the live shows highlighted “hillbilly” music artists and became a noontime institution for generations of East Tennesseans. The show also helped launch the careers of many legendary artists. Monroe was instrumental in starting his own spin-off barn dance radio show called The Tennessee Jamboree. In his youth, I learned, Monroe was also very influential in the playing of dobroist Josh Graves, who as a youngster sought Monroe's tutoring on the instrument. Monroe told me that when they were both teenagers, Josh hounded him to learn how he was playing licks and getting his sound. Josh later went on to become one of the most influential dobroists on the bluegrass music scene. To hear Josh Graves play dobro was to hear many of Monroe's unique and inventive licks being echoed.
I met D. and Monroe in 1985 and soon they, myself and a variety of other local musicians (including at various times, Jimmy Johnson, Jerry Monday, Red Harris and others) formed numerous and various bands and played literally hundreds of gigs over the next 6 years (until 1992 when D. Stout passed away) at nearly every small, hometown venue imaginable in the east Tennessee area. One of the most exciting musical experiences for me with these guys was in the late 1980s, we were musical hosts for a live performance radio show of our own origination. D. and Monroe gathered a band together for the purpose of re-creating the days of performance before a live radio audience. We collectively rented an old movie theater in New Tazewell, Tennessee and for an intense 6-month period were musical hosts for a live weekly 3-hour musical variety show from 7:00–10:00 pm every Saturday night. The show was simulcast on local radio stations WLAF (LaFollette, TN) and WJDT (Rogersville, TN). I cut my musical teeth during these times, as D. and Monroe did not use any set lists, but would spontaneously play one of any hundreds of tunes they knew between the two. I had to be on my toes just to keep up with these old timers! The music included bluegrass, of course, but also included tunes not often heard, some having a very cool swing beat few were playing in the area. Monroe's rendition of Isle of Dreams, Kansas City Kitty and Mockingbird wowed anyone who heard. D. sang a great swingy version of Smoke That Cigarette and knew a never ending list of show tunes and ballads. The show also featured guest bands between our sets and we got to highlight dozens of up and coming regional bands. Somewhere out there are hundreds of recordings made of these live shows and some of the spin-off gigs that resulted.
Mr. Stout passed in 1992 from bone cancer and Monroe Queener passed in 1998 from complications stemming from diabetes. In the years since I have grown to see how fortunate I was to have known these wonderful and authentic human beings and to have shared so many musical experiences together. D. and Monroe were perhaps some of the most gracious musicians I have had the pleasure of making music with.
I once asked D. Stout what “D” stood for in his name. “It doesn't stand for anything,” he told me. “It's just ‘D’ — period!” And so it was. D. could really capture an audience and was a natural showman. D. and Monroe brought out the best in me, and both were like fathers to me. My appreciation for their kindness and grace, and sheer musical talent, continues to grow, even many years after their passings. Monroe was one of the best dobro players I have ever heard, and although he is not widely known, his influence really extended world-wide through Josh Graves, who only began crediting Monroe in the last few years of his own life. I googled Monroe Queener's name and am really surprised to find very little out there about the really great musician who was an integral part of the east Tennessee music scene and The Mid-Day Merry Go-Round and The Tennessee Jamboree for many years. I wonder how many great and influential musicians history has overlooked. I think in time to come, recordings of Monroe will emerge and help establish a well-deserved place for him in dobro history.
Here are some more pictures of Monroe Queener
If you like this, also check out my music files and videos, and this cool newspaper article.
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