Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Why did Lester and Earl leave Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys?

Does anyone have any information on why Flatt & Scruggs left the Bluegrass Boys and started their own band?

My uncle told me a story today, first saying that he wasn’t positive about this but thinks he remembers this being the rumor way back when.

Apparently Bill was not an easy guy to work for. Kind of surely he was and always wanted to get the best bang for the buck the story goes, you know, it was his way or the highway. Bill had a farm up in Indiana, where where the Annual Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival now takes place. It seems, Bill would take the boys up to the farm for a few days to rehearse, write songs, and work out their next shows and tours and at the end of the music work day but before it got dark, he’d say “C’mon boys, let’s go hoe some corn”.

I guess some of the Bluegrass Boys got more than a little fed up with having to go labor in the fields at Bill’s farm and said goodbye. Earl and Lester of course started their own band and when Bill heard about this and realized he had some serious competition, he was furious. Uncle said he had a hard time hanging on to band members and a high turnover was normal for Bill Monroe.

Have any of you ever heard this story before or do you have any information supporting it or contradicting it? Just curious.

Lots of theories here.

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Hi @Maggie I have no first hand knowledge. But rumour has it that Earl & Lester weren’t getting their fair share of the takings. I am guessing that Earl’s wife Louise had a hand in the break-up she would go on to manage Flatt & Scruggs in the years that followed. The stories of working on the farm I have heard from documentary footage. Jens Kruger mentions it in a couple of his video interviews and I am pretty sure I have heard it from other sources. I guess Bill liked to play boss, those guy’s worked for him so if they weren’t performing they needed some form of work and his farm needed tending. I’d also heard that Bill wasn’t the easiest guy to work for. Search You Tube for Jens Kruger Interview his story gives an insight to what Bill was like. Also check out the Jimmy Martin’s three part documentary he talks a lot about Bill Monroe.

Here is a clip of Bill’s own documentary High Lonesome - The Story of Bluegrass

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I have it on good authority (my sense of humor) Earl had a habit of picking his nose a lot and Bill continually yelled at him for it until he got fed up and left*.
That’s the rumor going around here (well it is now :wink:)

*it’s important to not spread this rumor unless you realize it is made up as it was typed


Great, thanks Archie

One of the tutors I took classes from (but I don’t know if it was Tony Trischka, Bill Evans, Ned Luberecki, Tom Adams or any other) said that Earl and Lester didn’t leave together. That is, they both quit around the same time, but independently. It’s only after a few days they both heared the other was forming a new band, and got together. Don’t know if this is true.

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My new opinion is that Bill’s mando was a banjo killer, and after losing three banjos to untimely demises (?) He couldn’t take it anymore and left to find someone with a less dangerous mandolin

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