Bill Monroe Artifacts to Be Sold in Nashville

Old mandolins, stage costumes, awards and jewelry are among the hundreds of items from Bill Monroe ’s estate that will be up for sale Friday and Saturday (Dec. 21-22) at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Nashville. A sale of selected mementos will take place Friday, while more valuable items will be auctioned on Saturday. The first two hours of the auction will be carried simultaneously on eBay, the Internet auction service, during which bids will be taken on the premium 100 items of the approximately 600 on the block.

Monroe, who was dubbed the “Father of Bluegrass,” died Sept. 9, 1996, four days before his 85th birthday. His musical originality and influence earned him membership in the Country Music, Rock and Roll and Nashville Songwriters halls of fame, as well as first induction into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Honor. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 57 years.

A spokeswoman for Buddy Lee Attractions, Monroe’s booking agency which is assisting in the sale, says this will be the final liquidation of Monroe estate memorabilia.

James Monroe, Monroe’s son and sole heir, is overseeing the sale. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The facility, however, is maintaining an antiseptic distance from the venture. It notes in its announcement of the event that it “neither sponsors nor endorses the auction and has neither appraised nor authenticated any of the items offered in the auction.”

In disposing of his father’s possessions, Monroe has already donated some of them to the museum, including a black and white stage costume, complete with accessories; a 1985 log of tour data that Monroe’s bus driver kept; a family Bible; and a collection of photos.

The estate sale will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and from 9 a. m. to 11 a. m. Saturday in the museum’s community room. Items not sold during this period will be added to the auction trove. The auction will start in the museum’s conservatory at 1 p. m. Saturday and continue until everything is sold or until 6 p.m. The eBay portion of the auction will run until 3 p.m.

Among the pieces set for auction are six mandolins, furniture, jewelry, awards, signed items, household goods, canceled checks, old photographs, farming clothes, canes and walking sticks, costumes and hats. (Monroe’s famed Gibson F-5 Lloyd Loar model mandolin was sold this summer to the Bill Monroe Foundation of Rosine, Ky.)

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to