Campbell (Doc) Mercer sent us a not today with some exciting and good news. The appeals court in Kentucky has ruled that the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Music Festival can use "Bill Monroe" in promoting the festival that takes place each year in Rosine, Kentucky near the home place of the father of bluegrass music. This will hopefully put an end to a feud that has been ongoing for nearly 10 years.
The use of Monroe's name has become the rope in a power tug-of-war between Mercer and Ohio County, the location of Bill Monroe's homeplace and the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Music Festival. Cybergrass has been covering the ups and downs of this struggle since its early beginnings.
From the rejection of building a Bill Monroe State Park, in the Feasibility of Constructing a State Park at the Birthplace of Bill Monroe, an idea that began in 2003, through other battles, including the attempt to acquire the famed Lloyd Loar mandolin used by Monroe in 2004 which went to trial July 12th of that year.
A dispute arose that stemmed from an agreement between the Mercer's Bill Monroe Foundation and Monroe's son, James Monroe. According to reports, the Bill Monroe Foundation failed to make the complete payment for the mandolin by the agreed upon date and James, who wanteds to sell the prized instrument, considered selling it to the Ohio County Industrial Foundation.
In April, 2001, the Bill Monroe Foundation made an initial down-payment for the instrument and agreed to pay off the $1.1-million price within 18 months. So far, they are short of that amount and have only been able to contribute less than $200,000 towards the contract price. Campbell Mercer, executive director of the Bill Monroe Foundation attempted to get a bank loan to complete the purchase but that process failed in October 2002 and the loan was never granted to the foundation.
By 2004, Bill Monroe's legendary Gibson F-5 Lloyd Loar mandolin remained the center of controversy over its proper ownership and destination. The valuable instrument is regarded by many musicians as the most important instrument in country music. The F-5 is the jewel in the crown of bluegrass music history. The Bill Monroe Foundation had been trying to acquire the mandolin to retain it's heritage along with that of Bluegrass Music's "father", Bill Monroe. The case over it's proper ownership rights headed back for another trial on July 12th at the Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville, TN. The events that followed regarding Bill's mandolin, the Country Music Hall of Fame and even more litigation would be another story all of itself.
Then, in September 2005, James Monroe's lawsuit to remove his father's name from the non-profit entity chartered to preserve Bill Monroe's home, farm, home town, Uncle Pen's cabin, construct a museum in his honor and preserve and spread his music, the Bill Monroe Foundation. By the following Tuesday, the news of the Mandolin in the CMHF was out. The injunction forcing the removal of "Bill Monroe" was cast.
On Bill's birthday, yet another event began that few knew about. The Ohio County Industrial Foundation, the entity that formed the BMF and the foundation that was working to help James strip the Bill Monroe name from the BMF began depositions in the MERCER vs. OCIF case. This was a sad way for Ohio County, KY to celebrate Bill's birthday.
The 2005 trial is the one that the Kentucky appelate court rightfully ruled on making it possible for Jerusalem Ridge to once again use the Bill Monroe name.
Cambell Mercer has been an inspiration in his unending battles to preserve the legacy and heritage of Bill Monroe. From the restoration of Bill's home near Rosine to the four Bill Monroe Tourism Signs erected in September 2006 and on to today, Mercer's energy, dedication and contributions are enormous. For over a decade, the powers in Ohio County have repeatedly been a thorn in Mercer's side forcing him to move the festival this year, change the name of the non-profit foundation many times over the years, wasting thousands of dollars in litigation that could have been put to more productive and honorable means, and more. Mercer fights on because of his love for Bill Monroe.