Frank Eastes: A Tribute to Monroe Queener

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A Tribute to Monroe Queener

~Standing in The Shadows of Greatness~

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.

Live Radio

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 Harrison 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.

All these years I thought I did not have any recordings of myself picking with Monroe Queener and D. Stout. Then sometime in 2009 I came across a couple of old cassette tapes buried in a box in storage. The tapes had been badly heat and mildew damaged over the years, so I paid to have them professionally cleaned up as best as possible, and saved as digital files. I am delighted to be able to share these long lost clips with the world! It's my hope that more recordings will emerge of this truly great musical soul. Enjoy.  Practice Tape Volume 1  |  Practice Tape Volume 2

There is an excellent in-depth article about The Tennessee Jamboree
of which Monroe Queener was integrally involved. According to its author,
The Tenneeesse Jamboree “reimagined and reshaped the [barn dance] genre
into a platform for local cultural expression...”

For more information, visit:

The Tennessee Jamboree: Local Radio, the Barn Dance,
and Cultural Life in Appalachian East Tennessee

Monroe Queener Biography

Monroe Queener was born in 1926 in rural Campbell County, Tennessee, Monroe Queener came of age right along with the radio medium. As a child on his family’s tobacco farm, Queener listened in each morning, at noontime, and on Saturday nights, to the country music broadcasts out of Knoxville and Nashville. For him, the music of Roy Acuff was best of all. More than Acuff’s singing and fiddling, though, it was the dobro playing of his longtime sidekick “Bashful Brother Oswald” that produced the greatest impression. By his mid-teens, Queener began playing an Oswald-inspired dobro technique in a variety of local country bands.

Queener’s earliest success came in the band of Esco Hankins, a local Acuff disciple who enjoyed a following on East Tennessee and southeastern Kentucky radio. With Hankins, Queener played principally, while still in his teens, on Knoxville’s Cas Walker program in the early 1940s. A young guitar player also in the band named Josh Graves, likely learned certain dobro stylings from Queener, and eventually went on to tremendous success and influence with bluegrass pioneers Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. For Queener, the next stop after the Hankins band was a stint in the army during WWII, and participation in the Battle of the Bulge. Returned from overseas, Queener played for a period on Atlanta radio stations. Back in Campbell County after a trip North for employment, Queener joined several popular bluegrass and country bands, including Pap and the Youngins, the Pinnacle Mountain Boys and the Blue Valley Boys. As an original member of the latter group, Queener helped start the earliest version of the Tennessee Jamboree, making him a pioneer of barn dance radio in his home community.

Queener remained with the Jamboree regularly until around 1970, and then as a frequent guest until the program’s end in 1978. His distinctive dobro playing made him one of the most popular musicians on the program. It also created a great demand for his playing, and he was able to circulate among several bands in East Tennessee. For most of these years he was able to play music with some assemblage, either on other small-town radio broadcasts, at dances, in local jams, or for tourists, somewhere in East Tennessee every single night, all while working days on road construction for the state. (Borrowed from and © Friends of The Cumberland Trail)

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