Bill Jorgenson was dubbed "the Father of Wisconsin Bluegrass" by no less an authority than Bill Monroe. Born in Anapee, WI, on December 22, 1930, Jorgenson grew up in a small log cabin in nearby Door County. A devoted fan of radio's famed WLS Barn Dance, he began playing guitar at age nine, later adding fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and ukulele to his repertoire. After playing local clubs in the company of his brother, Jorgenson entered the U.S. Army, and during basic training in Fort Jackson, SC, he began shifting from traditional country to contemporary bluegrass. Upon returning to Door County, he formed a new band and headlined Milwaukee-area clubs including the Tackle Shack and the Blind Pig, even opening for Johnny Cash and June Carter at the Milwaukee Auditorium. For a time Jorgenson hosted his own television series, and in the 1970s he co-founded the Glenmore Opera House, which emerged as the nexus of Milwaukee roots music in the months to follow. In addition, he launched the long-running Heritage Farm Bluegrass Festival. Jorgenson's most notable contribution to the Dairy State's bluegrass culture was his regular free performances in northeastern Wisconsin elementary schools. He played close to 100 different schools in all, in front of more than 20,000 children. Only late in his career did Jorgenson begin to release his music via CD, issuing a series of albums including Amberlee, Nashville, and Bluegrass in the Northwoods. He died February 5, 2007, just days after suffering a massive stroke.
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