International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame
ABOUT THE HALL OF FAME & INDUCTEES
The International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, housed in the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky, is an institution devoted to the recognition of noteworthy individuals for their outstanding contributions to bluegrass music. Founded in 1991, the IBMA's Hall of Fame (initially name of "Hall of Honor") is the bluegrass music industry's tribute to the pioneers of the music and the people who have made it great.
Induction to the Hall of Fame takes place each year in two stages: nomination and election. A nominating committee, consisting of music industry leaders, creates a slate of 10-15 candidates. From these names, a prestigious panel of the candidate's peers (electors) in the music industry cast ballots to narrow the nominees to five finalists. There are over 200 electors who, themselves, must have participated actively in bluegrass for at least 10 years, and must merit respect and recognition for their accomplishments and/or knowledge in one or more aspects of the field.
After the five finalists have been selected, the panel again votes to select the inductee(s) for that year. The balloting is conducted by an independent and reputable accounting firm. The name(s) of the newest Hall of Fame inductee(s) are made public immediately following the final stage of balloting and the formal induction takes place each year during the International Bluegrass Music Awards Show.
1991: Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs
1992: The Stanley Brothers, Reno & Smiley
1993: Mac Wiseman, Jim & Jesse
1994: The Osborne Brothers
1995: Jimmy Martin
1996: The Country Gentlemen, Peter V. Kuykendall
1997: Josh Graves
1998: Chubby Wise, Carlton Haney
1999: Kenny Baker
2000: Doc Watson, Lance LeRoy
2001: The Carter Family
2002: The Lilly Brothers and Don Stover, David Freeman
2003: J.D. Crowe
2004: Curly Seckler, Bill Vernon
2005: Red Allen, Benny Martin
2006: The Lewis Family, Syd Nathan
2007: Howard Watts, Carl Story
2008: Bill Clifton, Charles Wolfe
2009: The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, The Dillards
2010: John Hartford, Louise Scruggs
2011: Del McCoury, George Shuffler
2012: Doyle Lawson, Ralph Rinzler
2013: Tony Rice, Paul Warren
Bill Monroe - Born September 13, 1911
The Father of Bluegrass Music, Bill Monroe, is one of the only people to have bestowed upon America an entire musical genre. Monroe began his professional career in music in the early 1930s and as a member of WSM's Grand Ole Opry for more than half a century he nurtured the music that took its name from that of his band. Born William Smith Monroe in Rosine, Kentucky, he wrote and recorded with his famous mandolin hundreds of compositions including "Uncle Pen" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky," the latter of which is an official State Song of Kentucky. Honors accorded by heads of State and countless organizations are numerous and bear testimony to the fact that the music of Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys has expanded to virtually all parts of the world.
Earl Scruggs - Born January 2, 1924
One of the creators of bluegrass music, North Carolina native Earl Scruggs perfected the three finger roll on the five string banjo and introduced it to the Grand Ole Opry around Christmas of 1945 upon joining the "Blue Grass Boys." From 1948 until 1969 Scruggs and his partner Lester Flatt were a major force in introducing bluegrass music to America through national television and at major universities and coliseums, in addition to appearances at rural schoolhouses and in small towns. Earl composed and recorded one of bluegrass music's most famous instrumental, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," used in the soundtrack for the motion picture production of Bonnie & Clyde. In 1969 he established an innovative solo career with his three sons as "The Earl Scruggs Revue." Earl Scruggs is one of the most important musicians in America. No other instrumentalist has had such a profound impact on bluegrass music nor influenced so many.
Lester Flatt - Born June 19, 1914
Widely considered bluegrass music's premier singer, Lester Flatt was born and lived his early childhood in a clapboard cabin overlooking a spectacular mountain valley atop Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau. With Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in the mid '40s, Lester Flatt was a member of what many refer to as the "Original Blue Grass Band." With Earl Scruggs, Flatt organized the "Foggy Mountain Boys" in 1948 and went on to achieve long standing success and prestige unprecedented in bluegrass music. "Lester and Earl" became a way of life to countless fans through their own syndicated TV show, several hundred recordings and on WSM's Grand Ole Opry. Often appearing before a nationwide television audience, Flatt preferred to perform his music in front of his own kind of people in rural hamlets and small towns. Parting with Earl in 1969, Lester continued successfully with his own "Nashville Grass" until shortly before his death in 1979.
The Stanley Brothers
Ralph Stanley - Born February 25, 1927
Carter Stanley - Born August 17, 1925
Two eminent first generation figures in bluegrass music, Carter and Ralph Stanley were reared on isolated Smith Ridge in southwest Virginia's mountainous Dickenson County. They began playing professionally in late 1946 on Bristol radio station WCYB's daily "Farm and Fun Time" broadcasts. During the ensuing 20 years The Stanley Brothers and The Clinch Mountain Boys recorded more than 400 titles, comprising some of the finest authentic American music in existence. Despite changing times and musical tastes, the Stanleys are the only major early bluegrass artists to have never compromised the rigidly traditional format in their recordings. The favorite lead singer of many fans, Carter authored endearing classics such as "The White Dove" and "The Lonesome River." Following his death in 1966, younger brother Ralph, the composer of timeless songs and instrumentals such as "Clinch Mountain Backstep," launched a long and successful solo career faithful to the plaintive, soulful mountain sound that endears The Stanley Brothers' music to purists throughout the world.
Reno & Smiley
Don Reno - Born February 21, 1927
Arthur Lee (Red) Smiley - Born May 17, 1925
South Carolinian Don Reno and North Carolina native Red Smiley began a partnership in 1949 that was to be extended until Smiley's death in 1972, except for two interruptions totaling about seven years. With their "Tennessee Cutups" the duo recorded a large and priceless catalog of classic music that is a rich legacy for present and future generations. Smiley's rich baritone lead voice and splendid rhythm guitar work were ideally complemented by Reno's tenor vocals and complex eclectic five string banjo style that became his trademark. A showman, versatile multi-instrumentalist and prolific songwriter, Reno co-wrote the unit's signature songs, "I'm Using My Bible For A Road Map" and "I Know You're Married." After Red Smiley's passing, Don Reno continued with the Tennessee Cutups until shortly before his own death in 1984.
Mac Wiseman - Born May 23, 1925
Mac Wiseman's authentic folk roots emanate from his birthplace in Crimora, Virginia, in the resplendent Shenandoah Valley. Regarded by many critics as bluegrass music's preeminent balladeer and most articulate interpreter of American folk songs, his courtly manner, gigantic singing voice and masterful guitar accompaniment endears him to several generations of fans in a career of more than fifty years. Partially crippled by polio as a child, he joined influential radio station WCYB in Bristol, Virginia, in 1947 on its daily "Farm and Fun Time" broadcasts. An astute businessman, he helped form the Country Music Association and became an executive with a major record label in 1957, resuming his performing career several years later. At various times in the 1950s and 1960s he was a cast member of several prominent weekly live radio shows, including the Louisiana Hayride, the Old Dominion Barn Dance and the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree. Among hundreds of Mac Wiseman recordings are the raw, classic early 1950s masters that virtually immortalized ballads such as "I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home," "Love Letters In The Sand," and "Tis Sweet To Be Remembered."
Jim & Jesse
Jim McReynolds- Born February 13, 1927
Jesse McReynolds - Born July 9, 1929
Jim & Jesse McReynolds began professionally on radio station WNVA, Norton, Virginia, in 1947-48. Later organizing as "Jim & Jesse and The Virginia Boys," the unit recorded prolifically for several major record labels and made numerous syndicated television appearances, becoming a member of WSM's Grand Ole Opry in 1964. Chart records such as "Air Mail Special," their self-penned "Diesel Train" and "Cotton Mill Man" were among career milestones that defined the group's style. With Jesse usually singing lead and Jim tenor and backed by some of the finest musicians in bluegrass, they set standards of excellence--vocally and instrumentally--that are difficult to equal. The "cross picking" mandolin playing introduced by Jesse became a trademark of the band that is also noted for Jim's metronome-like guitar rhythm. From humble beginnings in their Clinch Mountains birthplace near Coeburn, Virginia, "Jim & Jesse" soon became one of bluegrass music's most popular and successful artists in an enduring and prestigious career.
The Osborne Brothers
Bobby Osborne - Born December 7, 1931
Sonny Osborne - Born October 29, 1937
Born in Leslie County in southeastern Kentucky, Bobby and Sonny Osborne were pioneers in conceiving the now popular "high lead" vocal trio concept and recording it on a major record label during the mid-1950s. Bobby's potent, quality high lead voice blending with Sonny's lower harmony formed the nucleus of a trio that has become a standard by which others are judged. Recognized as being among the industry's most respected musicians--Bobby, mandolin and Sonny, banjo--their distinctive and inventive instrumental stylings are a hallmark of their group's sound. Honored with membership in WSM's Grand Ole Opry in 1964, the Osborne Brothers' signature songs, "Ruby" and "Rocky Top," rank high among the music's classic recordings. Their original version of the latter inspired its being named an official state song of Tennessee, as did their recording of "Kentucky" in the brothers' native state. The significance of their distinguished and influential career will long be recounted for the early creative role and the music of the Osborne Brothers in the development and popularization of professional bluegrass music.
Jimmy Martin - Born August 10, 1927
A self-described "poor boy from Sneedville, Tennessee" in references to his early years, Jimmy (James H.) Martin was dubbed "The King of Bluegrass Music" during the 1970s. A major force in defining and establishing the music's so- called "high lonesome sound," he began as lead singer/guitarist with the Blue Grass Boys in October, 1949. In 1955 he formed his Sunny Mountain Boys and became a headline artist on both the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport (1957-1959) and the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree (1959-1962). Jimmy Martin recorded 138 titles for a major record company, many of which, including "Ocean Of Diamonds," "Sophronie," "Widow Maker" and "Sunny Side Of The Mountain," did well in the country music charts of the 1950s-1970s. Virtually all of the songs he popularized came to be regarded as standards. A colorful and consummate entertainer and musician, Jimmy Martin produced profound and enduring influences on the idiom during its critical formative years and throughout the remainder of bluegrass music's first half century.
Peter V Kuykendall - Born January 15, 1938
As one of bluegrass music's earliest historians, a music publisher, festival promoter and multi-instrumentalist, "Pete" Kuykendall helped create and nurture the growth of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine from humble beginnings in 1966 as a regional newsletter, to later become a publication affectionately referred to as the "bible of bluegrass music." Known by virtually everyone in the bluegrass music industry as a friend and for his fair-handedness and integrity, Kuykendall introduced the music throughout the world via the magazine's international circulation. His commitment to its mission, the "furtherance of bluegrass music," motivated the publication's growth to become one of the primary sources of news, feature articles and artist personal appearance dates. His keen insight, longstanding dedication to the music and generous support provided invaluable leadership in guiding the creation of the IBMA in the mid-1980s, having served more than once as its chairperson and in various capacities with the Bluegrass Music Trust and the International Bluegrass Music Museum.
The Country Gentlemen
Charlie Waller - Born January 19, 1935
Eddie Adcock - Born June 21, 1938
Tom Gray - Born February 1, 1941
John Duffey - Born March 4, 1934
Known for expanding bluegrass music's stylistic horizons and its audience, The Country Gentlemen's momentous, decades-long career began as an impromptu fill-in band for a July 4, 1957, Washington, D.C.-area engagement. Its hallmarks include distinctive material, exciting high-lead trio harmonies, dynamic musicianship and humor-laced stage shows. Periodic personnel changes occurred from the beginning, but the collaboration having the greatest impact on the genre and setting the style for all who followed is that of the 1960-64 era, often referred to retrospectively as "The Classic" Country Gentlemen: co founders Charlie Waller (guitar) and John Duffey (mandolin) with Eddie Adcock (banjo) and Tom Gray (bass). This band made many new fans for bluegrass, especially among northeastern, urban and college audiences. In later years, with other musicians and Waller as focal point and leader, The Country Gentlemen's popularity continued to expand. Perennial Country Gentlemen favorites include traditional bluegrass versions of songs from a diversity of idioms: "Little Bessie," "The Long Black Veil," "Two Little Boys,""Bringing Mary Home," "The Legend of the Rebel Soldier," "Matterhorn" and "Fox on the Run."
Josh Graves - Born September 27, 1927
Tellico Plains, Tennessee-native Burkett H. ("Josh") Graves played the major role in bringing the resonator guitar to prominence as a lead instrument in bluegrass music. While working on the WLEX Kentucky Mountain Barn Dance in Lexington in 1949, he learned from Earl Scruggs the three-finger banjo roll and adapted it to the then almost obscure slide bar instrument. With Flatt & Scruggs from 1955 until 1969, he introduced his widely emulated driving, bluesy style on the "hound dog guitar" to millions through personal appearances, recordings, radio and syndicated television. Having adopted the stage persona "Uncle Josh" as a teenager in the early 1940s on WROL, Knoxville, he gained renown for his consummate showmanship and comedy as part of The Flatt & Scruggs Show. After working in the bands of Flatt (1969-72) and Scruggs (1972-74), he began a 10 year solo career followed by partnership with Kenny Baker begun in 1984. A vocal stylist and excellent three-finger guitarist with a lifelong love of blues music, Josh Graves recorded prolifically as both supporting musician and featured artist, documenting his remarkable talent and creativity.
Chubby Wise - Born October 2, 1915
The intense, bluesy fiddle stylings of Chubby Wise are an integral part of the genesis of recorded bluegrass music. As a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, he participated in historic major record label sessions in 1946 and 1947 that--along with live performances--defined the genre and established the fiddle's prominent role in bluegrass. He was also a superb rhythm guitarist. Born Robert Russell Dees and adopted as an infant, his surname became Wise and he was reared in Lake City, Florida. Moving to Nashville in 1943, he recorded with Hank Williams in 1947 and co-wrote "Shenandoah Waltz." Throughout his career, Wise was a major force in popularizing--thus becoming prominently identified with--the classic "Orange Blossom Special." This standard and "Lee Highway Blues" were highlights of his stage appearances. Following 15 years with Hank Snow's Rainbow Ranch Boys on WSM's Grand Ole Opry in the 1950s and '60s, Wise began a solo performing and recording career in bluegrass in 1970. His rich, distinctive playing and his open, affable manner made Chubby a favorite of many until his death in 1996.
Carlton Haney - Born September 19, 1928
Carlton L. Haney envisioned and produced the historic first weekend-long bluegrass music festival, held at Fincastle, Virginia, in 1965. The event proved to be a prototype and precursor that initiated the festival movement in America and ultimately in other countries, bringing incalculable economic benefits to the industry and creating a larger and more diverse audience for the music. Subsequent annual festivals that he produced regularly included his innovative "workshops" and his emotional narration of "the bluegrass story," dramatizing the genre's history with appearances by performers who were part of its rich tradition. Haney's most memorable and enduring festivals were those in Camp Springs, North Carolina and Berryville, Virginia, during an exciting era when most first generation players were in their prime. He was additionally a promoter of major country music concert tours and from 1969 until 1975 published an important early bluegrass magazine, Muleskinner News. Haney began his colorful music career in the 1950s as agent and manager for Bill Monroe and later for Reno & Smiley. During the 1980s he entered private business in his hometown, Reidsville, North Carolina.
Kenny Baker - Born June 26, 1926
Kenneth Clayton Baker's prolific recording of instrumental fiddle albums in the 1960s-1980s, combined with exposure provided by more than two decades
recording and performing with Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, enabled him to become one of the most influential bluegrass fiddlers of his generation. Born in Burdine, Kentucky, near Jenkins, Baker began his professional career in 1953 with Don Gibson at WNOX in Knoxville. Between September, 1956 and October, 1984, he was a member of The Blue Grass Boys four separate times, totaling 23 years. His precise, melodic long-bow breaks and backup were featured prominently, giving Monroe a consistent band sound, both on stage and on close to 200 major record label titles, including many classic instrumentals. Baker formed a partnership with Josh Graves in late 1984, sometimes featuring his superb guitar work in the unusual four-finger style. He recorded some 20 albums of his own and composed over 100 fiddle tunes. Instrumentals popularized by Kenny Baker include "Denver Belle," "Road to Columbus" and "Jerusalem Ridge."
Lance LeRoy - Born May 26, 1930
Agent and manager, journalist, photographer, historian and industry organizer, Lance LeRoy played a key role in the development and success of bluegrass music. Born Lansing B. LeRoy, Jr. in Tignall, Georgia, he began playing fiddle as a youth. Relocating to a Nashville, Tennessee suburb in 1966, he emerged in professional bluegrass in 1969 when Lester Flatt employed him as his personal manager and agent, a position he held until Flatt's death in 1979. LeRoy's Lancer Agency was among the first booking and management agencies in the genre and became one of its longest-running and most respected. Following Flatt's passing, he represented the Bluegrass Cardinals, the Johnson Mountain Boys, Del McCoury and Jimmy Martin for significant portions of their careers, also securing bookings for many other artists. LeRoy's writing includes countless album liner notes and media articles, often under the pseudonym, Brett F. Devan. Additionally, his photography graced many album covers and publications. With characteristic dedication and foresight, LeRoy in 1985 initiated and organized meetings of industry leaders, resulting in the establishment of the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Doc Watson - Born March 3, 1923
For more than four decades Arthel (Doc) Watson's clean, melodic flat-pick lead guitar style inspired and profoundly influenced many younger players, helping establish the guitar as a lead instrument in bluegrass. Watson grew up near Deep Gap in the western North Carolina mountains, surrounded by family and friends playing old-time music. Though sightless, he learned guitar styles ranging from fiddle tunes to blues and popular country music. After years of performing locally as a "rockabilly" electric guitarist, he began recording and touring as an acoustic "folk" artist in the early 1960s, quickly reaching headliner status. Doc's son, Merle, accompanied him on guitar until Merle's death in 1985. While not representing himself as a bluegrass performer, Watson earned respect in bluegrass for his guitar mastery, rich, expressive vocals and invigorating harmonica and "clawhammer" banjo playing. Doc Watson's discography of several hundred recordings includes a stunning version of the instrumental, "Black Mountain Rag" and favorites such as "Deep River Blues," "Little Stream of Whiskey," "The Train That Carried My Girl From Town," "Tennessee Stud" and "Little Sadie."
The Carter Family
Alvin Pleasant (A.P.) Carter - Born December 15, 1891
Sara Carter - Born July 21, 1898
Maybelle Carter - Born May 10, 1909
From southwestern Virginia's Scott County, the Carter Family first recorded on August 1, 1927. Broadcasting and traveling extensively, the group achieved immense popularity, making approximately 300 studio recordings in its pre bluegrass style. Many Carter Family-originated songs became notable bluegrass standards and countless players have reprised the intense, forceful lead guitar technique immortalized by "Mother Maybelle" during her career, spanning five decades. Singing in a strong, plaintive voice, Sara played the autoharp. Maybelle sang harmony and played guitar, and A.P. sang bass. Sara and A.P. entered private life after last recording October 14, 1941, reuniting the trio for six months in 1943 for daily radio broadcasts from WBT, Charlotte, North Carolina. Maybelle continued the Carter Family name and tradition with daughters Helen, June and Anita, joining WSM's Grand Ole Opry in 1950 and performing until shortly before her death October 22, 1978. A.P. died November 7, 1960, and Sara passed away on January 8, 1979. A.P. preserved and arranged numerous ballads learned from early settlers during excursions during the 1920s and the 1930s, on vast, remote Clinch Mountain. The enormous A.P. Carter song catalog includes "Wildwood Flower," "Keep On The Sunny Side" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?"
The Lilly Brothers & Don Stover
Michael Burt "Bea" Lilly, Born December 5, 1921
Charles E. "Everett" Lilly, Born July 1, 1924
Don Stover, Born March 6, 1928
Playing nightly engagements at Boston's Hillbilly Ranch from 1952 until 1970, the Lilly Brothers' raw-edged, authentic sibling vocal harmony and Stover's three-finger banjo and guitar work introduced thousands each year to bluegrass music.
Born in the Clear Creek community, near Beckley, West Virginia, the Lilly Brothers, Everett and Bea, playing mandolin and guitar respectively, began by singing in churches and at area shows. Everett toured with Flatt & Scruggs in the early 1950s, participating in fourteen seminal recordings that included classic duets with Lester Flatt. Don Stover, born four miles from the Lillys, recorded with and was briefly a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in 1957. In later years he recorded several albums of his own, as well as with The Lilly Brothers, and the group made several successful overseas tours. Semi retired after 1970, the brothers reorganized in 2001 as The Lilly Brothers & The Lilly Mountaineers, following Stover's death in 1996.
The Lilly Brothers and Don Stover were pioneers in bringing professionally performed southern Appalachian music to the upper northeastern region of the United States.
David Freeman - Born May 22, 1939
Universally respected as a preeminent collector, historian and authority on old-time and bluegrass music, David Freeman played a major role in recording and developing the careers of influential artists including Ralph Stanley, Charlie Waller, Kenny Baker, Tommy Jarrell, Larry Sparks, Red Allen, Jim Eanes, The Whites and many others. As a youth in New York City, Freeman was captivated by the sounds and culture of the Southern string bands of the 1920s and 1930s from long out of print 78 rpm records. He established County Records in 1963, reissuing in a modern format and preserving music that might otherwise have been lost to all but a few privileged collectors. These and other recordings were marketed via mail order through County Sales, begun in 1965, and through Record Depot, the wholesale distribution company he founded in 1977. Moving to Virginia in 1974, he acquired Rebel Records in 1980, building it into one of the foremost independent labels specializing in bluegrass. Freeman's leadership of his own businesses and guidance to others fostered the growth and accessibility of the music to a worldwide audience.
J.D. Crowe - Born August 27, 1937
A prominent second generation bluegrass instrumentalist, J.D. Crowe first gained national attention for his superb 1956-1961 work as banjo player and baritone vocalist in Jimmy Martin's Sunny Mountain Boys. He ultimately performed on more than 45 of Martin's recordings, many of them classics, establishing his reputation as a master of the driving, straightforward five-string banjo style. In ensuing decades he continued to influence countless players during an important solo performing and recording career. Born James Dee Crowe and reared in Lexington, Kentucky, he began learning the Earl Scruggs banjo style at the age of 13. In 1961 he organized The Kentucky Mountain Boys, adopting in 1971 his career band name of J.D. Crowe & The New South. Influential vocalists and musicians who were members of these groups included Red Allen, Jerry Douglas, Doyle Lawson, Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, Bobby Slone and Keith Whitley. During the 1980s Crowe was also a member of The Bluegrass Album Band, an all-star recording group that helped bring about an increase in the popularity of the traditional style of bluegrass music.
Curly Seckler - Born December 25, 1919
John Ray (“Curly Seckler ranks as one of bluegrass music’s most important sidemen, adding significantly to the quality and professionalism of the music during its early “golden era.) He was heard regularly by millions on syndicated television, radio, records and personal appearances and best known for his rhythm mandolin playing and tenor harmony signing in duets, trios and quartets while working intermittently with Flatt & Scruggs from 1949 to 1962. Seckler (adapted from his family name of Sechler) began his career around his birthplace of China Grove, N.C., working with Charlie Monroe by the late 1930s. At various times later he was with several other notable bands for brief periods. He was in private life from March, 1962, until joining Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass in 1973. Following Flatt’s death in 1979, he became leader of the Nashville Grass, making personal appearances and recording over a half dozen albums, until his gradual retirement in the mid 1990s. Recorded songs he wrote or co-wrote and featured on shows include “A Purple Heart,” “That Old Book Of Mine” and “No Mother Or Dad.?
Bill Vernon - Born July 4, 1937
Bill Vernon’s work in the broadcast and print media and in other endeavors introduced thousands to bluegrass music. At age 14 he first heard bluegrass over the radio in New York, his city of birth. Captivated by the music, he dreamed of and went on to achieve a distinguished, lifelong career as a radio personality, festival master of ceremonies, free-lance writer, and nationally known authority on the origins and history of the music and its people. Beginning his music career as a part-time broadcaster in New York City, Vernon took a full-time job at WDHA in Dover, N.J., in 1970. The remainder of his radio work was at stations in Virginia, principally 21 years at WYTI in Rocky Mount. He was a significant early contributor of album liner notes, reviews and articles, primarily for Muleskinner News, Pickin’ and Bluegrass Unlimited magazines. Bill Vernon is most often remembered for his knowledge of historical details of the music, which he eagerly shared, along with topical witticisms and good natured barbs directed at whomever he felt deserved them. He died November 20, 1996.
Red Allen - Born February 12, 1930
Harley (“Red? Allen in 1949 sought factory work in Dayton, Ohio. Playing bars at night, he made his first recordings on the Kentucky label, teaming in 1956 with Bobby and Sonny Osborne to record for MGM Records. Billed as The Osborne Brothers And Red Allen, their MGM sessions yielded a number of singles and one of the genre’s early and classic LP’s, released in 1959 and titled “Country Pickin’ And Hillside Singin”. The 1956 Osborne/Allen masters are regarded today as among the most important in bluegrass music because they constitute the earliest and many say the finest significant group of commercial sides in the high lead vocal harmony format and received national distribution on a major record label. Therefore, Red Allen was one of the creators of that sound. He began a solo career in 1958 as Red Allen & The Kentuckians. His considerable pride and total confidence on stage were part of a professional persona that made him an unpredictable and colorful entertainer. He was also one of the idiom’s best rhythm guitarists and purest lead and tenor vocalists. Over a period of more than three decades he recorded fully a dozen albums, some with his musically talented sons, for labels that included the Starday, Folkways, County, King Bluegrass, Lemco, Melodeon and Red Clay record companies. Some of his ‘Signature’ songs were “Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes,” “Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On” and “Is This) My Destiny”. Recording collaborators through the years included Frank Wakefield, J.D.Crowe, Porter Church, Don Stover, the Yates Brothers and David Grisman. In semi-retirement for a number of years, he died April 3, 1993.
Benny Martin - Born May 8, 1928
From boyhood around Sparta, TN, Benny Martin began what was to become a flamboyant career as one of bluegrass and country music’s most exciting and creative instrumentalists, distinctive vocalists and colorful entertainers. Around 1944 he got a job-playing fiddle with Big Jeff & The Radio Playboys on 50,000 watt WLAC in Nashville. This work led him to Grand Ole Opry spots and live 5:45 A.M broadcasts from WSM’s studio with Milton Estes & His Musical Millers in 1946. Martin’s first record as featured artist was with Hillous Butrum in 1946 for WLAC’s Pioneer Records, “Me And My Fiddle” b/w “So Blue To Cry” Leaving Estes, he filled-in for Chubby Wise, traveling with Bill Monroe on some dates in 1947. From 1949 to 1952, Martin traveled and recorded on the Columbia label with Roy Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys. From mid-1952 until February 17, 1954, he worked for Flatt & Scruggs in one of the preeminent bluegrass bands of all time, appearing on 16 sides for Columbia Records, including three of Earl Scruggs’ classic instrumentals. Joining The Johnnie & Jack/Kitty Wells Show in February, 1954, he recorded ?while still with the show in August of that year ?a number of country-formatted sides for Mercury Records, 21 of which were ultimately released. Known throughout for his fiddle and vocal work, these Mercury recordings also featured Martin’s fine flattop guitar playing. Resigning his employment about September, 1955, he traveled for a while with his own road band, Big Tiger & The Little Tigers. Martin was a member of The Grand Ole Opry for a few years in the late 1950’s and teamed briefly with Don Reno in 1965 for recordings and personal appearances including a gig at the historic Fincastle festival in September 1965. Widely emulated by his peers during a career covering more than 55 years, he recorded for more than a dozen record companies that include Mercury, MGM, Decca, RCA, Starday, Monument, Flying Fish and CMH as a featured artist, in addition to countless jobs as a session player. Benny Martin’s song compositions include “Ice Cold Love,” “If I Can Stay Away Long Enough” and his sensational, autobiographical “Me And My Fiddle.” He was honored by the IBMA in 1997 with its Award Of Merit. After several years of failing health, he died March 13, 2001.
The Lewis Family
Known nationally and internationally as an icon in Southern gospel string band singing and playing in bluegrass style, The Lewis Family has played a highly significant role in popularizing the bluegrass gospel genre and bringing it to prominence since the all-family group’s formation in 1951. For 38 years, 1954 until 1992, the group hosted its own weekly television show on WJBF-TV, Channel 6 in Augusta, GA. Numerous awards include induction into the prestigious Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1992; Grand Ole Gospel’s Living Legend Award and gospel’s highest honor, induction to The Gospel Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Based in Lincolnton, Georgia, from the beginning, the performing family’s founder and patriarch, Roy (“Pop? Lewis, died in 2004 at the age of 98. He was beloved by many thousands of bluegrass fans. Ironically - though a number of The Lewis Family’s major awards have come from the southern gospel field - the band has long been billed as America’s First Family of Bluegrass Gospel Music and the vast majority of the more than 200 dates played annually are on the bluegrass festivals and concerts, beginning in late 1969 on the earliest Virginia bluegrass events.
Syd Nathan - born April 27, 1904
Record shop owner Sydney Nathan founded King Records in Cincinnati during November, 1943. The label soon became identified with top rhythm and blues artists, while also signing artists as diversified as country artists Cowboy Copas, The Delmore Brothers, Merle Travis and Grandpa Jones. The company’s entry into what is now called the bluegrass market came when Bob Osborne and Jimmy Martin teamed briefly in 1951 and recorded four sides that were released on two singles. The signing of Don Reno & Red Smiley in January, 1952, began a hugely successful association that lasted more than 20 years and yielded over 20 LP’s. The Stanley Brothers recorded 186 masters (185 titles) from 1958 ?1965 and Charlie Moore & Bill Napier produced nine LP’s for King Records from 1963 ?1968. Nathan recorded a number of other artists in the bluegrass genre and was aggressive in gaining distribution for them. At the time of his death March 5, 1968, the King vaults had become a major repository of bluegrass master recordings. The label name, along with subsidiary labels Audio Lab, Federal and Deluxe, have been owned by IMG of Nashville for many years.
Howard Watts ("Cedric Rainwater")
Born February 19, 1913
Moving to Nashville in 1943, Howard Watts adopted the name Cedric Rainwater for stage comedy roles. The pseudonym became his professional persona throughout the remainder of his music career that began in 1932 in Orlando, Florida. As bassist and bass vocalist with Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, he participated in the bluegrass genre’s definitive and most significant recordings. These historic sessions in September, 1946 and October, 1947 included Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and Chubby Wise, completing the group now called “the original bluegrass band.” A talented songwriter, Watts’ compositions include “Remember the Cross” and “I’ll Be Going to Heaven Sometime.” He sold a number of other songs he and his wife Alice wrote to pay family medical bills.
Through the 1950’s, Cedric Rainwater recorded with and worked in the bands of several top bluegrass and country artists. His superb timing, tone and 4/4 “walking bass” technique led many of his peers to regard him as the best acoustic bass player in the business. Born in Monticello, Florida, he died January 21, 1970, after pursuing non-music interests for the last decade of his life.
Carl Story - Born May 29, 1916
Frequently billed as the "Father of Bluegrass Gospel Music," Carl Story's professional career as an entertainer spanned more than six decades, from 1934 until his death March 31, 1995. One of the earliest with a predominantly gospel repertoire, he played a significant role in establishing the bluegrass genre, making countless personal appearances and recording prolifically with his Rambling Mountaineers. His 1958 album, Gospel Quartet Favorites, became the first all-gospel bluegrass collection on a major record label. Of the songs now considered standards, several were first recorded by the Lenoir, North Carolina native in the late 1940s. Classic mid-1950s recordings of signature songs like "Light at the River," "Family Reunion" and "My Lord Keeps a Record" best exemplify Story's raw-edged "mountain" style of bluegrass with his distinctive high harmony voice, often in effective falsetto, and his strong, open rhythm guitar style. During his legendary career Carl Story frequently did disc jockey work on radio stations, and he and his band hosted radio and television shows in several southeastern states, including a ten year affiliation with WNOX's Tennessee Barn Dance in Knoxville.
Bill Clifton - Born April 5, 1931
Bill Clifton reached adulthood while bluegrass music was in its infancy. He began his entertainment career singing and playing his guitar at radio station WINA in Charlottesville, VA, in 1949. He also performed at local area barn dances while a student at the University Of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he later earned his Masters Degree under his birth name, William Marburg. He organized Bill Clifton & The Dixie Mountain Boys, recording in 1954 for the Blue Ridge label, of which he later became a part owner, with further record issues, also singles, on Mercury and Kapp labels. His most prolific recording was with Starday Records in Nashville. Starday and its budget label, Nashville Records, released a number of singles and a total of seven LP’s by Bill Clifton & The Dixie Mountain Boys. During this period Clifton was also active in organizational and promotional work with events such as the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, RI and one of the early single-day, multi-artist outdoor bluegrass events held at Luray, VA, on July 4th, 1961. Long a student and researcher in American and English folklore, Clifton relocated to southern England in 1963, about the time his Starday contract ended. Through his recordings, he had built a sizable following overseas and from his home in England he organized many folk clubs throughout Europe, promoting and greatly expanding the market for American bluegrass and folk music on the continent. His work there created a fan base that has endured and continues to benefit younger artists touring in European countries. Returning to the U.S. in 1977, he has since traveled periodically to Europe and Japan for tours and has recorded several LP’s of his own and in collaborations with other artists, such as his longtime touring partner, Red Rector. Clifton’s valuable catalog of recorded songs includes “Mary Dear,” “Little Whitewashed Chimney,” “Walkin’In My Sleep,” “Are You Alone?,” “Going Back To Dixie” and “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues.” Sung in his strong, rich voice with driving, traditional bluegrass instrumentation, these and other of his songs received heavy airplay on many of the country record shows of the late 1950’s to the mid-?0’s era. In 1992 the IBMA honored Bill Clifton with a Distinguished Achievement Award for his accomplishments.
Charles Wolfe - Born August 14, 1943
A self-described “cultural historian,” Charles K. Wolfe earned a Ph.D from the University of Kansas. An intense interest in old-time fiddle music plus a desire to learn more about southern popular country music led him to accept employment at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1970. Here he taught English, science fiction and folklore until his retirement in 2005. Wolfe was in his element in middle Tennessee; a 30 minute drive from Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry; 15 miles from the birthplace and home of the legendary Uncle Dave Macon at Readyville in adjoining Cannon County and easy access to numerous musicians and entertainers who lived in the area and were legends or legends of the future. Here he did invaluable research and interviews with surviving members of the early bands that were preserved in his later writing. Soon after moving to Tennessee he joined the Tennessee Valley Old-Time Fiddlers Association where he judged many contests and came to know numerous fiddlers. He contributed to the organization’s publication, The Devil’s Box, a quarterly with a wide circulation. But the legacy of Charles Wolfe is his prolific work as an author of books, largely historical in nature, that provide a priceless written and photographic documentation of the early days of southern country music and its people. Some examples are DeFord Bailey; A Black Star in Country Music, co-written with David Morton, and A Good-Natured Riot: The Birth of The Grand Ole Opry, a 1999 winner of two national book awards. He also authored many liner notes for albums. For more than 25 years he was very active in the production of the Uncle Dave Macon Days celebration, held each July in Murfreesboro and he received three Grammy nominations for his work on an album project of obscure, previously unknown, Macon recordings. Charles Wolfe was born August 14, 1943 in Sedalia, Missouri and died February 9, 2006, in Murfreesboro. The IBMA honored Dr. Charles Wolfe in 1990 with its Distinguished Achievement Award.
The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers
One of the earliest bluegrass groups, The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers left a legacy of some of the best examples of intense, raw-edged bluegrass music ever recorded, with songs that included “Pain In My Heart,” “My Brown Eyed Darling,” “Dirty Dishes Blues,” “You Broke Your Promise,” “Nobody Cares (Not Even You),” “No Curb Service” and “Windy Mountain.”
Originated in 1937 as an old-time “hillbilly” band largely by West Virginia native Ezra Cline, the band assumed a bluegrass format in late 1949 when Larry Richardson joined, playing banjo, along with Bobby Osborne, playing guitar. Key members of the group at various times included Paul Williams, Ezra’s nephews Curly Ray and Charlie Cline, and brothers Ray and Melvin Goins.
The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers first recorded in 1950 and maintained a consistent sound throughout a historically significant career that ended when key members disbanded in 1965. The majority of members named herein went on to long and prominent careers in other bluegrass bands.
Originally from Salem, Missouri, brothers Rodney (guitar) and Douglas Dillard (banjo) formed The Dillards with Dean Webb (mandolin) and Mitch Jayne (bass) in 1962. Shortly after moving to California that same year, they would have a major label recording contract and featured appearances on the popular Andy Griffith Show portraying “The Darlings,” a backwoods family of musicians. In the ensuing decades and thanks to re-runs, the band would continue to be one of the most often seen bluegrass acts on television.
In their stage shows The Dillards incorporated stand-up comedy, and their talents as entertainers brought bluegrass to new audiences in urban clubs, on college campuses, in movie scores, at folk festivals and on tour with mainstream rock bands and comedians. The band’s unique flair for songwriting and arrangement would have a huge impact on a broad range of important future musicians in the bluegrass and pop music worlds and an important influence on the country rock movement.
Among their many original songs are classics such as “The Old Home Place,” “Dooley,” “Doug’s Tune,” “Banjo in the Holler” and “There is a Time.”
John Hartford - Born December 30, 1937
Raised in St. Louis, Missouri, John Hartford was one of the most colorful champions of bluegrass music. While known largely for his role as a trail blazer, he was equally focused on nourishing traditions. As a creator of uniquely original material and performances, he was a persona that inspired countless others and was a willing mentor to some of the most highly acclaimed artists to follow. His signature composition, “Gentle on My Mind,” has been one of the most recorded songs in the world, and his seminal Aero-Plain album was a direct influence on a progressive form of the genre that would become known as “newgrass.”
John’s talent brought bluegrass and roots music to mainstream culture through national broadcasts of some of the most popular television series of their time, and he was an integral part of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? movie soundtrack which brought international attention to the art form as a new century was dawning. Hartford was a skilled fiddle and banjo player, and his titles also included visual artist, calligrapher, author, disc jockey, dancer, historian and steamboat pilot. He passed away on June 4, 2001.
Louise Scruggs - Born February 17, 1927
Louise Scruggs was a pioneering figure in artist management with a keen sense of trends and formidable business acumen who opened important doors for bluegrass music. Her abilities and professionalism were especially significant to the success of Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs in exposing bluegrass music to new audiences.
Born in Grant, Tennessee, Mrs. Scruggs was a doting wife and mother who also managed the career of one of the most important acts on the American music scene. Beginning in 1955, she booked dates, administered publishing, managed corporate relations and negotiated recording contracts and television appearances in an era when attention to such details was often scant.
Her visionary work would help open doors for bluegrass on college campuses, in prestigious concert halls, on prime time television, movie soundtracks and on landmark recordings. After Flatt & Scruggs disbanded in 1969, her guidance of husband Earl’s career with their sons, Gary, Randy and Steve would build bridges for bluegrass with audiences of other genres. After a career that spanned more than 50 years, she passed away on February 2, 2006.
Del McCoury - Born February 1, 1939
Born in York County, Pennsylvania, Del McCoury first came to prominence as the lead singer and guitarist with Bill Monroe in 1963. He formed Del McCoury & The Dixie Pals in 1967, appearing widely in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States where he would acquire a following for his keen tenor voice and hone his blues inflected sound.
After changing the group's name to The Del McCoury Band and including sons Ronnie on mandolin and Rob on banjo, he moved to Nashville in 1992. McCoury gained international acclaim for his high-energy style of bluegrass that was both adventuresome and traditional, receiving numerous honors from his peers and membership on WSM's Grand Ole Opry in 2003.
Regarded among the greatest ambassadors of his generation, Del's collaborations on recordings, at prestigious venues and on national broadcast outlets in genres as diverse as jazz, country and rock music proved to be important catalysts for bringing bluegrass to new audiences.
George Shuffler - Born April 11, 1925
A native of Valdese, North Carolina, George Shuffler influenced bluegrass as an innovative bass player, guitar stylist, featured vocalist and comedian in some of the most important bands of their time.
In 1950 he was asked to join the Stanley Brothers, with whom he developed his widely emulated "walking style" of bass playing first heard on their recordings in 1953. During many stints with the band continuing through 1966, Shuffler participated on more than two-hundred commercially recorded titles.
On songs such as "Don't Cheat In Our Home Town" and "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem," he built upon a signature style of cross-picking that would help foster a new voice for the guitar as a lead instrument.
Shuffler worked and recorded extensively with Don Reno & Bill Harrell as their bassist from 1967 to 1969. Though he frequently took breaks and returned to his home town, Shuffler participated in some of the purest bluegrass music in the genre's formative and financially leanest years.
Doyle Lawson- Born April 20, 1944
Kingsport, Tennessee native Doyle Lawson began playing his primary instrument, the mandolin, when he was eleven years of age. Beginning at the age of eighteen he worked and recorded with both Jimmy Martin and J.D. Crowe, playing mandolin, banjo or guitar, and singing tenor harmony. From 1971 until 1979 he was a member of The Country Gentlemen.
Lawson organized his own band, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, in April, 1979. The group immediately rose to the top levels of artistry in the bluegrass music world, elevating standards of the genre and exhibiting high levels of professionalism both vocally and instrumentally on dozens of albums. Lawson is perhaps best known for his precise, artfully-arranged gospel quartet songs - many done in the a cappella style. He has received numerous prestigious awards, and his band has become a training ground for many accomplished musicians who have gone on to form successful groups on their own.
During the 1980s Doyle was also a member of a part-time recording group of all-stars called The Bluegrass Album Band, which gained widespread respect and brought renewed interest in traditional bluegrass music.
Ralph Rinzler- Born July 20, 1934
From Passaic, NJ, Ralph Rinzler became interested in folk music while attending Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania in the mid-1950s. Sent to western North Carolina in 1960 by Folkways Records to make field recordings of rural folk musicians, he met Arthel "Doc" Watson. Realizing the then unknown musician's tremendous talent, Rinzler arranged bookings for him in northeastern urban folk music venues, affording Watson his earliest national recognition.
Playing the mandolin, Rinzler was a member of the folk/progressive group, The Greenbriar Boys, from about 1959-'64, recording several albums. For a short period in 1963 he also worked for Bill Monroe, largely as a career advisor and publicist. He wrote in folk music publications, portraying Monroe as a patriarch of folk/bluegrass music whose contributions to traditional American country music had seemingly been ignored by music critics and historians. A diligent folklorist, Rinzler brought awareness of bluegrass during a critical period to audiences where it had never been.
From 1964 to 1967 Rinzler was a board member of the influential Newport Folk Festival held in Rhode Island. During this period he was hired by the Smithsonian Institution where he organized its "Folklife" folk music and crafts festival on The Mall in Washington, DC, and directed it for 30 years until his death July 2, 1994
Tony Rice - Born June 8, 1951
Tony Rice is an American master of the acoustic guitar whose music has provided inspiration and a benchmark of excellence for musicians from a variety of genres and across a variety of instruments, and enchanted countless listeners around the globe.
Over a career that has spanned more than 40 years, Tony Rice has recorded and performed with a list of legends that includes Dolly Parton, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Stéphane Grappelli, Doc Watson, Norman Blake, and Peter Rowan. The roster of artists who have been influenced by Rice expands constantly as new generations and players of all ages and from a wide range of styles discover his music. Artists from other genres (Zac Brown, Vince Gill, Mary Chapin Carpenter) and artists known for brilliance on instruments other than guitar (fiddlers Alison Krauss and Mark O’Connor, banjoists Béla Fleck and Mark Johnson) count themselves as Rice scholars and friends. Guitarists around the globe have studied Rice’s impeccable technique, tone, and timing as they worked to discover their own styles.
Known as much for his gorgeously warm, expressive vocals as for his guitar virtuosity, Rice sadly lost his voice to a condition called muscle tension dysphonia, singing live for the final time at a festival in May 1994. He simply channeled that expression into his playing. Rice won the first award for Instrumental Performer of the Year—Guitar from the International Bluegrass Music Association in 1990, and has been nominated in this category every year since, winning it again in 1991, 1994, 1996, 1997, and 2007.
Paul Warren - Born May 17, 1918
Regarding inductee Paul Warren, music historian/musician Eddie Stubbs said, “I think it’s important to recognize that Paul is being honored by the IBMA for his bluegrass contributions as a musician and bass vocalist, but his role with the fiddle went beyond bluegrass. The majority of his career occurred when the lines of country and bluegrass weren't really as rigid. After rock and roll emerged in the middle 1950s, the fiddle went on life-support, and has really been there ever since. There were only a handful of bands that consistently kept a fiddle on board. The instrument became a luxury and not a necessity--even in bluegrass. Because of Paul's visibility with Flatt & Scruggs, and later Lester by himself, the instrument remained present to a wider audience that was not exclusively bluegrass from the late 1950s through Paul's retirement in 1977.”
In 1954, Warren began his long association with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs when he replaced Benny Martin in their Foggy Mountain Boys; he appeared on all of their recordings between 1954 and 1969. When Flatt and Scruggs broke up in the late '60s, Warren played in Flatt's Nashville Grass through early 1977. In an interview, Lester Flatt stated, “Paul Warren is one of the solidest, most dependable musicians that ever played.”