JERRY DOUGLAS AND THE EARLS OF LEICESTER WITH SPECIAL GUEST DEL MCCOURY
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Malcolm Brown Auditorium, Shelby High School
FOR TICKETS, CALL 704.487.8114
The Earl Scruggs Center is excited to present:
Jerry Douglas and the Earls of Leicester
with special guest Del McCoury
Saturday, February 20, 2016
Malcolm Brown Auditorium
Shelby High School
Shelby, North Carolina
GRAMMY and IBMA award-winning band Jerry Douglas and the Earls of Leicester features legendary dobro player Jerry Douglas with acclaimed writer, producer, and solo artist Shawn Camp on lead vocals and guitar, renowned Nashville banjoist Charlie Cushman on banjo and guitars, second-generation fiddle phenom Johhny Warren, and Barry Bales, Douglas’ longtime bandmate in Alison Krauss and Union Station, on bass and vocals.
The group is the product of Douglas’ lifelong passion for the music of bluegrass pioneers Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and their band, the Foggy Mountain Boys – note the play on words in the group’s name. This has been a longtime vision of Jerry Douglas, friend of Earl Scruggs. Joining them will be special guest and bluegrass legend Del McCoury, who was bitten by the bluegrass bug when he heard Earl Scruggs’ banjo. McCoury got his first taste of bluegrass when he played for Bill Monroe’s bluegrass boys in early 1963, and he has gone on to become one of bluegrass music’s greats.
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By Michael Scott Cain | Special to The News-Post | Jan 20, 2016
Del McCoury might have been born in Pennsylvania, and he’s chosen to live in Nashville, but he has Maryland roots that go back a long way. In fact, he started his career playing bars in Baltimore, up U.S. 1 and out U.S. 40.
“Baltimore was pretty hot back in the ‘50s. It was a hot place for bluegrass,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Nashville. “A lot of people came up from Tennessee and Georgia and Alabama to work during the war in the shipyards, in the steel mills and aircraft factories, and we played for them. They loved mountain music. A lot of local people loved it, too, and we played for them.”
He laughed as the memories turned into stories — and Del McCoury, in his many years playing music, has a lot of stories to tell.
He went into the story of how the first bluegrass concert in Carnegie Hall came to be. “Earl Taylor was the biggest star. I played with him in a little place called Castle Café, right off of Broadway. I met him in the fish market. There was was a big bar in Fells Point that had country and bluegrass music, two bands, no stopping. When one finished, the other would start up. Earl Taylor was playing there, and a man came in, sat there all night listening. Just had two drinks, and when Earl finished, he went up to him and said, ‘My name’s Alan Lomax, and I’m going to put you boys in Carnegie Hall. Earl said, ‘I’ve heard that before,’ but Lomax actually did it. He got them to make an album for Folkways Records and to play Carnegie Hall. They had a great sound.”
How did McCoury end up playing guitar? He has a story for that, too.
Bill Monroe, the mandolin player credited with inventing bluegrass, was coming through Baltimore in 1963 and needed both a banjo player and a guitar picker. He hired McCoury and put him onstage without even rehearsing. McCoury, having played cover versions of Monroe’s songs, was able to keep up, but after a couple performances, Monroe shocked him by asking him to switch over to guitar and become the lead singer. It turned out to be the right move. He did it, and has never gone back to the banjo.
After almost 10 years with Monroe, McCoury left the band and briefly joined the Golden State Boys in California. When that band broke up, he went back to Pennsylvania and took a job to support his wife and two small sons, confining his musical activities to playing festivals on the weekends.
But by the time they hit their teens, his two sons had become musicians. They became his band, and McCoury decided it was time to move to Nashville and get back to music full-time in the ‘80s. With his son Ronnie on mandolin and his son Robbie on banjo, they have become the Del McCoury Band and are busily and happily rewriting the rules for bluegrass.
The Del McCoury Band recorded nonbluegrass tunes like the British folk-rocker Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” recorded an album with country-folk-rocker Steve Earle and played jam band festivals with Phish, proving that bluegrass is more flexible than people might have thought it was. Their stretching of musical horizons has also made McCoury and his sons one of the most honored bands in bluegrass. In fact, country-bluegrass artist Alison Krauss told the newspaper The Tennessean that McCoury widened the field for everyone. He is, she says, the new Bill Monroe.
McCoury expressed surprise at her comment, which he had not heard. “Alison said that?” he asked and then said he was just lucky to be able to make a living playing bluegrass.
He’ll return to Maryland to perform on Jan. 22 at the Weinberg Center in a concert designed to celebrate the music of Woody Guthrie, America’s finest and foremost composer of folk songs. Long after Guthrie’s death, his daughter, Nora Guthrie, found notebooks of his that were thought to have been long lost. They contained lyrics for songs that remained unfinished because Guthrie had not yet written melodies for them.
Nora gave lyrics to such artists as Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello and Natalie Merchant, asking them to write tunes to match the lyrics and to record the finished songs. “Nora picked us to do that,” McCoury says. “She said her dad would have loved to have a band like ours. She offered us 20 songs. We worked the songs up and made demos of them. One day, I’m listening to them and really got into them. ... We’ve been playing them at shows and at first we didn’t know them, didn’t know how to perform them, but they always went over well. We’ve got them down right now.
“They’re very special songs, from 1935 to 1949. Some of them are in his own handwriting. The songs last. You could do some of them 100 years from now. He’d write about that day, whatever day it was. He wrote comical, smart, about being down and out, everything. He’s even got a song about women’s hats. He was in New York City, and he’d never seen stuff like that before. That’s what he did — he wrote down what he saw.”
The first half of the show will feature songs with Guthrie’s lyrics, and after an intermission, the Del McCoury Band will perform classic songs from its own repertoire.
Del McCoury still feels a kinship with this area. His bluegrass festival, Delfest, is held annually in Cumberland, and he’s played a lot in Frederick, “even though I’ve driven through it more than I’ve played here.” Playing Frederick is “like coming home,” he said.
A practicing poet who teaches literature at Frederick Community College, Michael Scott Cain also writes essays and music and book criticism for various magazines. He has published three novels, three nonfiction studies and six poetry chapbooks. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Dan Craft firstname.lastname@example.org Jan 14, 2016
Like father, like sons, to be sure.
But sometimes the chips off the old block will fall where they may, due to circumstances beyond their immediate control.
"Actually, this has been going on for about five years now," notes Ronnie McCoury, one of the chips off that solid, silvery McCoury oak known as Del, towering in the bluegrass forest of legend alongside the likes of Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.
Ronnie is referring to a group known as The Travelin' McCourys, billed as "80 percent of the Del McCoury Band," since four out of five people in it — Ronnie, kid bro' Rob, fiddler Jason Carter and bass player Alan Bartram— hail from same.
When these fellow bluegrass travelers take to the stage of the Castle Theatre Friday night, they'll be following three prior Castle shows involving both McCoury configurations: Del's band in 2011 and 2012; Del's boys' band in 2014 and, now, this weekend.
So which McCoury band is which, musically speaking?
"We like to go in and play traditional bluegrass music the way we do with Dad, but we also like to be able to step into situations where we can really stretch out," says big bro' Ronnie, who joined papa Del's band in 1981, at age 14.
"If we need to plug in, we'll plug in. We're open to anything."
We interrupt this plug for the Travelin' McCourys to reassure fans of papa Del that the old man's band is alive and well and kicking, with the 9th all-star edition of DelFest, his namesake Memorial Day weekend music fest, now ranked as one of the country's top roots music destinations, set for 2016 in Maryland.
"What happened," explains his good son, "is that Dad started looking at his age, which was around 72 at the time (he'll turn 77 in February). His mother lived until her mid-80s, but his dad passed at 72."
With that specter of mortality suddenly looming, "he started thinking about things and he thought maybe it would be a good time for us to get out of the nest and try to have our own band."
Fast-forward five years ... to now.
Of course, you can't keep a good musician down ... seventysomething or no. And Del has kept the original band, sons included, going strong, though scaled back to about 50 dates a year, or an average of one a week.
"Dad is not one to sit still or retire, and that's the way it's gone ... he's still got an incredible voice and his musicianship is still great," notes Ronnie, 48.
"What's astonishing is that, because when we've been gone (with the Travelin' McCourys), he's been given the freedom to do all these collaborations, like the duet he did with Sam Bush two years ago."
So much for Dad's retreat.
As for the Travelin' McCourys, they've kept logging miles begun half a decade ago. Fresh off a Grand Ole Opry show just several nights before his GO! interview, Ronnie says the group has just entered a new phase with the addition this past fall of flat-picking prodigy Cody Kilby, who was off and running in his teens, straight into a 14-year run with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder.
He's also a highly sought-after studio player, most recently on Beck's Grammy-winning critical/popular success, "Morning Phase."
Prior to Kilby's joining, they'd kept the guitar slot vacated by Del open on a kind of revolving door basis, extending invitations to an array of ace friends and fans like Jeff White, Ronnie Bowman, String Cheese Incident's Billy Nershi, Alison Krauss Band's Dan Tyminski and Infamous Stringdusters' Andy Falco.
"We've enjoyed playing with so many guitar players we know," Ronnie says, but, he adds, the stability that has come with a permanent flat-picker of Kilby's prowess has upped their ante.
That began at last year's DelFest, where the pact was sealed.
"I guess we had our 'a-ha!' moment there .... we were on stage and it was like a light bulb went on," Ronnie says.
"With Cody, we really have the perfect combination: a great player, and he fits perfectly with what we do — straddling the fence between traditional and progressive. No matter what we throw at him, he can handle it."
Meanwhile, the brothers McCoury play on, and on ... on either side of the McCoury fence, with no end in sight.
"I've been in a band pretty much all my life," says Ronnie, "and I'll be coming on 35 years since I joined Dad's band. But neither of us was ever pushed or pressured by him to become musicians."
Ronnie was born March 16, 1967, in York County, Pa., where he lived until he was 24, then relocated with his wife Allison to Nashville, which is home to this day.
The McCoury boys were weaned on bluegrass, courtesy the many pickin’ parties held at the house, along with rehearsals that Del would have with his band of the era, the Dixie Pals.
Around age 13, after attending a show with his Dad where he saw Bill Monroe perform, Ronnie decided that, OK, yes, he wanted to be a chip off the old block and play some serious bluegrass mandolin (he'd taken violin lessons as a kid, but didn't keep at it).
Ronnie practiced on his mandolin for six months, soon followed by Del asking his son to fill it a recently vacated mandolin slot in his band.
That was on May 28, 1981; the slot has remained filled since.
Ronnie McCoury is more than happy to continue in that long-term role, but he's also happy to be a Travelin' man, too.
In Del's band, "Dad is always the front guy, it's his show, and it's him who keeps the crowd in the palm of his hand all the time," says Ronnie.
Sans Del, "it's something me and the other guys have had to learn how to do, even though we've been play his shows for so long. It's fun for us to figure out a bunch of stuff ... the ways we can stretch out on our own."
Comprising the five members of The Travelin' McCourys are:
- Ronnie McCoury, mandolin: See accompanying interview
- Rob McCoury, banjo: Full name actually Robin (not Robert); four years Ronnie's junior; joined papa Del's band in 1987, six years after Ronnie; played bass for a year before switching to the banjo he picks to this day.
- Cody Kilby, guitar: Bona fide bluegrass prodigy, winning awards as teen; member of Grand Ole Opry at 16; spent 14 years Ricky Skaggs' ace flatpicker with Kentucky Thunder; started travelin' with the McCourys last fall.
- Jason Carter, fiddler: Picked up the fiddle and never put it down one day after hearing Del at age 16; in 1992, asked Del for a job, auditioned, has been there ever since; now with Travelin McCourys, too.
- Alan Bartram, bass: Began music career with The Kenny & Amanda Smith Band; joined Del's band in 2005; followed Ronnie, Rob and Jason to Travelin McCourys in 2011.
Follow Dan Craft on Twitter: @pg_dcraf
LINEUP ANNOUNCEMENT: TELLURIDE BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL 2016
BY KATIE MOULTON FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2015
The "Queen and King of Telluride" will keep watching their thrones as Emmylou Harris returns to theTelluride Bluegrass Festival for the fourteenth year, and Sam Bush headlines the popular festival for the forty-second time. The annual festival announced its initial lineup of artists who will take the stage June 16-19, 2016, with "many more" musicians still to be announced. A few highlights of the initial lineup include John Prine, local veterans Leftover Salmon and a special reunion of Bela Fleck & the Flecktones.
Four-day passes to the fest sold out within thirty minutes on sale, but some single-day passes are still available.
43rd Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival
Sam Bush Band
Telluride House Band featuring Sam, Bela, Jerry, Edgar, Stuart & Bryan
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones
Yonder Mountain String Band
Del McCoury Band
Dave Rawlings Machine
Tim O’Brien Band
Jerry Douglas Band
Peter Rowan Band
The Infamous Stringdusters
Kruger Brothers with the Kontras Quartet
Shane Koyczan & The Short Story Long
The Lil’ Smokies
Telluride Troubadour & Band Contests
John Lawless | October 2, 2015
Last night at the Duke Energy Center in Raleigh, NC, the 2015 International Bluegrass Music Awards were distributed.
It was the year of the Earls of Leicester, who took 6 of the 17 trophies, including the coveted Entertainer of the Year. They became so blasé about winning, that Barry Bales cast one to the floor during his acceptance speech.
Not really… he merely knocked it over coming to the podium, but he confirmed that it did, indeed, break. “They don’t make ’em like they used to,” was his refrain.
Other than the Earls, Balsam Range and Becky Buller were the belles of the ball, receiving 3 and 2 awards respectively.
The emotional highlights came during the inductions of Bill Keith and Larry Sparks into the Hall of Fame. As recently as last week it wasn’t certain that Bill would be able to attend and accept in person, as his health has been failing. But he followed a lovely introduction from Jim Rooney and Alan Munde with a bracing remembrance of the many people who have assisted him along the way.
Sparks had the signal honor of being inducted by Alison Krauss, who shared a truly lovely encomium to her favorite bluegrass singer, consisting largely of his own words. In accepting, he provided his trademark blend of bravado and humor, after which he and his band, joined by Krauss, laid down spot-on renditions of several of his hits, including John Deere Tractor and Tennessee 1949.
A complete list of winners follows:
- Entertainer of the Year: The Earls of Leicester
- Female Vocalist of the Year: Rhonda Vincent
- Male Vocalist of the Year: Shawn Camp
- Vocal Group of the Year: Balsam Range
- Instrumental Group of the Year: The Earls of Leicester
- Song of the Year: Moon Over Memphis, Balsam Range
- Album of the Year: The Earls of Leicester, The Earls of Leicester, Jerry Douglas, producer
- Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year: Who Will Sing for Me, The Earls of Leicester
- Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year: The Three Bells, Jerry Douglas, Mike Auldridge, Rob Ickes
- Emerging Artist of the Year: Becky Buller
- Recorded Event of the Year: Southern Flavor, Becky Buller, with Peter Rowan, Michael Feagan, Buddy Spicher, Ernie Sykes, Roland White, and Blake Williams
- Banjo Player of the Year: Rob McCoury
- Bass Player of the Year: Tim Surrett
- Dobro Player of the Year: Jerry Douglas
- Fiddle Player of the Year: Michael Cleveland
- Guitar Player of the Year: Bryan Sutton
- Mandolin Player of the Year: Jesse Brock
Congratulations one and all!
Greg Larry email@example.com Sep 23, 2015
CUMBERLAND — Del McCoury and family were in Cumberland on Tuesday to participate in an annual event awarding grants to local charities.
Through the nonprofit DelFest Foundation, a portion of the proceeds from the annual DelFest bluegrass festival are collected to distribute to area nonprofits.
A total of $48,500 was awarded to 17 different charities Tuesday. Del and Jean McCoury, with sons Robbie and Ronnie and daughter Rhonda, joined members of the DelFest Foundation board to announce the recipients and award them with a check. The event was held at Canal Place.
“We are happy to be able to do something for the area. It’s our chance to give something back to a community that has been very supportive,” said Del McCoury.
DelFest is held each Memorial Day weekend with more than 10,000 fans attending annually to listen to top performers in bluegrass and Americana music from across the country.
Doug McKenzie, president and construction manager for the Allegany County Habitat of Humanity, accepted a donation for his organization.
“It has been a great opportunity to work with DelFest. We are on house number two and planning on building number three in the spring and we want to build it in a week. Thank you all,” said McKenzie.
Kimi-Scott McGreevy accepted a grant for the Western Maryland Mission of Mercy, a free dental clinic.
“We are hoping to reach another 300 to 400 individuals in the future. It truly is a community effort,” said McGreevy. “Many volunteers help us, including 150 general volunteers and over 200 medical professionals from our community that donate their time. Thank you for helping to make this happen,” she said.
Area nonprofits receiving grants included Queen City Football, Allegany Health Right, Associated Charities, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Community Trust Foundation, City Reach, Western Maryland Food Bank, Imagination Library, Jane’s Place, Homeless Resource Day, The Children’s League, Friends Aware, Tri-State Teen Challenge, Family Crisis Resource Center, Habitat for Humanity, Western Maryland Area Health Education Center and the Potomac Valley Athletic Association.
“Thank you everyone and please continue to support DelFest. The charities do such great work for the area. We also appreciate the McCoury family and the wonderful work they do for the community,” said Barb Buehl, Allegany County Tourism.
“I want to thank all of you. There is a lot of work to be done and you have already done a lot. We’re just glad to be able to help you a little bit,” said Del McCoury.
Follow Staff Writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.
AUGUST 31, 2015 BY MIKE KOHLI
In the annals of bluegrass music, several pivotal names come to mind. Two of them, Del McCoury and David Grisman, have joined forces for a series of fall dates across the country.
The upcoming tour will begin at Syracuse’s Palace Theatre Nov. 6.
The current tour will take the duo to theaters and clubs around the country, focusing mainly on the East Coast, with a quick detour to Colorado in April. Grisman will also be in Central New York for a show with John Sebastian at the Earlville Opera House in Earlville on Oct. 2.
Del & Dawg Tour Dates
11/6 – Palace Theatre – Syracuse, NY
11/7 – The Hall MP – Brooklyn, NY
11/14 – Carolina PAC – Chapel Hill, NC
11/15 – The Hamilton – Washington, DC
11/20 – State Theatre – Portland, ME
11/21 – College Street Music Hall – New Haven, CT
2/26 – The Flynn – Burlington, VT
2/27 – Mahaiwe Arts Center – Barrington, MA
3/5 – Strings In The Mountain Festival – Colorado Springs, CO
3/6 – Vilar PAC – Beaver Creek, CO
4/2 – Charleston Music Hall – Charleston, SC
4/3 – Savannah Music Festival – Savannah, GA
On the eve of the annual DelFest, bluegrass great talks about finishing the late legend's long lost lyrics for a new album
By Nancy Dunham May 20, 2015
"My wife says, 'You should get in the studio and record,'" says Del McCoury with a laugh, "'You're going to run out of time one of these days.'"
It's the week before DelFest — McCoury's eighth annual Memorial Day festival set for this weekend in Cumberland, Maryland — but the bluegrass legend sounds as relaxed as if he's on an extended vacation. Clearly he's as undaunted joking about his own mortality as he is about the idea of spending the holiday weekend performing in likely sweltering heat and humidity before capacity crowds on a stage just a stone's throw from West Virginia.
"I never did mind the road," says McCoury, who turned 76 in February. "The first time I knew about homesickness was when I was married and moved to California and my wife had never been away from home. I'd look at her and think, 'What is wrong with that girl?' And then I realized she was homesick. That's why we only stayed out there six months. The road never did bother me. There's just a certain routine that I'm used to."
While many other musicians of his generation grouse about travel and the rigors of touring, McCoury — who is on the road full-time — always seems genuinely pleased to meet his fans. No paid meet-and-greets for McCoury, who is often in the DelFest crowd, chatting and posing for pictures.
"We want this to stay family-friendly," says Ronnie McCoury, who joins his brother Robbie and other performers as instructors at the multi-day DelFest Academy the week prior to the festival. "We are guests in the town and we want to make sure everyone has a good experience."
And family-friendly is just the McCoury way. Consider that in the early morning hours, after the late shows end, Del McCoury rides through the camping areas in a golf cart, making sure the festivalgoers are settled in. Newcomers to the festival, which is not solely bluegrass, are surprised that the headliner is so accessible.
It's easy to hear McCoury squirm as he confirms his in-demand status and an abbreviated list of high-profile shout-outs, like Bruce Springsteen waving off McCoury's introduction: "Hey, you don't need to tell me who you are," he said. "I'm a fan." Or the time Dierks Bentley told an arena audience that he came close to abandoning music but continued thanks to Del's inspiration. Even Phish's Jon Fishman has said he first read about Del in a Rolling Stone article, in which Jerry Garcia was quoted as saying, "I've just been trying to sing like Del McCoury all my life."
Nora Guthrie, daughter of iconic folksinger Woody Guthrie, is among the latest to publicly show her faith in McCoury. When she unearthed a treasure trove of unfinished Woody Guthrie songs, she asked the musician if he'd complete them.
"Those songs were written when Woody was coming out of Oklahoma, listening to the Carter Family and hillbilly music," says Nora Guthrie of the lyrics McCoury set to music. "I can't possibly explain to a 30-year-old what that was like. So I thought, 'Who don't I have to explain this to?' The answer was Del. That is just one of the many, many reasons I chose him. His style of playing, his voice, his band — there are so many similarities between Del and my dad."
The as-yet untitled album, which contains songs Guthrie originally wrote between 1935 and 1949, doesn't have a release date, but McCoury has already been performing some of the tracks live. Along with the customary audience requests for songs that span his 50-plus years career.
Born in York, Pennsylvania, McCoury developed his love for bluegrass after hearing Earl Scruggs' banjo-playing on Fifties' radio. Soon he was picking the banjo around the Baltimore-D.C. bar scene. It wasn't long until Bill Monroe hired McCoury to join the legendary Blue Grass Boys, moving him from banjo to guitar and making him lead singer.
Although McCoury was primed to break out as a major bluegrass star, he returned to Pennsylvania to work as a logger to better support his growing family, playing music on the weekends with his band the Dixie Pals. When young sons Ronnie and Robbie joined the band, he relocated to Nashville to give the boys a better shot at more recognition.
It worked. In 2006, the McCourys won their first Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album for The Company We Keep, a category they'd win yet again in 2014 for The Streets of Baltimore.
"Very few people in the world will understand what it is to stand on a stage with your father when winning a Grammy," says Ronnie McCoury. "It is the best feeling in the world. But I feel like that every night we are out there playing."
Not that the elder McCoury will brag about any of this. Instead, he credits his fans with the group's success.
"Well, you know, I guess we have got a lot of fans that we made back in the Sixties," he says. "We also always had a lot of young folks as fans. We are just very fortunate that they like us and don't forget us."
And come see them each year at DelFest, along with the other bluegrass-leaning bands on the bill. This year's lineup includes Old Crow Medicine Show, Jason Isbell, Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, Shovels & Rope, Yonder Mountain String Band's Jeff Austin and his band, Nicki Bluhm & the Gamblers, Nora Jane Struthers, the Gibson Brothers and Trampled by Turtles.
"We don't sit down and strategize," says Ronnie McCoury of the sometimes eclectic line-ups. "We think about who we like and invite them. It comes out to be a nice mix."
Del McCoury remembers the first time he and his sons heard the buzzed-about Trampled by Turtles. "Those guys tickled me to death. They play so fast, you can't tap your foot to it," he says. "Anyway, they are really big now."
Still, even Trampled by Turtles would likely admit they have miles to go before they reach Del Status.
"I brag on him a lot. He never will," says Ronnie McCoury about his father. "You think of everyone in the world who appreciates and loves Woody Guthrie music. There are some major rock stars like Bruce Springsteen who would love to [set Guthrie's words to music]. But [Nora] chose my dad. I've always known what a great musician my dad is. Now the world will know it."