Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ricky Skaggs Is Determined to Keep Bluegrass Music Alive

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ricky Skaggs Is Determined to Keep Bluegrass Music Alive

Article excerpt

When Ricky Skaggs was 6 years old, bluegrass music's founding father, Bill Monroe, invited the mandolin prodigy up onstage and asked him to play.

"I didn't take my instrument along that night," Skaggs remembers. "I ended up playing his, which, to a 6-year-old's bony frame was the size of a guitar. But that night was really the beginning of what became my career."

That was more than 50 years ago, and after a period of bluegrass woodshedding, followed by years of mainstream country success and then a return to his bluegrass beginnings, Skaggs now finds himself as one of the genre's prime practitioners. And he's determined to keep the music alive by passing his knowledge along.

"I'm always trying to teach as much as be a performer," he says. "I love telling stories, and I love telling people the history of bluegrass. Our show is a lot about the history of the music and, of course, with the hits I had in the '80s and '90s, we try to bring those things in, too."

Skaggs' stellar career found him, at age 7, jamming with Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs on TV, joining Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys while still a teenager, and later becoming a key member of Emmylou Harris' Hot Band.

In the 1980s, he made waves in mainstream country, scoring 12 No. 1 hits and earning numerous awards. But by the late '90s his brand of neo-traditionalism was on its way out in favor of the pop country sounds of Garth Brooks and Shania Twain. Skaggs stepped away from the mainstream and moved back to bluegrass, founding his own Skaggs Family Records label, where he could record when and what he wanted. Success on his own terms and a shelf full of Grammys were the results.

Working within the major-label system, "I had a lot of success," Skaggs admits. "But I wouldn't go back, and I wouldn't trade the freedom I have now for any of that."

Nothing exemplifies Skaggs' artistic freedom better than his most recent album, "Hearts Like Ours," recorded with his wife of nearly 35 years, Sharon White (of country vocal group the Whites). …

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