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Nashville puts Bill and Jimmy in bronze

From my earliest days in country music International Country Music Fan Fair was an event that many country music personalities loved so they could get up close and personal with fans from around the world. The event is now called CMA Music Festival, and it was appropriate that during this year’s event a couple of the early stars of the Grand Ole Opry were honored during this week with unveilings of bronzes – Hall of Famers Bill Monroe and Little Jimmy Dickens.

I knew both of these men, I first met Jimmy at an event at Country Music Fan Fair and I performed for and with Bill Monroe numerous times throughout my career at this wonderful event. Both are featured in various volumes of my Encouragers book series.

Outside of Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, country and bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs unveiled a newly installed life-size bronze statue dedicated to his musical mentor, Bill Monroe.

“I don’t know if you ever get another Bill Monroe in a century,” Skaggs said. “There’s not a lot of people that I know of who could be cited as creating a whole new genre of music, but he did. He had the ear to hear it, the talent to play it and the heart to keep it alive because he was strong, he was powerful.

“I don’t know any person who could have withstood, pushed through and made it like him. He had music in his veins. It was the thing that pushed him so much,” he said. “It wasn’t just to make a living. It was to get something out of him and take to people that he loved, and that was the fans that loved this music. I have traveled all over the world into places you would think that bluegrass music would never make it to … and you meet someone there that actually plays the music. So this music has totally gone around the world.”

James Monroe, son of the late bluegrass icon was also on-hand to say a few words about his father.

Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass, was a gifted player, singer, and songwriter. The genre takes its name from his band, the Blue Grass Boys, named for Monroe’s home state of Kentucky.

Monroe formed the first edition of the Blue Grass Boys in Atlanta, Ga. The band eventually featured more than 150 performers including Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt performing career spanned 69 years before he died on Sept. 9, 1996. I am extremely honored to be one of those 150 Blue Grass Boys playing both fiddle and bass contributing to this legacy.

In October 1939, Monroe successfully auditioned for a regular spot on the Grand Ole Opry impressing Opry founder George D. Hay with his energetic stage performance – he soon started recording and developing what would eventually become his signature style with fast tempos, instrumental virtuosity, and musical innovation. His recordings have become classics including “Blue Grass Breakdown,” “My Rose of Old Kentucky,” and Monroe’s most famous composition, “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

Monroe, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970, remained a mainstay at the Opry. There he settled into a role as a musical patriarch influencing generations of young musicians including Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, and the Oak Ridge Boys.

In addition to Monroe’s dedication, country star Brad Paisley unveiled a bronze statue of the late Little Jimmy Dickens. WSM radio personality Bill Cody hosted the ceremony.

Dickens was born James Cecil Dickins, but was world famous as “Little Jimmy.” He was known for his humorous novelty songs, his small size (4’11”), and flashy wardrobe, but his contributions to country music were far greater than his diminutive stature. He started as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983.

Little Jimmy Dickens was a beloved fixture at the Opry, on stage and backstage. He passed away on Jan. 2, 2015. Before his death, he was the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Dickens recorded many novelty songs including “Country Boy,” “A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed,” “I’m Little but I’m Loud,” and his biggest hit, the No. 1 “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.”  His song “Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait)” inspired Hank Williams to nickname him Tater.

Over the years, Dickens made appearances in music videos by close friend and fishing buddy, fellow West Virginia native Brad Paisley. Along with joining on bonus comedy tracks on several of Paisley’s albums, Dickens also joined Paisley and his CMA Awards co-host Carrie Underwood in several show monologues. Upon Dickens’ death in 2015, Paisley lamented the loss of his hero and “the best friend a human being could ask for” and has performed numerous tributes to Dickens’ life and career.

“This was a man who was honing his craft before Hank Williams, who we sort of credit as the father of modern country music in many ways,” said Paisley during the unveiling today. “He saw everything in those decades that he stood on that stage, like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn and Garth Brooks. By the time Jimmy left us, he had become the Grand Ole Opry. On a night that he wasn’t there, you were cheated out of something and he knew that. He realized when he was well enough to do it, he went. He knew that he owed it to the younger generation that wanted to see him, it was another lesson in how you entertain people. He gave them everything that he had on that stage and in this building for many many years. So I think it’s really appropriate that he’s going to be one of the statues that’s a permanent reminder of what we should be in this building.”

This year, the Ryman Auditorium celebrates its 125th anniversary since originally opening its doors in 1892. On July 27, Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder will perform at the historic venue as part of its annual “Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman” concert series.  Tickets are on-sale now at the box office and ryman.com.

Country happenings with Sylvia and Ricky Skaggs

My career in country music has allowed me the blessing of doing shows with a lot of our stars.

It always enthuses me when I can share great news about friends I have met along the way.

sylviaOne of those is country chart-topper Sylvia is who will release her new CD It’s All in the Family in early October. The 12-song album was produced by Sylvia and her longtime collaborator John Mock.
“I hope this music inspires and encourages people of all ages to continue to create in whatever genre brings them joy,” stated Sylvia. “I have found that there is no age limit on creativity. Your best work is ahead of you! I’ve felt like a kid again making this record, and I can hardly wait to share it with the world!”
It’s All in the Family is Sylvia’s first album on which she co-wrote the majority of the 12 all-new songs. The highly anticipated release is the singer/songwriter’s most personal venture to date, paying homage to her family’s musical roots and touching on the choices, challenges and turns in the road that have brought her to where she stands today. The Grammy-nominated singer collaborated with some top songwriters including Thom Schuyler, Craig Bickhardt, Jeff Pennig, Kate Campbell, Bobby Tomberlin, and Mark Narmore. John Mock wrote the music for six cuts on the record as well as string arrangements for half of the album.
Known for her long list of huge hits like “Nobody” and “Tumbleweed,” Sylvia has a history of creating long-lasting fan favorites. With the release of Sylvia’s second RCA album, Just Sylvia, the single “Nobody” sold two million copies and was #1 on all country music charts. It was awarded BMI “Song of the Year” for receiving the most radio airplay in 1983. “Nobody” also reached #13 as a crossover hit on Billboard’s Top 100 chart and spent a total of 52 weeks on both charts. Recording for RCA until the end of 1987, Sylvia recorded six albums and garnered a total of 13 Top Ten and No. 1 songs, selling over 4 million records. In 1982, Sylvia was named “Female Vocalist of the Year” by the Academy of Country Music and was a Grammy nominee in the “Best Female Country Vocal Performance” category in 1983. To learn more, go to www.SylviaMusic.com. The CD can be pre-ordered at Itunes and CDBaby.

My longtime friend Ricky Skaggs is receiving musical honors including this year’s prestigious ASCAP Founders Award and the 14-time GRAMMY® winner will be inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame.

ricky-skaggs“What an incredible honor it is for me to be inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame,” says Skaggs. “Just to be named alongside so many of my musical heroes is really humbling. I’m grateful to all of the musicians who have gone before me and left a trail that I have followed and learned from. I’m so thankful for this honor.”

In addition to Skaggs, this year’s inductees include Garth Brooks, the late Jerry Reed, Brooks’ studio backing band, the G-Men and the Sigma Sound Studio Rhythm Section.

An induction ceremony and concert will be held on Wednesday, October 26, at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville. The Municipal Auditorium is home to the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and GRAMMY Museum Gallery™ at Musicians Hall of Fame.

Earning 12 #1 hit singles, 14 GRAMMY® Awards, 11 IBMA Awards, nine ACM Awards, eight CMA Awards (including Entertainer of the Year), two Dove Awards, three honorary Doctorate degrees, a GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame induction, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s 2013 Artist-In-Residence, an Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award in the Instrumentalist category along with countless other awards, Ricky Skaggs is truly a pioneer of Bluegrass and Country music. Since he began playing music more than 50 years ago, Skaggs has released more than 30 albums and has performed thousands of live shows. He started his own record label, Skaggs Family Records, in 1997 and has since released 12 consecutive GRAMMY®-nominated albums. His newest release,
For more information on Ricky Skaggs, visit www.rickyskaggs.com.

Country ramblings – Oscar, Vince and Ricky

When I made my first appearance for the Grand Ole Opry in 1984, I had already appeared on shows with one of the long-running stars of the show Rollin “Oscar” Sullivan of Lonzo & Oscar.
Lonzo and Oscar were one of country music’s best-known comedy duos. Although there were three Lonzo’s through the years that Oscar owned the name, there was only one Oscar, whose talents as a singer and mandolin player were top-notch. The country bumpkin costumes of their performances popularized in the heyday of classic country had eased to more of a leisure suit look by the time I came to know Oscar.

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