A voice that soared above the pines – Curly Seckler

Randall Franks and Curly Seckler in 1980s.

Curly Seckler

My New Year’s Eve show got me home about 3:30 a.m., and I quickly tried to get to sleep with a plan to rise early and head to Nashville. I awoke on time and aimed my burgundy Chevy Lumina towards the goal a little over two hours away. The trip had been made hundreds of times in my life, especially as my country music career was in full swing there.
I thought back to early trips which found me knocking on the door of a home off Dickerson Road when legendary bluegrass musician and singer Curly Seckler came to the door. I chose to emulate him as a child. He had done this many times and often told others especially as my star in music and TV rose of my initial youthful visit.
His door was always open to me, and he was always generous with his time, whether in person, on the phone or on the road. This trip was however not to knock on his door but to pay my respects to his family and join with his other friends and admirers as we said goodbye to the 98-year-old.
Seckler’s long career combined his talents with the majority of the genre’s first-generation legends from Charlie Monroe to “Doc” Tommy Scott, Jim and Jesse McReynolds to the Stanley Brothers.
He was most recognized by historians and fans though by his role as the tenor singer and mandolinist to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs as part of the Foggy Mountain Boys. One of the key artists which infused bluegrass into the fabric of American culture through television, recordings and radio. It was those recordings that also drew me as a young boy, and his tenor that I tried to match as I sang.
As I walked towards the door of the Spring Hill Funeral Home the bitter cold chilled my cheeks. I followed in some of the musicians that were to be singing who made their way to the coffin storage room to practice. I said hello to one of their wives who was waiting and soon found his biographer Penny Parsons, who wrote “Foggy Mountain Troubadour” opening up the viewing room. I was the first to arrive, so after a brief visit with Penny, I was able to spend some time with my long-time friend, just he and I as all the memories flooded back. I reminisced aloud looking upon the voice “who soared above the pines.” I talked about the visits to his home, the first time I looked up at him and his Nashville Grass on stage after the death of Lester Flatt, and was mesmerized by his poise and style on stage, to later in my life when my country music fan club was hosting a Country Music Fan Fair party and in he and his future wife Eloise Warren walked in to support me as just another two of my fans. Soon I found tears rolling down my cheeks and I sucked up the emotions drying my tears. I stepped back in the hall as family members began arriving slowly, the other notable musicians, industry elites, and Foggy Mountain Boy offspring filed in and visited with the family.
As I stood talking to his son Ray at the foot of his coffin, I looked to my left and in came the musicians who had be practicing, the Grammy winning Earls of Leicester (Jerry Douglas, Shawn Camp, Charlie Cushman, Jeff White, and Johnny Warren), who continued the Flatt & Scruggs tradition. Each, all old friends, stopped and shook hands and moved closer to the coffin. In a few moments, I looked up to my left and there stood Vince Gill paying his respects to one of his heroes. We shared some Curly memories, until Sharon Skaggs came in and hugged my neck and Ricky reached over and shook my hand as he got in the viewing line.
Shortly, we all settled into the Chapel as the “Foggy Mountain Special” played and WSM Announcer Eddie Stubbs led the service sharing the pulpit with Brother Terry Clapp and Gerald McCormick.
Moving performances were shared by Ricky Skaggs and the Whites of “Gone Home,” Connie Smith with “Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet,” and the Earls of Leicester on “Who Will Sing for Me” and we watched and heard memorable TV performances by Curly with Flatt & Scruggs  “I Want to Be Loved” and “Precious Memories” and his mandolin player with the Nashville Grass – Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives with “Lord, I’m Coming Home.”
We laughed, we cried, we applauded and we paid tribute to someone we all loved as both a good man who gave his hope, his encouragement and his faith freely to all of us; and to the last link to the golden era of the Flatt and Scruggs musical legacy that will stand the test of time and outlast all of us. As we gathered in the single digit wind chill around his graveside, the Earls of Leicester delivered a song Curly loved singing – “Reunion in Heaven.” Though we were freezing, we all seemed to linger there after being dismissed holding on to the significance of the moment, shaking hands, slowly passing by his wooden coffin awaiting the day of that reunion.  Learn more at




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

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 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

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.

Read more