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Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder

Springer Mountain Farms Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman

Springer Mountain Farms Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder

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A life full of music. That’s the story of Ricky Skaggs. By age 21, he was already considered a “recognized master” of one of America’s most demanding art forms, but his career took him in other directions, catapulting him to popularity and success in the mainstream of country music. His life’s path has taken him to various musical genres, from where it all began in bluegrass music, to striking out on new musical journeys, while still leaving his musical roots intact.

Ricky struck his first chords on a mandolin over 50 years ago, and this 15-time Grammy Award winner continues to do his part to lead the recent roots revival in music. With 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated classics behind him, all from his own Skaggs Family Records label (Bluegrass Rules! in 1998, Ancient Tones in 1999, History of the Future in 2001, Soldier of the Cross, Live at the Charleston Music Hall, and Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe in 2003, Brand New Strings in 2005, Instrumentals in 2007, Salt of the Earth with The Whites in 2008, Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947 in 2009 and Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved along with Mosaic in 2010), the diverse and masterful tones made by the gifted Skaggs come from a life dedicated to playing music that is both fed by the soul and felt by the heart.

Ricky was born on July 18, 1954 in Cordell, Kentucky, and received his first mandolin at the age of five after his father, Hobert, heard him harmonizing with his mother from across the house as he played with his toys. Two weeks after teaching him the G, C and D chords, Hobert returned from working out of town shocked to see his young son making chord changes and singing along. He soon earned a reputation among the locals in his community. When the legendary Bill Monroe came to Martha, Kentucky for a performance, the crowd wouldn’t let up until “Little Ricky Skaggs” got up to play. The father of bluegrass called six-year-old Skaggs up and placed his own mandolin around his neck, adjusting the strap to fit his small frame. No one could have imagined what a defining moment that would be in the life of the young prodigy. By age seven, Skaggs performed with bluegrass legends Flatt & Scruggs on their popular syndicated television show, for which he earned his first paycheck for a musical performance.

In 1971, he entered the world of professional music with his friend, the late country singer, Keith Whitley, when the two young musicians were invited to join the band of bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley. Ricky soon began to build a reputation for creativity and excitement through live appearances and recordings with acts such as J. D. Crowe & the New South. He performed on the band’s 1975 debut album for Rounder Records, which is widely regarded as one of the most influential bluegrass albums ever made. A stint as a bandleader with Boone Creek followed, bringing the challenges of leadership while giving him further recording and performing experience.

In the late 1970s, Ricky turned his attention to country music. Though still in his 20s, the wealth of experience and talent he possessed served him well, first as a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band and later as an individual recording artist on his own. With the release of Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine in 1981, Skaggs reached the top of the country charts and remained there throughout most of the 1980s, resulting in a total of 12 #1 hits. In 1982, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, the youngest to ever be inducted at that time. As his popularity soared, he garnered eight awards from the Country Music Association (CMA), including “Entertainer of the Year” in 1985, four Grammy Awards, and dozens of other honors. These achievements also placed him front and center in the neo-traditionalist movement, bringing renewed vitality and prominence to a sound that had been somewhat subdued by the commercialization of the ‘Urban Cowboy’ fad. Renowned guitarist and producer, Chet Atkins, credited Skaggs with “single-handedly” saving country music.

As a musician, Skaggs is a brilliant traditionalist but is also willing to mix genres, recording and touring with many different artists such as Bruce Hornsby and Ry Cooder. With dates in 2015, Ry Cooder, Sharon White and Ricky Skaggs embarked upon the critically acclaimed ‘Cooder-White-Skaggs – Songs for the Good People’ tour that featured the trio singing gospel, blues and country along with superior musicianship. Backing the trio was Mark Fain on bass, Ry’s son Joachim Cooder on drums, with Sharon’s father Buck White on piano and sister Cheryl White’s harmony vocals. Stops crossing the country included Berklee Performance Center in Boston and Carnegie Hall in New York, with tour dates continuing into 2016. Most recently, Skaggs has added Country tour dates as he plugs in and plays full shows of his chart-topping hits.

Ricky Skaggs has often said that he is “just trying to make a living” playing the music he loves.  But it’s clear that his passion for it puts him in the position to bring his lively, distinctively American form of music out of isolation and into the ears and hearts of audiences across the country and around the world.  Ricky Skaggs is always forging ahead with cross-cultural, genre-bending musical ideas and inspirations.

 

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