Mike Auldridge: December 30, 1938 – December 29, 2012
Mike Auldridge passed away at his Silver Spring, Maryland, home on December 29, 2012 having being diagnosed as having inoperable prostate cancer. He was widely acknowledged as the premier resophonic guitar player.
Variously known, with great affection, as St Mike or Larry the Legend for his Dobro® playing and stylish coif, he was a graphic artist by training. Initially, Auldridge worked for a commercial art firm in Bethesda, Maryland, and then for the now-defunct Washington Star-News. He did not start playing music full-time until the newspaper folded in 1976.
He designed several of the Seldom Scene’s early album covers and drew the logo that is part of the masthead of the illustrious Bluegrass Unlimited magazine as well.
Born in Washinton D.C., Auldridge learned to play the Dobro® guitar after hearing “Uncle Josh” Graves from whom he bought his first resonator guitar for $150.
While in high school, he played with a group called the South Mountain Boys.
He was educated at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, from whence he graduated in 1967.
His first professional job playing music was with Bill Emerson and Cliff Waldron, then Waldron’s group, The New Shades of Grass (1967-1970). He can be heard on several LPs from this period; Bluegrass Country (Rebel SLP-1489) and Bluegrass Session (SLP-1493). Both albums can be found on the CD REB-CD-1123. Later with The New Shades Of Grass came Right On! (Rebel SLP-1496), Traveling Light (Rebel SLP-1500), Just a Closer Walk with Thee (Rebel SLP-1505), and Bluegrass Time (SLP-1524).
Auldridge was a founder member of The Seldom Scene with whom he played and recorded from 1971 through to 1993. The Seldom Scene’s recording catalogue is the definitive statement of what is progressive bluegrass music. Auldridge’s stylish Dobro® playing is to the fore throughout.
Initially the band recorded for Rebel Records releasing seven classic LPs: Act I (Rebel SLP-1511), Act Two (SLP-1520), Act III (SLP-1528), Old Train (SLP-1536), Live At The Cellar Door (SLP-1547/8), The New Seldom Scene Album (SLP-1561), and Baptizing (SLP-1573).
In March 1979 the super-group began recording for the Sugar Hill label. The partnership produced Act Four (Sugar Hill SH-3709), After Midnight (SH-CD-3721), At The Scene (SH-CD-3736), Blue Ridge [Jonathan Edwards & Seldom Scene] (SH-CD-3747), A Change of Scenery (SH-CD-3763), Scenic Roots (SH-CD-3785), Scene 20: A 20th Anniversary Concert (SH-2501/2; recorded at their recognised home in later years, the Birchmere), and 15th Anniversary Celebration (SH-CD-2202).
In 1993 he formed Chesapeake with Jimmy Gaudreau, Moondi Klein and T. Michael Coleman. The trio released three albums – Rising Tide (Sugar Hill SH-CD-3827), Full Sail (SH-CD-3841), and Pier Pressure (SH-CD-3872).
Six years later, he formed Auldridge, Bennett and Gaudreau with Jimmy Gaudreau and Richard Bennett, and recorded two albums for the Rebel label; This Old Town (REB-CD-1758), and Blue Lonesome Wind (REB-CD-1768).
He has several solo albums – Dobro (Takoma 72733), Blues And Bluegrass (Takoma 72741), Mike Auldridge (Flying Fish FF-029), Slidin’ Smoke (Flying Fish FF-080), Eight-String Swing (SH-CD-3725), and Treasures Untold (SH-CD-3780).
Throughout his career Auldridge was in heavy demand both as a studio session musician and a band member. Short-term associations realised sundry other albums including Slindin’ Smoke (Flying Fish FF 080, released in 1978) Mike Auldridge and Jeff Newman; the self-titled Auldridge, Reid & Coleman (SH-CD-3776,1989); The Great Dobro Sessions (Sugar Hill SH-CD-2206, 1994); as a side-man on the Jack Lawrence CD About Time (G-Run,1997); Tone Poems III (Acoustic Disc ACD 42, 2000), with Bob Brozman, David Grisman; Another Great Deale (Flounder 372300, 2001), with the Good Deale Bluegrass Band, a quartet that also featured Mark Delaney and Jon Glik; as part of The Skylighters on another self-titled album (Red Beet Records, released in 2006); John Starling and Carolina Star Sliding Home (Rebel REB-CD-1820, 2007); Gary Ferguson and Friends the Podunk Festival, in New Haven, Connecticut, 2008; Darren Beachley and Legends of the Potomac Take Off (Patuxent CD 210, 2010) and helping Eric Brace and Peter Cooper on their second CD Master Sessions (Red Beet Records, 2010).
In 2001 Mike Auldridge, Jim Heffernan, & Hal Rugg recorded Resocasters (RESO-1001), an album released by Mike Auldridge Productions, a company that Auldridge set up specialising in merchandise and instructional material for the resonator guitar (Dobro®).
He also has recorded with Linda Ronstadt, Hank Williams, Jr., Emmylou Harris, James Taylor and Ry Cooder.
I am sure that I have missed others who benefitted from Auldridge’s contributions to their musical world.
He has also been on the road as a band member with Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris.
As can be ascertained easily Mike Auldridge’s influence spread far and wide and his sophisticated musical talents were in great demand across a wide range of music styles.
As well as playing the Dobro®, Auldridge sang a very pleasing baritone part in trios and quartet numbers.
Recently he lent his name and expertise to a range of square-neck resophonic guitars made by Paul Beard (Beard Guitars).
Auldridge is a Grammy® winner and a winner of Frets Magazine’s Dobro® Player of the Year award.
In 2007 he was given IBMA’s Distinguished Achievement Award, and earlier this year Auldridge, received the National Endowment of the Arts National Heritage Fellowship – the nation’s highest honour in folk and traditional arts.
In over 50 years Mike Auldridge took the baton from his own hero, Josh Graves, and refined the playing of the resophonic guitar, elevating it to a level of expression that made him and it one of the most in demand pairing in acoustic music circles. He defined the way a Dobro® is played in the same way that Earl Scruggs did with the five-string banjo and Doc Watson did with the flat-pick guitar.
I will always remember him, in addition to his supreme playing abilities, for his smart dress code. Yes, he wore jeans, but they were well pressed.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics.
A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe.
He wrote the annotated series I’m On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.
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