Remembering Those Who Left Us in 2013

| January 6, 2014 | 3 Comments

Before we get too far down the path in 2014, we at Bluegrass Today wanted to offer one last remembrance and tribute to the pickers, promoters, DJs and friends of bluegrass who left us in 2013 and are now playing in the Angel Band.

Young or old, accomplished or just setting out, these folks (listed in chronological order by the date of their death) all left their mark on the music we love:

  • Larry McDaniel, a longtime announcer for WDET in Detroit, died Jan. 4 at the age of 72.
  • Joe Biggs, who played bass in regional bands in Pennsylvania and Virginia, died Jan. 20.
  • Billy Joe Foster, who appeared as a fiddler with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, died Jan. 23 at 51 years old. He also played bass with Country Gazette and several instruments with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder.
  • Russell Wilson, noted tenor singer with the Wilson Brothers, died Feb. 7. He was 67 years old.
  • Alvin Breeden, retired banjo player for the Virginia Cutups, died Feb. 27 at 70.
  • Burke Cole, who hosted the Marshall Bluegrass Festival in Central Michigan, died March 3 at 71.
  • Geoff Morris, an Australian bluegrass radio host who made countless friends at IBMA events over the years, died March 5 at 70.
  • Maro Kawabata, a bluegrass guitarist from Japan who later moved to Nashville, died March 6. He was 51.
  • Bob Mavian, known to many by his stage persona, Gibson Case of the Case Brothers, died April 20. Before playing mandolin for the Case Brothers, he was a banjoman for Tex Logan and the Sykes Boys.
  • Country star George Jones wasn’t a bluegrasser, but he recorded one album in the genre, Bluegrass Hootenanny, with Melba Montgomery in 1964. He also influenced a number of bluegrass singers over the years. The Possum died April 26 at 81.
  • Bill Lowe, a songwriter, DJ and performer (Bill Lowe and Cripple Creek), died April 28 at 82.
  • Roger Smith played banjo and fiddle for Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys in the mid-1950s. He died May 22 at 86.
  • Lyle Miller, a mandolin picker and teacher in Nebraska, was 96 when his death was announced June 4.
  • Kenny Sloas, who played banjo for the Sloas Brothers and the Dixie Play Boys, died June 20. He was 78.
  • Furman Wilson, a founding member of the Primitive Quartet, died July 2 at 71.
  • Highly regarded banjo builder Harry Lane died July 9 at 72.
  • Dwight Moody, who performed with the Virginia Playboys and the WBT Briarchoppers, died July 12 at 83. He was also a radio host, teacher and publisher.
  • Cowboy Jack Clement, wasn’t a bluegrasser per se. He made his name in country music, but earns a spot on this list for producing records for three bluegrass Hall of Fame members: Doc Watson, Mac Wiseman and John Hartford. His death, at age 82, was reported on Aug. 9.
  • Bobby Slone earned a spot in bluegrass lore by playing bass and fiddle on one of the genre’s seminal recordings: J.D. Crowe and the New South, which was released in 1975. He was 77 when he died on Aug. 12.
  • Leo Duffy played banjo for the Duffy Brothers, a band that helped popularize bluegrass music in Britain. He died Aug. 17.
  • Margaret Holt, who played guitar and banjo in an era when it wasn’t common for women to do those things, is also the mother of Aubrey, Jerry and Tom Holt of The Boys From Indiana. She died Sept. 8 at 96.
  • Gene Bretecher, a Canadian banjo picker, played and recorded with the Northern Gentleman and on his own. He died Sept. 15 at 74.
  • Tommy Scott, a jack-of-all-trades, performed with Curly Seckler and in medicine shows, appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and was a songwriter. He was 96 when he died on Sept. 30.
  • Jim Shumate played fiddle in the Blue Grass Boys and on the first record made by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs after they left Bill Monroe’s band. But his biggest accomplishment, in terms of its impact on bluegrass music, might have been introducing Monroe to Scruggs. He died Oct. 10 at 91.
  • Bill Duncan played guitar during two stints with the Blue Grass Boys. He died Oct. 19 at 84.
  • Doug Davidson, the resonator guitar player for Laurel River Line, died Oct. 21 at 45.
  • Alex Campbell, who played with the New River Boys and Girls (later just the New River Boys), died Oct. 24 at 90. He was a DJ as well.
  • Zak McConnell, mandolinist and a founder of The Fiddleheads, died Oct. 29 at 26.
  • Ken Palmer, who played mandolin and sang for the Dixie Flyers in Canada, died Oct. 30 at 65.
  • Myron Dillman is remembered as the resident jokester, handyman and fill-in fiddle player at the Bean Blossom festivals, which are owned and operated by his son, Dwight. He died Nov. 3 at the age of 79.

Too many, gone too soon. But their music lives on — in memories and on records.

David Morris

David Morris is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, songwriter and upright bass player. He has spent much of his career as a wire service political reporter, including nearly 14 years with The Associated Press and a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and is now a senior editor for Kiplinger Washington Editors.

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Category: Obituary