Alvin Breeden passes

Alvin Breeden - photo by Dean HoffmeyerNoted Virginia banjo player Alvin Breeden has passed away. He died in a Charlottesville, VA hospital on Tuesday (2/27) following complications from lung cancer. He was 70 years old.

Alvin was a friend and disciple of Don Reno, who kept the Reno style alive for many years after Don’s passing in 1984. The two became close when Don was living in central Virginia, where Alvin and his band, the Virginia Cutups, were based. His banjo playing was strong and aggressive, and he had the ability to play with astounding speed. So much so that he served as the inspiration for Fastest Grass Alive, a Paul Craft song made famous by The Osborne Brothers.

Don Wayne Reno, Don’s son and a first rate banjo picker himself, remembers the close relationship between Alvin and his father.

Don Wayne Reno“They always had a great time together and played a lot of twin banjos at festivals and such. It really hurt Alvin when Dad passed away. Alvin recorded a tribute album to Dad while he was still in the hospital in Charlottesville, VA. Dale and I had the privilege to play on it with Alvin. So that shows you what Alvin thought of Dad, and I know Dad felt the same way about him.

There was never any competition between them; it was always respect. Alvin played a lot of Reno style banjo, but he played his own thing as well.”

Breeden had retired from performing in 2010, after 52 years in music. He and his band traveled the world playing their traditional bluegrass, and his influence on banjo pickers – especially Reno devotees – has been profound.

The family will receive visitors on Friday (3/1) at the Preddy Funeral Home in Madison, VA from 4:00-8:00 p.m. A funeral will be held at the funeral home on Saturday (3/2) at 11:00 a.m.

R.I.P., Alvin Breeden.

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John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.