Ben Eldridge Week starts today at Bluegrass Stories

Bluegrass Stories, the podcast featuring interviews with bluegrass personalities with Katy Daley and Howard Parker, has reached its sixth series of conversations. The first episode of Series 6 released last week, a discussion with Jen Larson, the Archives Manager at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, who is also a bluegrass singer and teacher.

This week sees three new episodes, celebrating the impending 82nd birthday of Ben Eldridge, bluegrass banjo icon and founding member of Seldom Scene. And these might be thought of as the ‘forgotten interview,’ as Katy only recently found their lengthy dialogue packed away in a box. In truth, it was her husband who turned it up while digging through and hoping to throw away some items cluttering up their attic.

Katy recalls having recorded it back in 2012, while she was still working for Bluegrass Country while it was part of WAMU in Washington, DC, and Ben was still performing with the Scene.

“We recorded it at Ben’s house one afternoon, and I took the SD card, placed it in an envelope, and put it in my desk. Not long afterward the station moved buildings, and it got put in a box which I eventually took home when I retired. Then a few weeks ago I hear Bill hollering out, ‘Do you want to save this Ben Eldridge interview in this box?'”

Needless to say, the answer was yes, so Howard broke the long discussion into three parts, all of which will be released this week. In part 1, available today, Ben talks about how he became interested in the banjo and bluegrass music, meeting and spending time with the Carter Family, who lived in his neighborhood in Richmond, VA, his days at the University of Virginia where he met John Starling and Paul Craft, and starting work with Cliff Waldron & the New Shades of Grass.

Anyone with an interest in the banjo, the history of bluegrass music, or just a good story of an interesting life, should certainly spend the time to listen to it. Katy is a gifted interviewer, and Ben is a natural storyteller.

Here’s today’s episode…

Part 2, which drops tomorrow, covers the founding of Seldom Scene, how Ben first met John Duffey, the early days of the Scene at The Red Fox, his son Chris Eldridge, now a successful guitarist working with Punch Brothers, and the recording of the Live at the Cellar Door album.

Then on Thursday, Part 3 will be available, which involves all the information of interest to the banjo geeks out there. Ben picks up his banjo and plays some of his classic breaks and intros, plus some of his original tunes, and talks about how deeply he was influenced by Earl Scruggs, and the lasting legacy of the Seldom Scene.

All three sections of the Ben Eldridge episode can be found on the Bluegrass Stories web site, at soundcloud, and via iTunes, in the Apple Podcasts app, and in Google Podcasts. All episodes are offered free of charge as a service to the bluegrass community.

As are all the archived interviews, totally 48 episodes at this point, with important figures in our music like Rhonda Vincent, Bill Emerson, Lynn Morris and Marshall Wilborn, Greg Cahill, Missy Raines, Doyle Lawson, and many others.

Coming up in Series 6 of Bluegrass Stories are episodes with Stan Werbin of Elderly Instruments (8/18), Kathy Kallick (8/25), and Mark Freeman of Rebel Records (9/1).

Thanks to Howard and Katy for Bluegrass Stories!

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About the Author

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.