West Virginian William Denver Duncan, two-time Blue Grass Boy and life-long grasser, passed away this morning just after noon at his home in Liberty, WV. Known professionally as Bill, as he was to family and friends, Duncan was 84 years of age.
Bill played guitar for Monroe in two brief stints, first in 1957 and again in 1960. Though he was never included in a Blue Grass Boys recording sessions, he did perform several times on the Grand Ole Opry with Monroe, and on the Ernest Tubb Records show.
Bill had previously recorded with Don Sowards in the Harmony Mountain Boys on King Records. After returning from Monroe’s band, Don and The Harmony Mountain Boys released an LP titled A Scene Near My Country Home. Duncan and Sowards also performed together as the Laurel Mountain Boys.
Later in his life, he performed with his son William for 20 years as the West Virginia Boys.
In a 2008 interview with Dave Payne in the Parkersburg, WV News & Sentinel, Duncan shared some wonderful stories from his many years in bluegrass, including this clasic story from his time with Monroe.
“He didn’t talk much and he was all business. When he was through with a song, he had in mind what he was going to do next. He’d hit the mandolin on that chord and if you turned your head, you didn’t know where he was going to be. I remember on the Grand Ol’ Opry, Joe and Kenny were playing twin fiddles, on ‘Rose of Old Kentucky’ I knew he played it in B. But I was talking to George Jones and when I went to put the clamp (capo) on in (the key of) B, I put it on B flat. My microphone was high and the guitar was picking up something fierce. Bill recognized it right away and dropped to B flat to match the guitar. When the fiddles came in, they stayed right in B. After it was over, he jumped on them and ate them all up bad. I said ‘Bill, it was my fault. I’m the one who made the mistake.’ Bill said ‘I pay them for first-class musicians. When they heard that guitar in B flat, they should have played the same.”
Read the full article online.
The family is making funeral arrangements this afternoon.
R.I.P, Bill Duncan.