Bill Harrell suffers a stroke

Bill HarrellLarry Stephenson shared this unfortunate story about Bill Harrell, one of the pioneers of bluegrass music. His work with Don Reno & The Tennessee Cutups after the departure of Don’s original partner Red Smiley resulted in some truly classic bluegrass recordings, including I’m Using My Bible For A Roadmap.

After leaving Reno’s group, Bill performed for 10 more years with his own group, Bill Harrell & The Virginians – which included a young Larry Stephenson on mandolin in the early 1980s.

Here’s Larry’s report…

Bill Harrell receives his IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award from Larry Stephenson in 2008Bill Harrell had a stroke last Friday and has been in the hospital in Annapolis, MD all week. The family found out around the middle of May he has prostate cancer (his PSA was 24) and then they found out this week he has an enlarged heart and fluid on the lungs. To make matters worse it was hard to do many of the tests because of the pins in his body from the car wrecks he’s had. They are going to try and get him home on Friday and it looks like hospice will be called. I have spoke with him twice this week and he’s very weak but he still has that sense of humor. He was talking about going out on a date with one of the nurse’s. Some things never change.

I was just at his home in Davidsonville, MD on May 12 to interview him for the Bluegrass Museum’s video oral history program. I hadn’t been to his home in 26 years. I’m glad I got to spend the day with him….it was a wonderful. I’m also very happy IBMA honored Bill this past year with a Distinguished Achievement Award. Bill and his two son’s Mitch and John were there and Bill has not stopped talking about it.

Let’s all hope that Bill can recover fully from his stroke.

Here’s a clip of he and Don Reno from the Porter Wagoner show back in 1968.

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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.