Bobby Slone: A Bluegrass Life

Bobby Slone was born June 13, 1936, in Pike County, Kentucky, and passed away on Monday, August 12, due to rectal cancer.

A left hander, Robert ‘Bobby’ Slone was an important member of one of the most influential modern bluegrass bands: J.D. Crowe & the New South.

Slone and Crowe began playing together in the summer of 1964; Slone was a fiddle player initially. They worked at Martin’s Place, the Red Slipper Lounge (at the Holiday Inn), and private parties in and around Lexington, Kentucky.

J.D.Crowe & the New South at Indian Ranch, 1972 - photo by Fred RobbinsPrior to the New South, Crowe had formed the Kentucky Mountain Boys. They recorded three LPs, Bluegrass Holiday (Lemco LLP-609), Ramblin’ Boy (Lemco LLP-610) – also released with the title Blackjack (Rebel REB-CD-1583) and The Model Church (Lemco LLP-611) Slone played bass on these albums.

In 1971 Crowe changed the name of his band to the New South, and after some changes in personnel, he had a core group of Tony Rice (guitar), Bobby Slone (bass) and Ricky Skaggs (mandolin, fiddle, and viola), with Crowe playing the banjo.

Four years later J.D. Crowe & the New South released an album – the seminal Rounder 0044, by which it is universally known – that has been for very many the inspirational gold standard for those of that generation and for those that followed.

Slone made two tours of Japan with the New South, one in the autumn of 1975 and then again in the spring of 1979, during both of which Slone played fiddle as well as bass (although not at the same time). Recordings from both tours were released on Japanese LPs.

Several friends and former bandmates meet with Bobby Slone in July 2013: Curt Chapman, Doyle Lawson, Bobby Slone, J.D. Crowe, Robert Hale, Don RigsbyBobby Slone was with J.D. Crowe for 24 years, the longest tenure of any musician who ever worked with him.

Prior to that Slone taught himself to play the guitar – upside down – and then the fiddle. At the age of 13 he joined the Kentucky Ramblers working on Pikeville’s Radio WLSI before he moved to Bristol, Virginia, where he played with Buster Pack and the Lonesome Pine Boys on WCYB’s Farm and Fun Time.

Then for several years he worked in Chicago, playing country music and western swing, before he moved to California where he returned to bluegrass music as a member of the Golden State Boys.

In 1962 Slone joined the Kentucky Colonels with whom he stayed for a year and a half, playing bass. During that time he participated in the recording of the LP Appalachian Swing! (World Pacific WP 1821) and is featured on Livin’ In The Past – Legendary Live Recordings (Briar SBR-4202). 

From 1989 Slone quit long distance travel and spent the ensuing period playing fiddle as a staff musician at Renfro Valley Entertainment Center.

Discographical note:

  • Kentucky Colonels Appalachian Swing! (Rounder Special Series CD SS 31, 1993)
  • J D Crowe & the Kentucky Mountain Boys Bluegrass Holiday (Rebel REB-CD 1598, 2007)
  • J D Crowe & the Kentucky Mountain Boys Blackjack (Rebel REB-CD-1583, 1991)
  • J D Crowe & the Kentucky Mountain Boys Bluegrass Holiday (Rebel REB-CD 1598, 2007)
  • J D Crowe & the New South The New South (Rounder 0044, 1986)
  • J D Crowe & the New South My Home Ain’t In the Hall of Fame (Rounder 0103, 2002)
  • J D Crowe & the New South Live In Japan (Rounder 0159, 1997)
  • J D Crowe & the New South Holiday In Japan (Pazzo Music NSM 0075, 2010)
  • Tony Rice Guitar (Rebel REB-CD 1582, 1991)
  • Larry Sparks Christmas In The Hills (REBEL REB-CD 1745, 1997)

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.