Curly Seckler celebrated on The Pickin Porch Show

Our UK correspondent, Richard F Thompson, tells us of Curly Seckler Day in Marion, VA.

Curly SecklerI have just had a note passed to me by Penny Parsons, manager/friend and biographer to bluegrass veteran Curly Seckler.

On Sunday, January 6 The Pickin’ Porch Show, a Bristol-based weekly two hour bluegrass and old-time music show hosted by ‘Your Bluegrass Buddy’ Tim White, celebrated Curly Seckler Day.

Seckler is a true bluegrass pioneer who has worked with some of the biggest names in the business. He worked several stints with Charlie Monroe, beginning in 1939. He also teamed with various other bluegrass pioneers, including Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Mac Wiseman, the Sauceman Brothers and the Stanley Brothers.

However, he is best known for his work with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Boys, whom Curly joined in 1949 as tenor singer and mandolinist. Except for a couple of brief absences, he remained with Flatt & Scruggs until 1962. He joined Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass in 1973 and remained until Lester’s death in 1979. Thereafter he took over leadership of the Nashville Grass leading the band for fifteen years, until his retirement in 1994.

Though Seckler retired from touring, he continues to perform occasionally at selected events. He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 2004. That same year he made a collection of new recordings, which have been released on two CDs by Copper Creek Records. Down in Caroline was released in the fall of 2005 and it was a finalist for IBMA Recorded Event of the Year. Bluegrass, Don’t You Know, released in late 2006, was picked by the Chicago Tribune as one of the top 10 bluegrass CDs of the year.

Penny relates …

We had a very special get-together for Curly and his friends, both old and new. The program began with Appalachian Trail, an excellent local band. David Helms, the mayor of Marion, Virginia dropped by to congratulate Curly for his lifetime achievements in Bluegrass music, and presented Curly with the key to the city. On January 5, the night prior to the event in Bristol, Curly had performed in Marion, at the historic Lincoln Theatre. There, along with the Steep Canyon Rangers, Curly taped the Song of the Mountains TV show for broadcast on PBS later this year.

We had a number of special guests join us in Bristol. Ramblin’ Tommy Scott, who is still spry at 90, made the trip from Toccoa, Georgia, to reminisce with Curly about the old days. He related some funny stories about the shows he and Curly performed together in the late 1930s and early ’40s. Also on hand were Jim Sauceman and Imogene Sauceman Day, siblings of the late Carl and J.P. Sauceman. Curly performed with the Sauceman Brothers at WCYB in Bristol in 1951.

Curly and I took the stage and provided a brief synopsis of his 73 years in music, along with some amusing anecdotes. The audience enjoyed excerpts from the old Flatt & Scruggs TV show. We also played a rare audio track of Curly singing tenor to Bill Monroe at Carlton Haney’s festival in Camp Springs, NC in 1971.

Tim White then joined Curly and me on stage and unveiled the Curly Seckler exhibit, which includes some of Curly’s stage clothes and some classic photos from his career. This display can be seen at the Mountain Music Museum on the lower level of the Bristol Mall. Curly’s favorite new band and the IBMA’s 2006 Emerging Artist of the Year, The Steep Canyon Rangers, accompanied him on stage, performing a tremendous rendition of the old favorite Salty Dog Blues. Curly’s friend and former singing partner in the Nashville Grass, Willis Spears, was also on hand to honor Curly. He and Curly recreated some of the fine music they performed in the ’80s and ’90s, including the classics I’ll Go Stepping Too and He Took Your Place.

On Christmas Day, Curly turned 88 years old, and Tim and I presented him with a belated birthday cake. Curly made several attempts to blow out the candles (they kept re-lighting). Everyone sang Happy Birthday, and later the cake was shared with the entire audience! The ACMA had also made a beautiful sign with pictures of Curly and a Happy Birthday greeting on it. Following the program, the musical guests and members of the audience signed it for Curly to keep as a memento of the occasion.

Tim White concluded, “It was a wonderful evening here at the Pickin’ Porch as we celebrated the life and career of a true music legend. Happy birthday Curly, and welcome to your rightful place in the Mountain Music Museum.”

Reflecting on his weekend in Virginia, Curly Seckler says, “I really enjoyed it. We met some very nice people. It had been about twenty years since I was in Marion. Everybody there and in Bristol was just super. Tim White did a great job with both shows, and I owe him a lot of thanks.”

You can find photos and some more information about Curly’s visit to Marion on the Pickin’ Porch web site.

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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.