Dave Denman passes

Noted Indiana bluegrass musician Dave Denman has died, passing on April 20 from multiple complications associated with COVID-19. He had just turned 65 years of age.

Many bluegrass fans will recall Dave as a member of a very early edition of Alison Krauss & Union Station when Alison was a teen living in Illinois. He played with her from 1987-89, and sang harmony on her first album with Rounder Records, Too Late To Cry. While Dave loved Alison and her music, he didn’t want to be gone from home and his three young daughters, so he sacrificed a chance for a big music career to raise his family.

Denman had been hospitalized for the past month after contracting COVID-19, and had developed a blood clot and scarring in his lungs that he wasn’t able to beat. His family reports that he was able to move out of the ICU prior to his death, so they were able to see and speak with him one last time.

While he continued to avoid full time touring commitments, Dave remained active in bluegrass circles throughout his life. He played guitar for a time with Mark Newton, and had his own group called Troubled Waters. His daughter, Dara, played mandolin and sang with Blue Mafia, and he filled in with them on several occasions as well. He also wrote a couple dozen instrumental bluegrass tunes, one of which, Daddy’s Dream, was recorded by Sammy Shelor on the Knee Deep In Bluegrass, AcuTab Sessions album in 2005. That song hadn’t been scheduled for inclusion on the project, but Sammy played it for everyone in the studio and they all agreed that it needed to be cut.

Dave will be remembered by family and friends as much more than a musician, though he was quite talented and experienced as a picker. He was the sort of man who always had time for others, especially young folks learning to play bluegrass. Dara tells us that her dad had a real passion for helping others learn to play bluegrass, and music in general. Being able to instill what he had learned over his life to the next generation was something that animated his later years.

Within his family, Dave became the one who everyone came to with their problems. Everyone looked up to him and trusted his council, and he leaves a monumental impact on both his children and his grandchildren, several of whom have become fine bluegrass musicians.

Krauss shared a beautiful remembrance of her old friend and former banjo picker.

“We’ll miss the great innovator, musician, singer, friend, and mentor. Thank you for the great fun and memories and the mark you’ve left on us all. You were one of a kind. We’ll never forget.”

Despite all he had done in his life, nothing gave Denman greater pride than his marriage to his wife, Cindy, who were together for 50 years.

The family will be hosting a viewing on Sunday, April 25, from 3:00-7:00 p.m. at the Burkhart Funeral Home in Crawfordsville, IN. A funeral service will follow. There are no restrictions and all are welcome to attend.

R.I.P., Dave Denman.

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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.