Bluegrass music lost one of its most iconic characters and soulful mountain-style singers with the passing of Dave Evans on Sunday evening, June 25. He was 65 years of age.
Evans had given much of his life to bluegrass, developing a love for the sound of the banjo as a boy. Though his dad was a old time banjo player, young Dave was fascinated by the Earl Scruggs style and he quickly became proficient in reproducing it. As a teen he began singing as well, and writing his own bluegrass songs.
After finishing school, Evans accepted his first professional job playing banjo for Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys. He returned home to Ohio when his mother passed in 1969, and remained in Columbus working clubs and theaters for a time. His big break came in 1972 when he was hired by Larry Sparks as a Lonesome Rambler. Dave often said that singing tenor with Sparks was what helped him define his own vocal style, one that has been compared to that of the great Ralph Stanley.
Evans spent about 3 years with Sparks and then worked with several other touring acts like The Goins Brothers, Red Allen, and The Boys From Indiana before starting his own group in 1978, billed as Dave Evans & River Bend. They recorded initially for Vetco, and he cut 9 memorable albums for Rebel Records either with his band, or as a solo artist.
His singing conveyed such passion, and his songs such conviction, that listeners came to feel that they knew him personally. There was always a strong connection between Dave and his fans.
Larry Sparks remembers Evans as a strong singing partner.
“Dave had probably one of the best tenor voices I’ve had with the band. He had a lot of feeling in his singing. He had a real powerful, loud voice and he really added to what I did. Our voices blended good, just like me and Ralph’s voice blended. It was a good experience for both of us.
Dave Evans had a recognizable voice, an identity of his own. He did the right thing for himself, to go off on his own.
I hadn’t stayed in touch well with Dave over the years, but I sure am sorry to hear he’s gone.”
By 2010, problems with diabetes and arthritis had taken their toll, and Dave retired from performing. His health continued to deteriorate over the next few years, and he underwent quintuple bypass surgery in 2011.
Dave had a rough life by some standards, including a stint in prison from 1989-95 for assault, but his family, friends, and fans remember him as a kind, warm-hearted man who would do anything for you if you needed help. He will be deeply and profoundly missed in the bluegrass world.
The family has not yet made an announcement about funeral arrangements.
R.I.P., Dave Evans.