Daves Evans passes

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.

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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.

  • Mike Gentry

    Sorry to hear of Dave’s passing.Prayers to his family. One of my favorite ‘s was ” Be Proud of the Gray in your Hair. He will be missed.

    • Kenneth Jones

      Sadly missed, indeed.

  • oldk

    A great artist. A true original. The assault thing- it is my impression Dave was set up and I hope that is not considered part of his legacy.

  • Ol’ Blue

    This man is one of the most unsung heros of bluegrass music. I’ve never heard anyone who could pick such a very soulful banjo style, and timing, coupled with an unbelievable soulful tenor/lead voice. I absolutely LOVED Dave’s music. He will be sorely missed. Maybe, just maybe, with his passing Sirius radio will play a little more of his music to honor him. Pretty Green Hills sends shivers up my spine. Finally, someday, someone will tell the WHOLE story of his so-called assault (an effort to protect, or extract revenge against his son by, guess who, the sheriff’s son). The deck was stacked against him by local law enforcement. THIS IS MY OPINION ONLY. Rest in peace Dave Evans. God knows who you are.

  • Paul Sink

    dave evans was one of the best of all time, i especially feel that way now with all the pop infused bluegrass flooding the market. Dave was a real bluegrass troubadore with so much emotion in his music it often brought him and his audience to tears…”when the snow falls on my foggy mountain home, thats when ill miss you most of all”

  • Hans Rosen

    Sorry to hear, praying for his family!

  • James Klett

    I discovered Dave Evans from my family members in Cincinnati back in the early 80’s with my introduction to his “Classic Bluegrass”. I was blown away by that voice, and had to get more!
    Truly a powerhouse that pulled me away from the “Dark Side” of Bluegrass in my formative years and back to its roots.. He will be missed

  • D. Kelley

    One of the greatest ever, not just as a performer but as a person. RIP in those Pretty Green Hills. We will miss you.