David McLaughlin’s hearing loss – how you can help

Bluegrass mandolinists and long-time fans of traditional bluegrass music are well acquainted with David McLaughlin. He’s been involved in several popular bands since he first started performing actively in the late 1970s, and has been responsible for clarifying how Monroe-based mandolin styles can be applied to more modern music.

I first became aware of David when The Johnson Mountain Boys started touring widely in the early 1980s. His style was explosive and aggressive, but against the grain as compared to the envelope-stretching approach coming into vogue at the time.

In fact, a big part of what made The Johnson Mountain Boys stand out was their total immersion in the bluegrass retro vibe, from their stage attire and banter, to their song choice and arrangements. There was Eddie Stubbs doing the announcing and playing fiddle, and Dudley Connell singing lead and playing guitar. Over the years JMB would introduce such now-familiar names as Tom Adams and Marshall Wilborn to bluegrass fans, and McLaughlin’s mandolin style was a driving force throughout their career.

David went on to work with Lynn Morris where he developed a different mandolin style, at Lynn’s request, which made use of the Monroe sound, but adapted for Lynn’s music. He has also produced an instructional video for The Murphy Method, and performed with a number of DC-based bluegrass acts. He also ran a recording studio in his home.

McLaughlin has always bristled somewhat under his type-casting as a “Monroe style” player, as his knowledge and expertise on his instrument goes far wider that simply a preservationst’s. In 2006 I saw him in action as an instructor at The Roanoke Bluegrass Weekend where his facility with the mandolin was duly noted by all in attendance.

Just a few months later, David suffered a near total hearing loss. It struck in a moment, leaving a talented musician and engineer unable to continue working in his field. Some of his hearing returned and he found a bit of relief with powerful hearing aids, but for a musician, this is still a crippling handicap. I had spoken with David not long after his first encounter with this issue, and he was upbeat and positive about this development, in keeping with his personality.

Just recently, David has found a device called the Oticon Dual, which paired with an Oticon Streamer, has brought his hearing back quite close to where it was prior to the incident. He has the device “on loan” at present with the $7000 price tag an impediment to his purchasing it for full time use.

His old friend Claire Lynch has leapt into the breach and established a David McLaughlin Benefit Fund to raise the necessary money to ensure that David can have this device and return to his musical ventures. They knew each other from way back, when Claire’s Front Porch String band was running many of the same roads as The Johnson Mountain Boys.

Donations can be sent via PayPal using the email address McLaughlinFund@gmail.com, or checks made out to David McLaughlin Benefit Fund can be sent to:

Jennifer Hardiman
805 E. College St.
Pulaski TN 38478 USA

The account is set up with SunTrust Bank, so you can also visit any Sun Trust branch and make a deposit to account number 1000105947542. You can also post questions to Jennifer Hardiman, Claire’s assistant, using the McLaughlinFund@gmail.com address.

Claire shared some of David’s comments that prodded her to try and help in any way she could, ones that he expressed upon first returning home with the Opticon device.

“…I could hear my fiddle for the first time [in years]! I grabbed my old mandolin…I could hear it! … not only could hear the music, but what people were saying and laughing about, every little scratch and ping – dishes and silverware, bumps – all the sounds we take for granted. I could hear my shoes squeak when I walked! For the first time [in four years], I heard the voice of my 14-year-old daughter and realized how much it had changed. I haven’t heard it since she was 10… So far this hearing device has caused a very emotional reawakening in me…strange and wonderful. Now all I want to do is play music again!”

Claire knew well that David would not be comfortable asking for financial assistance, which is why she has undertaken this on her own.

“I’ve been on the receiving end of financial help before when I didn’t even have the means to buy eyeglasses and a prescription– it is a humbling experience, however warm and comforting. I do know David would never want to solicit your help, so I’m doing it instead. I’ve already had an outpouring of love and money from people who saw my Facebook post – so I’m encouraged!”

At this time, almost $2300 has been raised, and we expect that with the help of readers of Bluegrass Today, Claire will reach the $7000 figure quite soon. If you have the urge and the capability, it would be a fine way to show your appreciation for a real bluegrass trooper.

Hat’s off to Claire Lynch for making this happen!

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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.