Pennsylvania has lost one of its beloved bluegrass figures as longtime performer and record company owner, Dick Trump, passed away on Monday, March 7. His son, Nick, assures us that his father passed peacefully of complications from a longtime illness at St Lukes Geisinger Hospital in Orwigsburg, PA. Dick was 89 years of age.
Growing up in Colebrook, PA, Dick first watched live music at Mt Gretna park, not far from his boyhood home, and spoke of seeing Hank Williams there.
During the Korean War, Trump was drafted into the 82nd Airborne, and while stationed at Ft Bragg in North Carolina he found an opportunity to hone his guitar and banjo skills.
Nick says that Dick found pickin’ buddies in his unit.
“As he told it, he and a small group of pickers would play after hours in the barracks. One night someone complained about the noise. The Sergeant of the guard was summoned to investigate. It turned out the Sergeant was a banjo player from North Carolina. Rather than break up the session and stop the ‘noise,’ the sergeant joined in. Soon after that the Sergeant’s local band was in need of a guitar player and Dad filled in playing local barn and square dances.”
After the war, Dick and his wife Ramona formed their own band, Trump’s Mountaineers, who shared time at a radio station with Del McCoury in Newville, PA. Later the band did a similar split bill show on WGSA in Ephrata. The Mountaineers remained active from the 1950s into the ’90s, with a variety of top pickers including Donny Eldreth, Ken Gehert, Spike Moore, Leroy Mumma, Dan Wilkins, and others. They were popular at festivals and shows in Pennsylvania and beyond.
Trump’s Mountaineers became The Trump Family Bluegrass Band as Dick and Ramona’s sons, Wesley, Greg, and Nick, joined the group.
Dick developed a love for recording, and formed his own label, Whisker Records. Trump always wore a distinctive beard later in his life, and liked to say that the label released “music so old it has whiskers.” There he could indulge his passion for the history of the music, dedicating great pains to determine the origins of the songs they recorded at KuppTone studios with Keith Kupp.
Nick further shared that his father enjoyed playing with the many friends he made with the bands through the years.
“Dad had many friends in the bluegrass community. He spent countless hours playing music with friends like Ted Lundy and Charlie Bailey. Many times they were kind enough to invite him to the stage to play a song while they were performing.”
A private burial will be held at the family plot at Kimmelings church in Lebanon, PA. The Trump family will host a celebration of life when warmer weather arrives, and Dick’s many friends can give him a musical send off.
R.I.P., Dick Trump.