Ed Dye passed away in the early hours of yesterday (3/18), he was 72 years old.
Born in Montgomery, Alabama, he is noted as delivering newspapers to Hank Williams’ mother. Dye was a renowned master of the world’s oldest instrument, the bones. In a show biz career that he claimed to have started in 1936, he traveled far and wide, entertaining audiences with humorous songs and zany stage antics.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Dye spent some time in Nashville, Tennessee, where he mingled with the city’s bluegrass musicians. He helped to form The Blue Grass Band with Alan O’Bryant and Blaine Sprouse. Later, he led the Nashville Jug Band, a group that recorded an album for Rounder in 1987.
For a while he was a regular member of the Tuesday night gatherings of sidemen at The Station Inn. It was with that loose aggregation of musicians that Dye recorded his show stopping signature tune, Alabama Jubilee. [The Sidemen Almost Live At The Station Inn; 1994]
There is a more extensive review of Dye’s life on the Highway 61 Radio website, which also has a YouTube clip of Dye performing Statesborrough Blues.
John adds: I chanced to meet this morning with Butch Robins, who performed with Ed in The Blue Grass Band, and knew him well. Butch spoke to Ed just a short time ago, and he shared with me a number of colorful stories which I won’t go into here. Ed figures prominently in Butch’s controversial memoir, What I Know ‘Bout What I Know, and the book is the perfect place to find those road tales from the ’70s and ’80s.
Butch described Ed as something of a lost soul, who never really found a role for himself in this world. He had trained as an actor, and was actually up for the part of Napoleon Solo in the 1960s hit television show, Man From U.N.C.L.E., which ultimately went to Robert Vaughn.
After losing out on that part, Dye fell into TV production, working on The Dick Cavett Show among others, before drifting into the music business and eventually moving to Nashville. His role in The Bluegrass Band and other acts was primarily that of a comedian and front man, though he often played resonator guitar on stage.
Ed had been quite ill this past few months, suffering from a cancer that moved from his lungs to his spine.