The 2014 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music has been awarded to Eddie Adcock. The prize includes a cash payment of $50,000 and the opportunity to appear in public with Martin.
Since the early 1950s, Eddie has been playing the banjo in new and challenging ways that helped redefine its role in the bluegrass band. His first professional gigs were with Buzz Busby and Bill Monroe, but it was as a member of The Country Gentlemen that Adcock’s influence first began to leave a permanent impact. He toured and recorded with the Gentlemen from 1957 until 1970, showcasing his mix of a roll style that took much from the playing of Ralph Stanley, with elements of Don Reno’s guitaristic approach, and his own modified Travis or Atkins fingerpicking style for banjo.
After his time with The Country Gentlemen, Eddie took on the additional role of band leader and after a brief stint with a country rock outfit, Clinton Special, he formed the band II Generation. It was there that he met his future wife, Martha Hearon, who has been his musical and life partner this past 40 years. They also worked together in Talk Of The Town, with a young Missy Raines on bass, and perform now as Eddie & Martha Adcock.
Outside of the banjo world, Adcock had a brief career as a boxer during his youth, and a passion for auto racing which he pursued while building a life in music. He also worked as an auto mechanic during those early days.
Eddie also developed a reputation as one of the better audio engineers in acoustic music while operating a live sound reinforcement company, Adcock Audio, which he dissolved in 2006. He became a YouTube sensation in 2008 when video of his groundbreaking brain surgery to implant an electrode as an antidote against an essential hand tremor hit the Internet.
The Steve Martin Prize was established in 2010 to help promote worthy practitioners of the 5 string. Martin funds the honorarium himself, and has said that he is grateful for the opportunity to bring attention to such stellar musicians. Prior recipients include Noam Pikelny, Sammy Shelor, Mark Johnson, and Jens Kruger.
In past years, winners have been invited to accompany Steve for a visit to The Late Show on CBS television, though nothing has yet been announced for this year.
Congratulations to this most worthy honoree!