Gene Elders passes

Celebrated fiddler Gene Elders died last Wednesday afternoon, March 20 at 66 years of age. No cause of death has been shared.

Though Gene spent most of his career with country artist George Strait, joining his Ace in the Hole band in 1984 on mandolin and fiddle, he was a popular session fiddler in bluegrass during the 1970s and ’80s as well. He played on albums for Jim Eanes, Lost & Found, Claire Lynch, The McPeake Brothers, Knoxville Grass, the Allegheny River Boys, Dog Run Boys, Larry Stephenson, Larry Sparks, and surely several others.

A Chicago native, Gene studied classical violin for 12 years as a youngster, but switched to fiddle upon meeting bluegrass artist Jimmy Crawford asa young man. He has credited jamming along with the classic Will The Circle Be Unbroken triple album by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as a useful tool in making the transition. He played a lot of bluegrass while living for about 10 years in Roanoke, VA, which introduced him to Lost & Found and The McPeake Brothers.

Before joining with Strait, Elders had worked with Lyle Lovett’s band. After achieving notoriety in the big leagues, he was called upon to add his fiddle to recordings by folksingers Joan Baez and Bill Staines, pop artists like Dan Fogelberg, Lucinda Williams, and Tish Hinojosa, and people as diverse as the Austin Lounge Lizards and Townes Van Zandt. He also appeared on multiple records by George Strait and Lyle Lovett.

We are very sorry not to have more information to share about Gene’s passing, as he was a fine fiddler who leaves behind many friends within the bluegrass community.

R.I.P., Gene Elders.

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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.