Gerald Evans RIP

Gerald Evans - photo by Ted LehmannWe have reported previously about Gerald Evans, the popular Kentucky bluegrass musician, singer and songwriter, and his battle with cancer. He had been diagnosed in the summer of 2009 with an aggressive, stage 4 cancer that was already widespread throughout his body.

Gerald lost his struggle this past Saturday (April 10) when he passed away early that morning at 50 years of age. He had been perhaps most visible nationally and internationally as a member of The Traditional Grass during the 1990s, but was well-known and loved in his native Kentucky and among the many bluegrass musicians and fans in the Bluegrass State.

Two of his bandmates from the Traditional Grass have sent remembrances of their dear friend. First up is Mark Rader, who played guitar and shared singing duties with Gerald.

“Gerald was a rough and tumble kind of guy with a heart of gold. He loved to play music more than anyone I have ever met, and he was darn good at it too! What a touch on that fiddle! And songwriting was something he did constantly.

He never met a stranger, and due to that and his love of jamming, he made many friends all across the country. When he joined The Traditional Grass in 1990, our group had been in existence for nearly seven years. Paul Mullins told him ‘You’ll have to make yourself a place here to where you’d be missed if you weren’t there.’

Little did we know that Gerald did this in anything he became involved with. He’ll be missed by all who knew and loved him.”

Joe Mullins has called Gerald a friend since they first started to play music together.

“I had the blessing of Gerald’s friendship for 25 years. We first met in the 1980’s when he was fiddling for Dave Evans. His time with the Goins Brothers in the late 80’s though was certainly memorable for me and thousands of fans. Gerald had been working eastern Kentucky and southern Ohio with Rick May and Bill Hamm. When all three joined Melvin and Ray as the Shed House Trio, they really lit a fire under two bluegrass pioneers and created a fantastic show! The Traditional Grass and the Goins Brothers worked dozens of the same festivals back then and Gerald, Rick and Bill became like brothers to me. We would jam all night!

The Trio got to record a gospel project for Vetco records in Cincinnati. One of the guys called me one afternoon and said ‘We are going to record and would like you to play banjo if you are available.’ I said ‘Absolutely – when is the session’ – they said ‘Tomorrow!’ So, I invited them to drive up to Ohio that evening so we could rehearse. My Dad cooked a kettle of beans and put them up that night and the session came off the next day with no problems at all. Oh the wonderful memories of being young and spontaneous!

Within the next year, the Traditional Grass began touring full-time and needed to expand our show. Me (banjo and vocals), Mark Rader (guitar and vocals), my Dad Paul Mullins (fiddle and vocals) and Glen Inman (bass) had been together several years as a four piece band. We needed a lot to take our music to the next level – mandolin, more vocal variety and original songs. Gerald Evans Jr, was all of the above. A good mandolin player, a great fiddler and showman, could sing ANY part and he was fast becoming one of the most thoughtful songwriters I have known.

Gerald had written some wonderful gospel songs in the 1980’s. He spent a little time in Nashville with Wayne Lewis and worked on Bill Monroe’s farm for a while. Monroe’s Grammy-winning album Southern Flavor included Gerald’s song Give Me Wings. He was really thankful for his time and friendship with Bill.

Gerald joined the Traditional Grass in September 1990. He was an immediate inspiration to our music, stage show and audience. He inspired me and Mark Rader to get much more creative vocally and to become songwriters ourselves. Over the next five years, we recorded four Traditional Grass CD’s for Rebel, each one featuring some of Gerald’s original songs, strong vocal, mandolin and fiddle work. Gerald and I also did an all instrumental CD of just old-time fiddle and banjo tunes.

He continued to create and perform great, original music through last year. He worked with the Wildwood Valley Boys, his own band Paradise and Don Rigsby and Midnight Call. I was so glad to record two of his songs on my latest CD with my band the Radio Ramblers.

One of my most memorable moments on the road with Gerald was in the summer of 1991. We were working the Smithsonian Folk Festival for a week in downtown Washington DC. One afternoon we were free to walk around town and site-see. As with any big city, you encounter a few unfortunate folks who are asking for a hand out. Gerald and I passed a homeless guy by an alley asking for money. Gerald said something to the guy as we passed. The next street had a vendor wagon selling food. Gerald bought a big burrito with the works and carried it back to the homeless guy. I have never forgotten that moment and I will never forget my friend Gerald.”

Funeral arrangements are being handled through Waddell & Whitt in Sandy Hook, KY. Visitation is scheduled for this afternoon (Monday April 12) at 5:00 p.m. with the funeral service tomorrow (4/13) at 1:00 p.m.

Online condolences can be posted on the funeral home web site, where you can also read Gerald’s obituary notice. Friends and fans are also welcome to leave their thoughts and comments here on Bluegrass Today.

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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.