I just received the news this morning that one of bluegrass music’s elder statesmen, Herb Mayfield, passed away recently, on May 29, 2008 in Amarillo, TX.
Herb (mandolin) and his brothers, Ed (guitar) and Smokey (fiddle), performed as family bluegrass band and frequently opened for Tennesse Ernie Ford. The brothers turned down a recording contract because of responsibilities on the family ranch. Ed later joined Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, serving three different terms with Monroe, the first after Carter Stanley left the group in 1951. Ed Mayfield recorded a total of 19 songs with Monroe during his times in the band.
Meanwhile, Herb settled down in Dimmitt, TX to a quite life of welding and participating in local and regional bluegrass events and organizations. In recent years he was active in providing scholarships for students in the bluegrass program at South Plains College. I was lucky enough to be the recipient of that scholarship during my time at the school, and had the opportunity to visit Herb at his home and jam with him several times.
I remember Herb as a very warm, welcoming old gentlemen who patiently tolerated unskilled bluegrass students like myself. He and his wife, Dorothy, were kind enough to open their home at least once a year and host a pickin’ party for some of the students. They would feed us and treat us like family, Herb hosting the jam session in the living room. These were always great times. I remember feeling overwhelmed to be jamming with Herb and Alan Munde at the same time, thinking it was really special to have that opportunity.
Just a few weeks prior to his passing, the IBMM visited Herb in his Dimmitt, TX home and video taped interview footage with him for their Video Oral History program. The footage should be available for viewing at the museum soon.
If you’d like to hear Herb and his brothers Ed and Smokey, you can here four songs on this MySpace page.