Jerry Douglas on Tut Taylor

We posted a few weeks back about the top-secret Tut Taylor tribute album released July 13 by E1 Music. Entitled Southern Filibuster: A Tribute To Tut Taylor, the record features 14 top reso guitarists, each contributing a new version of one of Tut’s tunes along with a crack rhythm section.

The project was the brainchild of Jerry Douglas, who not only produced the sessions in Nashville, but also enforced a strict level of confidentiality among the many players so that the CD could be presented as a surprise for Tut.

In a recent interview, Jerry explained the concept behind the project.

“Mr. Tut Taylor is eighty-six years old, and he and wife Miss Lee are in general good health. But since the Great Dobro Sessions, we’ve lost three of our original ten in that flock. I thought ‘why shouldn’t we celebrate those pioneers of this instrument, the Dobro, that we love so much. Why wait until it’s too late for them to reap the benefits of their published legacy and enjoy it?’

Some might see it as morbid but I don’t, this seems a case of ‘Send me my flowers while I’m living.” Shouldn’t it be that way for us all?

So with this in mind, I went through a mental list of who was viable, available, and having an impression on the lay of the land these days as far as Dobro prowess goes. Rob Ickes, Mike Auldridge, and Randy Kohrs immediately came to mind. From there it was easy to assemble the list of a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of the Dobro World.

Of all the calls I made, only Sally Van Meter was unable to make the sessions work with her busy schedule. The other inquiries were to Tut’s dear friend Curtis Burch, Phil Leadbetter, Andy Hall, Cindy Cashdollar, Ferrell Stowe for the Josh factor, Ivan Rosenberg, Orville Johnson, and Michael Witcher, all from the West Coast, although Michael is a recent citizen of Nashville.

Newer to the scene, Megan Lovell, and Billy Cardine, were also high on my list of players that I knew had been impacted by Tut’s trail of tunes. And that was another facet of this recording. All the songs had to have been written and published by Tut Taylor, truly making this a Tribute and placing all the residuals firmly in Tut’s hands.

With help from others, especially Mike Witcher, I assembled a tune sheet and everyone chose their song. Amazingly, no one chose the same song. Voila!”

Douglas came up with plan last year, and the tracking took place in November 2009 at Bil Vorndick’s studio. Given the number of people involved in the recordings, I immediately wondered whether they had been able to keep the lid on this.

“Yes, it was very much a surprise to Tut. He had no idea it was even in the pipeline.

Tut was absolutely floored. I called him and dropped this bombshell on him and he was not speechless, he’s never speechless, but he was hesitant and very humbled. He didn’t think anyone was really that interested in his Dobro career. This affirms we are, and are trying to pay homage in this way.

Everyone understood how important it was that our recording should be secret so we could surprise Tut, giving all the more meaning to how we felt about his contribution to the world of Dobro.

It’s a very good example of a close society, as we Dobro players have been for some time. You will find that for the most part, Dobro players tend to be very cerebral people, proud to applaud each other in their accomplishments, for we are a new instrument in the grand scheme of things, even Bluegrass Music.

I can remember when I could count on one hand the Dobro players I could actually name. We’ve built a wonderful, highly skilled instrument from the tinny, whiny, comedic instrument we were given. Even as I say that, Uncle Josh and Bashful Brother Oswald were among the few that used their brand of comedy to get their instrumental abilities noted. They were funny, and that’s what got their foot in the door, but they were masters of their chosen musical conduit.”

Jerry allowed that he came back around to Tut’s music himself as he was first learning to play in the 1970s.

“I have to admit that Josh Graves was my road map to growing to enjoy and realize what a Dobro guitar could do. Then through Mike Auldridge, and my own digging around and finding John Hartford’s Aereoplane, I soon found a fondness for Tut’s tenacious playing style, his phrasing and his way of making simple things interesting.

Until then, I suppose the reason for his being under my radar was that he didn’t play with the road-beating bands I was accustomed to hearing. Once I heard him, also through the help of my friend Bobby Wolfe who gave me my first Dobro strap at Berryville, Virginia in 1968, I was a fan and placed him into the guys I would listen to for ideas on where I could go with this thing.

Also I should mention the cover photo of Tut for the CD came from a shot Mr. Wolfe took in Tut’s Nashville office in 1965!”

Jerry seems well-pleased with this project, and is grateful for the support he received from his peers.

“With E1/Koch Records firmly behind this, as was my manager DJ McLachlan in knowing how important this project was to me, everything moved swiftly and quietly. The support players were all in on the gag as well, and knew they were contributing to something important.

I am very thankful to all for their camaraderie in this, and send out special thanks to ResoSummit. These recordings coincided with the end of their very successful forum and enabled us to all be in Nashville at a time that was very helpful to the budget that makes Tut’s reward come even sooner.

It astounds me that the songs these Dobro players picked maintain Tut’s original essence although they each add their own individual twists to create brand new songs. To me, this gives the songs new life that will be even further interpreted by the players of the future. I only wish we could have already done this kind of project for people like Josh Graves, Beecher Kirby, and others. But then, who’s to say we won’t?”

Southern Filibuster is available wherever bluegrass and acoustic music are sold, and online in iTunes.

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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.