The bluegrass music world is in shock today at the news that lifelong banjo player Kenny Ingram died yesterday evening after suffering a massive stroke. He was 67 years of age.
Kenny had spent his youth performing with two of the legends of bluegrass. He was the banjo player with Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass following the breakup of Flatt & Scruggs, and similarly replaced J.D. Crowe with Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys. It’s hard to imagine a better opportunity to master the basics of bluegrass banjo.
Continuing as a professional player, Ingram worked a ten year stint with the Larry Stephenson Band, and one with Rhonda Vincent & The Rage. You could also find him as a guest performer on numerous recordings, including projects from Benny Martin, Marty Stuart, Josh Williams, and Tony Trischka.
Throughout all this time, Kenny – or Big K, as he was sometime known – was known for his preservation of the Earl Scruggs style, and the power and passion in his playing. He was also a very effective teacher, appearing often as a featured instructor at banjo camps around the world.
It’s hard to overstate how admired Ingram was within the banjo community, where there is universal agreement placing him among the all-time greats of traditional, Scruggs/Crowe-style pickers. That legacy is further reflected by the American Made Banjo Co making a signature Kenny Ingram model instrument.
Here’s a look at how well he did as a young man playing Flint Hill Special with Lester in 1977. That’s a even younger Marty Stuart between he and Flatt.
And a more recent example on Road Rage, included on Rhonda Vincent & The Rage’s 2005 live DVD, Ragin’ Live.
And one more, doing the J.D. Crowe classic, Bear Tracks, with Larry Stephenson at SPBGMA 2011.
Family and friends are devastated by his death, as are all who had the chance to meet him on the road, remembering the kind-hearted, soft-hearted man whose gentleness was in such sharp contrast with his stature.
Given the sudden and unexpected nature of his passing, Kenny’s family has not yet announced any information about funeral arrangements.
R.I.P., Kenny Ingram.