Les Woodie, first generation bluegrass fiddler, passed away on Friday, March 23 at Lynchburg General Hospital in Lynchburg, VA. He was 86 years of age.
Born Lester Gene Woodie on September 20, 1931 in Valdese, NC, Les became a fan of the early bluegrass sound by the time he was 8 years old. He made bluegrass history as a young man when he played fiddle on the original recording of Man of Constant Sorrow with The Stanley Brothers in 1950.
As a member of the band, he performed on iconic programs like Farm & Fun Time on WCYB in Bristol, VA, and with the Stanleys on television in Huntington, WV. He had obtained the gig through the efforts of his childhood friend, George Shuffler, who was playing guitar in the band. While there, he also played the clown on stage, dressing in a Raggedy Ann outfit.
While with the Stanleys, Woodie played for a time on the Louisiana Hayride. After leaving them, he joined the Air Force and was stationed in the Philippines. There he performed in bands and played at on-base functions.
Returning to the US, he moved to Altavista, VA to attend college and played with The Bill and Mary Reid Band which also included fellow Stanleys bandmate Curley Lambert. He took a job with radio station WKDE and remained there until he retired in 2010, having worked himself up the ladder to station manager. He had been a very popular on-air personality during his 47 years there, and became a local favorite working as a sales agent for WKDE.
Over the years Woodie won both the Virginia and North Carolina state fiddle championships, and was interviewed by the International Bluegrass Museum as one of their Pioneers of Bluegrass. As a member of The Stanley Brothers, he was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 1992.
Until his health began to suffer, Les continued to perform around Virginia and North Carolina on a part time basis, working with artists like Roby Huffman, Charlie Moore, and Stan Dudley. He recorded one solo project under his name, More Pickin’ — Les Singing.
Here he is reuniting with Ralph Stanley at the Hills of Home festival a few years back.
The family will receive visitors on Wednesday (3/28) from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at Finch & Finch Funeral and Cremation Service in Altavita. A funeral will be held on Thursday at Altavista Presbyterian Church at 3:00 p.m., followed by internment with military honors at Green Hill Cemetery.
R.I.P., Les Woodie.