Meet Dr. Rodney Dillard!

On May 19, Rodney Dillard, the lone surviving original member of The Dillards, who introduced bluegrass music, Ozark style, to America on television in the 1960s as the Darling family on The Andy Griffith Show, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Public Affairs from Missouri State University.

Dr. Dillard was recognized at the Missouri State commencement in Springfield, MO on Friday afternoon, after which he gave the keynote address.

The University also prepared this resolution honoring Rodney, and by extension, his late banjo playing brother Doug as well, both of whom served as the initial inductees into the Missouri Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

WHEREAS, Rodney Dillard has distinguished himself since the 1960s as an authentic voice of Ozarks music;

and WHEREAS, Rodney Dillard both individually and as a member of The Dillards was one of the first to introduce the Ozarks music to the nation and to the world;

and WHEREAS, Rodney Dillard and The Dillards were, and remain, among the most listened-to purveyors of the Missouri Ozarks musical heritage;

and WHEREAS, over the years Rodney Dillard has done much to advance the understanding and evolution of music in the Ozarks:

and WHEREAS, Rodney Dillard has shown himself to be an astute student of music history, of the musical traditions of the Ozarks, and of the evolution of bluegrass;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Faculty Senate of Missouri State University. . .recommend to the university’s Board of Governors that the degree be conferred upon Rodney Dillard. . .in recognition of outstanding musical achievements.

All four founding members of The Dillards (Rodney Dillard, Doug Dillard, Mitch Jayne, and Dean Webb) have deep Missouri roots. Salem, MO was their initial home base, where a young Rodney and Doug often played shows with their friend, John Hartford. The very first live appearance by The Dillards was in St Louis at Washington University.

Following their time as TV stars, The Dillards went on to become pioneers in the burgeoning country rock scene of the 1970s. With Rodney still active at 81 years of age, the story of The Dillards is still being told. He released a new project, Old Road New Again, in 2020, and told us in an interview that year not to see it as the final word.

“This new record is not a swan song, but something I’ve wanted to do for several years. I’ve been blessed to have a career where I could go on without having to scratch out a living. I live in a beautiful place on a mountain in Branson, and I get to fish and play with the grandkids.”

Last Fall The Dillards were also inducted into the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Bean Blossom, IN, which Rodney told us was one of the greatest tributes he has ever received. They are also members of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

Congratulations to Rodney Dillard for this crowning achievement!

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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.