Orrin Star passes

Noted guitarist, mandolinist, vocalist, and music educator, Orrin Star, died this morning following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 62 years old.

Originally from New Jersey, Orrin came to prominence in 1976 when he took first place in the National Flatpicking Championship at Walnut Valley in Winfield, KS. He teamed up shortly thereafter with Boston-based flatpicker, Gary Mehalick, with whom he toured and recorded for the next eight years.

Following a move to Maryland, Star became a hot ticket at both guitar and mandolin camps, and was featured in a number of instructional products from both Homespun and Flatpicking Guitar magazine. He was recognized for years as one of the most effective teachers for banjo, mandolin, and guitar in the DC region, and was a particular expert in the playing of Doc Watson and Norman Blake.

Orrin also recorded a number of albums under his own name, and with his group, Sultans of String. In more recent years, he worked in an acoustic duo with Jimmy Gaudreau, and had the distinction of being the banjo player for the children’s show, Blues Clues. Throughout his life, he served as a sideman for all sorts of artists who needed some bluegrass flavor for their projects.

Though not many of his flatpicking fans knew much about it, Star was also a talented stand-up comic, who had perfected his craft in comedy clubs in Boston and around New York City. His musical shows always included his clever banter, and dry delivery. His winning smile was often as big a hit as his playing and singing.

Orrin was a friend to everyone in the acoustic music world, and always had a smiling face to offer his fellow pickers along the road.

We know of no announced details yet about funeral arrangements.

R.I.P., Orrin Star.

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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.

  • Menachem Vinegrad

    So sorry to hear of Orrin Star’s untimely passing. He came over to Israel to play at Jacob’s Ladder Festival quite a few years ago and was very well liked here. RIP

  • I’m very saddened to hear this news, first from Buddy Merriam, then via this article. Orrin and I were in touch recently and I’d hoped to get him to our Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association for a workshop and/or a concert. May he rest in peace. Here is my first treasured audio memory of Orrin… http://frobbi.org/audio/starrmehalick.html

  • Venkata Samineni

    I am deeply saddened by Orrin’s passing away. He was an ardent fan of table tennis and we used to play together. He was one of the nicest people that I have ever met. My heart felt condolences to his family.

  • jbyork3

    Sad news, for sure. I never met him, but I sure watched a ton of his videos, and he seemed like someone you’d be glad to know.