Randall Deaton and Lonesome Day Records

Randall DeatonHe grew up surrounded with bluegrass pickers; he has been playing guitar since he was in high school; he has built his own recording studio and started his own record label.

Nothing unusual there, but Randall Deaton is different, as he mentions below.

Deaton grew up on a small farm near Booneville in eastern Kentucky, instilled with a strong work ethic and a great passion for music. While playing in bands throughout high school and college he earned a degree in business administration and a minor in political science. Deaton graduated from The University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky, in 1997.

In the summer of 2002 he started Lonesome Day Records – named after a Bruce Springsteen song – and in the past decade Deaton has released albums by Blue Moon Rising, Larry Cordle, Lou Reid and Carolina, Steve Gulley, Randy Kohrs, Ralph Stanley II, Ernie Thacker, Darrell Webb, Jeff Parker, Richard Bennett, Fred Eaglesmith and Wildfire. All are of the highest quality, both sonically and artistically.

Randall enjoys the married life with his wife Shelagh, a mental health therapist who works with children; they have two of their own, an eight-year-old named Aiden and a five-year-old named Rosalia. Besides listening to copious amounts of music – he is a great Springsteen enthusiast – he enjoys watching sports, travelling and reading Stephen King books.

He has strong views on the best way forward for the bluegrass recording business ……

So, tell me about yourself please …… you have a debilitating eye condition; what is it exactly and when was it diagnosed? What adjustments have you had to make to your life as you grew up?

Randall Deaton“I have a genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa. I have had it since birth. It is a condition that deteriorates over time. The nerve cells in the retina end up becoming useless and will no longer transmit information from the eye to the brain.

When I was growing up I would use things like large print text books. As I got older and the condition got worse, I would use more things like audio books and adaptive technology. I used to be able to use a computer monitor but now everything I do on a computer is done with a text to speech program.

I now use a cane as well. Since my eyes have gotten worse at a relatively slow and steady pace, I have been able to adapt gradually to whatever I need to do. At first I was behind because I didn’t want to fully accept where things were going, but once I did I have been able to stay ahead of things. I have a lot of talking stuff. I use an iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV because they all have great text to speech built into the OS. I also have talking thermometers and other little gadgets. Mostly though I just learn how to use the things that everyone else uses.”

Tell me about your interest in music (was that bluegrass music from the beginning?) …..

“When I was a kid we listened to country music around the house. I knew more about Exile than I did about The Police. I knew a little bit about bluegrass but I didn’t really get into bluegrass until I started learning how to play guitar. All the people that I could play with around home were mostly playing bluegrass songs. That’s how I really got introduced to it. I knew the names and some songs from people like The Stanley Brothers but not really more than that.

I really started getting into bluegrass more in the mid. 1990s when I was in college. My first introduction to a real bluegrass performer was Richard Bennett. He was the first person actively playing on the bluegrass circuit that I personally interacted with. I took lessons from Richard from around 1994.”

You have your own recording studio; when did you set that up? Which items of recording equipment do you manage and what are the difficulties that you have to overcome when using them?

Lonesome Day Records“I started my recording studio in 1999. I soon realized that I wasn’t going to get enough business in eastern Kentucky, so that is how I started the record label. I wanted to record music that I had more control over.

There was a record label based out of Hazard, Kentucky, called Crosscut and they had their own studio. I heard what they were producing and I thought that I could do a better job and produce better records. That is how it started.

I originally used a couple of ADAT machines when I started my studio. I moved to a computer based system and I had two monitors. I was able to make one of those monitors like a giant magnifying glass. This allowed me to do pretty well for a while. I recorded Jeff Parker’s first record this way as well as records by Darrell Webb, Blue Moon Rising, and Lou Reid.

When my eyesight got to the point where I didn’t feel I could do as good of a job as needed, I pretty much stopped doing engineering work in the studio. I used Michael Latterell for several recordings the last few years.

I recently started using a program called Sonar, and my text to speech program JAWS. A company developed special scripts for JAWS and Sonar that makes the program very accessible for me. Sonar is a program that is similar to the other computer programs like Cubase, Neuindo, and Pro Tools. Certain things are still difficult to do with Sonar so I treat it almost like recording to a tape machine. I can do editing but I try to just get everything right while we are recording.

In the period from 2002 through 2005 I worked a lot with Harold Nixon and Ron Stewart. Ron helped mix several of the records in that timeframe. Harold and Ron have also appeared as musicians on more Lonesome Day recordings than any other musicians. They are kind of like my ‘Wrecking Crew.’ “


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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.