One of the most influential bluegrass songwriters of his time, Randall Hylton was recently honored with induction into the Blue Ridge Music Hall Of Fame, based at the Wilkes Heritage Museum in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
Born in in southwest Virginia, he learned to play the guitar at the age of five and soon started to write his own songs, one of which was recorded by bluegrass Gospel group The Lewis Family in 1967.
In 1973 he moved to Nashville with the aim of devoting his career to writing country songs. However, that ended in disappointment, and in 1977 he switched his focus to writing for bluegrass music, setting up his own publishing company, Greasy Creek Music.
As he attended more bluegrass festivals, he established a rapport with many of the groups that he met, and his song-writing career launched from there.
He penned more than 250 songs with some of his best-known including 32 Acres; Gonna Be Movin’; Cold Sheets Of Rain; Slippers With Wings; Once And For Always; I’ve Heard The Wind Blow; Country Poor, Country Proud; Where Rainbows Touch Down; Room At The Top Of The Stairs; Slowly Getting You Out Of The Way; Mountain Laurel; Pulleybone Gayden; Hallelujah Turnpike; Goodtime Get-Together; and China Grove My Hometown.
Artists who have recorded these and other Hylton originals include Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver; the Bluegrass Cardinals; the Virginia Squires; The Lewis Family; Charlie Waller & The Country Gentlemen; Ralph Stanley; Lester Flatt; Curly Seckler; Continental Divide; Larry Sparks & The Lonesome Ramblers; Knoxville Grass; and the Osborne Brothers with Mac Wiseman.
The Lewis Family – Slippers with Wings
The Bluegrass Cardinals – Where Rainbows Touch Down.
Sanders Family Bluegrass Show, McAlister, Oklahoma, 1988
Gary Ferguson – Hot Night in August
David Parmley & Continental Divide – 32 Acres
Briefly, he fronted a bluegrass band, but quickly re-invented himself as a solo act, playing a drop thumb fingerpicked style, and established a popular show that mixed his songs, storytelling with less-serious parodies and impressions.
Randall Hylton – from the Access to Bluegrass archive, recorded July 2, 2000…
Already an impressive man at six foot six inches, his stove-pipe hat made him an even more imposing figure wherever he went.
Hylton’s own recording career began in 1989 with a Rebel Records release, The Singer & The Songster, with Charlie Waller. Other albums followed; another LP for Rebel, and CDs on Niptune, Copper Creek, Old Homestead, and Flag.
In 2001, the year that he passed, Pinecastle Records released a various artist collection, In Memory of a Friend: A Tribute to Randall Hylton, of 14 Hylton songs/tunes performed by Wildfire; The Rarely Herd; the Larry Stephenson Band; Special Consensus; Eddie & Martha Adcock; and Continental Divide.
He was the recipient of the SPBGMA Songwriter Of The Year for five out of six consecutive years.
Hylton wrote and published How To Write And Sell Bluegrass Songs that is full of excellent advice for those wanting to follow in his footsteps.
His son Blake was in attendance to accept the award on behalf of his family.
Other 2022 inductees include bluegrass veteran act Jim and Jesse; The Blue Sky Boys, country music duo brothers Earl and Bill Bolick; Rodney Clay Sutton, a dance performer and teacher of Appalachian step dance; fiddler Arvil Freeman; and MerleFest, considered to be one of the premier music festivals in the USA.
The 2022 Dr. T. R. Bryan Wilkes County Heritage Music Award was bestowed upon the bluegrass and old-time fiddler Ernest Johnson.