Randy Kohrs on Uncle Josh

Here is another remembrance of Uncle Josh Graves, who passsed away last Saturday (9/30) in Nashville after a long battle with a number of serious health concerns. It is from dobroist, and Graves devotee, Randy Kohrs.

Upon hearing of Uncle Josh Graves’ passing just two hours earlier as I was walking off the stage after playing with my band at the IBMA FanFest, a couple of saddening thoughts really struck me. How many people can actually say they revolutionized an instrument? He literally dissected the way the dobro was played, turned it over and examined it, and then went and invented a whole new way to get these incredible tones, incorporating Earl Scruggs’ three-finger roll and a lot of blues. He poured his soul into every note of his playing, a trait that made him one of my biggest influences. He’s one of the main ones I listened to, one of my musical heroes, as I was growing up learning to play, as does virtually every other Dobro player still to this day.

I recently came across some old video footage of Flatt & Scruggs on the Opry in the ’50’s that I’d never seen. Some of the licks he played back then made me realize just how ahead of his time he was. Although the Dobro has continued to evolve, just like every other instrument, by today’s standards, he would still rank among the best in the world. He was clean, consistent, had great timing, and just the right amount of flash to suit the song. Not only was his musicianship impressive, he was just an overall great entertainer. He never let an opportunity go by for a funny, quick-witted comment.

If it wasn’t for Josh, the modern day sounds of musicians like Jerry Douglas and Mike Auldridge would certainly have suffered. This goes without saying in my own regard, but I will say that it is hard to play a 3 hour recording session and not cross ground that Josh already covered. Although Josh may have crossed over to play with an ever growing angel band, he certainly has left an army of fellow resophonic guitarists to carry on and continue to carry the Dobro-torch in his honor.

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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.