Renfro Proffitt passes

‘Renfro’ Proffitt, cross-picking guitar stylist and one-time member of Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys, passed away at the Community Hospice Care Center in Ashland, Kentucky, on Thursday, July 25, 2019. He was aged 69. 

Troy Leen ‘Renfro’ Proffitt, born on July 14, 1950 in Richlands, Virginia, joined the Clinch Mountain Boys in the spring of 1976, playing lead guitar – succeeding Dan Marshall – and remained with the band until the end of 1977. 

According to Proffitt, Dr. Stanley gave him the name ‘Renfro’ when they were travelling through Renfro Valley, Kentucky, one time.

Proffitt bought his first guitar at the age of 10, and he learned the G chord, but he didn’t make much progress from there so, he traded his guitar for a pocket watch. 

A year later he bought another guitar and after hearing the Stanley Brothers Orange Blossom Special, Proffitt became interested in bluegrass music. That led him to buying all of their records that he could find, and to learning from them. 

While playing with another band, the Virginia Drifters, Proffitt had the opportunity to audition for a vacant guitar spot in the Clinch Mountain Boys. Called up on stage he joined in a rendition of Will You Miss Me? He told a writer for the long-defunct Pickin’ magazine, “That was the first one. I couldn’t hardly stand on stage or hold my guitar.”  

Proffitt assisted during two recording sessions with tracks released on two albums.

An early appearance while with Ralph Stanley was at the Tall Trees Bluegrass Festival, at Modoc, Indiana, during the weekend of July 16-18, 1976, was recorded – as were performances by other bands playing there – and released by King Bluegrass Records on a Various Artists’ double album. 

In the mid-1980s he played/recorded with the Keen Brothers – Carnice, Remus and Phillip – who were heavily influenced by the Stanley Brothers.    

In more recent years Proffitt was a member of the Big Sandy Bluegrass Boys.  

He was the 2018 recipient of the Blueridge Carter Stanley Memorial Guitar.  

Proffitt was laid to rest on Sunday (July 28, 2019) at Highland Memorial Park, Staffordsville, Kentucky.

R.I.P. Renfro Proffitt 

Our grateful thanks are due to Gary Reid, for his considerable assistance in seeking information on our behalf. 

A Discography

Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys –

  • Clinch Mountain Gospel (Rebel SLP-1571, released in 1977) 
  • Classic Gospel (Freeland FRC-CD-646, May 1996)

Keen Brothers – 

  • Bluegrass From The Mountain (Old Homestead Records, 1983) ‎

Various Artists – 

  • Live Tall Trees Bluegrass Festival 1976 (King Bluegrass Records, 1976)

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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.