Earlier this month, Ricky Skaggs was interviewed by The Daily Herald newspaper in central Utah. The topic of the piece by Alan Sculley was the recent recorded collaboration by Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby, and particularly a show they were to play in Salt Lake City on July 8.
The interview stirred up a bit of controversy among bluegrass fans, as a quote that was included struck some as insulting towards the IBMA, and perhaps towards bluegrass lovers more generally.
Skaggs, in a recent phone interview, said the “Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby” CD has been a hit in just about every sector except with the International Bluegrass Music Association.
“They’ve got a chart that they do in their magazine and we’re not even on it,” Skaggs said. “We’ve been No. 1 on the Billboard bluegrass charts for seven or eight weeks now. So I think it’s just jealousy on their part. They’re not playing it very much. But, hey, that’s all right. It just shows their ignorance.”
Comments quickly circulated on bluegrass discussion groups, some quite critical of Skaggs, with the forum on Mandolin Cafe being particularly active in response. The BGRASS-L email list also featured two active threads about the article (here and here).
When we first saw this interview, we were struck by the fact that the interviewer had confused IBMA with Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, and their monthly chart based on radio play. We contacted Skaggs Family Records to see if Ricky might want to clarify his remarks, and received the following response.
“There was definitely confusion regarding the BU chart and IBMA. He meant no ill will toward the IBMA organization. He is an IBMA member and active supporter of the organization. Basically, his comments stemmed from his frustration as an artist who was struggling to understand why a record that has spent 10 weeks or more on the Billboard chart (Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby) failed to make the cut on the BU chart.
Ricky is passionate about his music, he’s passionate about the music that Skaggs Family Records releases, and it’s very frustrating to him as an artist and as a label head when everyone seems to be embracing the music except for his core audience, which is the bluegrass community, for whom he never hesitates to show his support.
It would be difficult for any artist of his caliber not to take that personally.”
In truth, Skaggs’ remarks might be more accurately seen as directed towards bluegrass radio, or more specifically those who report for Bluegrass Unlimited’s chart. To what degree those who were offended by Ricky’s remarks are mollified, we’ll have to wait and see.
You can read the full Daily Herald article online.