Ricky responds to IBMA remarks

Ricky SkaggsEarlier 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.

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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.

  • There may be one very good reason for the lack of BU chart success of the Hornsby – Skaggs collaboration. I am a reporter to the BU chart, as of today I have not received the project nor have I heard it. I am aware of the intense media attention to this recording, but some of the reporting DJs have apparently been overlooked.

    To be clear, many of the reporting DJs including myself, are independent producers of their programing and even if a copy was mailed to my station, it is not available to me.

    I am sure if the producers of this project had requested a list of chart reporters from BU, it would have been provided along with addresses.

    I do not know the label for this CD, it apparently is not Skaggs Family Records. I get all of their material, and I am sure they know who the reporters are.

  • mrmando

    Please pass along my gratitude to Ricky for clarifying exactly who he was accusing of “ignorance” and “jealousy.” It’s good that we’ve got that straightened out.

    Unfortunately, the reply from Skaggs Family contains not the slightest whiff of apology for Ricky’s churlish and vindictive remarks. Instead, it offers Ricky’s “frustration” and “passionate” personality as an excuse. Well, there are lots of frustrated and passionate people who learn to temper their speech.

    I guess I’ll just have to agree with the reply when it says, “It would be difficult for any artist of [Ricky’s] caliber not to take that personally.‚Äù If Ricky wants his petulant behavior to be taken as a sign of his artistic caliber, so be it.

    To be sure, there are many talented artists who lack the maturity to deal with criticism, real or imagined.

    But the truly great artists know that there will always be critics and naysayers, and they learn not to waste energy on this sort of playground name-calling. Ricky should take a cue from the great artists, and put his passion into his music, not into The Daily Herald.

  • As a reporter to the BU chart, I can tell you one reason why we have not reported play of Ricky’s project. We have not had one single request for any cut to be played on Bluegrass Radio. I report play and compile out top 15 from hundreds of email request every month. I would be less than honest if I said there was not a little “gut” that goes into the chart as well. Personally I enjoyed about three cuts from the CD but it did not really excite me. Cannot wait for Ricky’s second return the bluegrass..!! This guy is a great bluegrass musician and his music with Kentucky Thunder is no less the awesome.