Bluegrass icon Ricky Skaggs reached a major milestone last year that he has just shared with the public.
Last year, Ricky participated in the virtual graduation ceremony for his school, Lawrence County High School in Louisa, KY, along with Larry Cordle, Tyler Childers, and others who had attended there. During the June 1 graduation, Dr. Robbie Fletcher, superintendent of Lawrence County Schools, surprised Skaggs with an honorary high school diploma.
Ricky never finished high school, quitting in 1971 to take a job touring with Ralph Stanley along with his friend, Keith Whitley. The two teenagers were asked to join the Clinch Mountain Boys after Dr. Stanley heard them harmonizing on classic Stanley Brothers material when he arrived late for a show in West Virginia. When he finally got to the venue, he found the duo on stage entertaining the restive crowd. Ralph said later that when he first came into the room, he presumed he was hearing a Stanley Brothers record on the jukebox.
So nearly 50 years after, Mr. Skaggs finally has this high school notch on his mandolin.
He says that it was something his own mother had long dreamed of seeing.
“It was an amazing surprise and answered prayer of my mom. She wanted me to graduate before I went full time with Ralph Stanley on the road. I was about as proud of that as anything I’ve been given.”
In retrospect, one could say that Ricky chose wisely with regard to his ultimate career. From that time, both Ricky and Keith made their living in music. Whitley stayed longer with Ralph, before leaving to play with J.D. Crowe & The New South while Ricky went with Crowe in 1974. Their time in The New South never coincided. Both, of course, later reached stardom in the country world. Ricky came back to bluegrass in 1996, but Keith died in 1989 before such an outcome could be considered.
It’s nice to see him honored in this way.