Ricky Skaggs being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (10/21/18) – photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images
Last night was a big deal for Nashville bluegrassers as Ricky Skaggs was formally inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He went in alongside fellow inductees Johnny Gimble, and Dottie West at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum facility there in town.
Skaggs was feted by Garth Brooks, Larry Cordle, and Sierra Hull on a grassy rendition of Highway 40 Blues, and by Dierks Bentley on You’ve Got A Lover. Also sharing in the celebration was Chris Stapleton, who sang Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn. Similar tributes were offered for Dottie West and Johnny Gimble, including a performance of Gardenia Waltz by Michael Cleveland and Jeff White.
The big emotional moment of the night came just after Ricky had been presented with his Hall of Fame medallion by Garth Brooks, who then asked him to take it off from around his neck. A Museum curator then came out with Bill Monroe’s legendary F-5 mandolin, on display elsewhere in the building, and presented it to Skaggs to play.
There was a hush over the crowd as he held the instrument out in front of him, surely reflecting on the day he played it first as a young boy, and his later friendship with the Father of Bluegrass that lasted until Monroe passed in 1996.
Ricky then led the audience in a traditional group sing on Will The Circle Be Unbroken.
After having some time to reflect on this signal honor, Skaggs shared a few words about his big night.
“It’s kinda hard to believe that this day has really come. To hear someone say, ‘The newest member of the Country Music Hall of Fame’ are some of the greatest words you could ever hear this side of Heaven! I’m so grateful to be inducted into this revered Hall among these highly honored and most beloved people. It’s beyond humbling.
Many of the fathers and mothers that are in this Hall literally built country music from the ground up. They were ‘Working on a Building,’ and they built well. Their incredible talent, hard work, and love for this wonderful music has laid a deep and solid foundation that generations will stand on. I’m so thankful for their tremendous contributions. People like me could have never become a member without their sacrifice. They showed us the way, they made the music, and we followed the sound!”
Most serious bluegrass lovers know the story… Ricky started out in bluegrass, learning from his family as a youngster. By the time he was a teenager, he had paired up with a young Keith Whitley singing Stanley Brothers duets, which led to them both being hired by Ralph Stanley in 1970. After recording several albums with the Good Doctor, Skaggs left to work with The Country Gentlemen, and for one summer with J.D. Crowe & The New South in a short-lived band with Tony Rice and Jerry Douglas. With Bobby Slone in 1975, that group recorded the seminal Rounder 0044 album, The New South, which defined the sound of bluegrass for the next 30 years.
Next up was a stint with Boone Creek, a band he founded with Terry Baucom and Wes Golding, before taking the gig with Emmylou Harris and appearing on her epic Roses In The Snow LP in 1980. His vocal arrangements and harmony singing helped make that album a masterpiece.
That same year, he made the leap to country music. Nashville rejoiced in his return to the traditional sound, and he found success with song after song on the country charts. He joined the Grand Ole Opry just two years later and received multiple Grammy and country music awards during this period.
But in 1997, it was back to bluegrass for Mr. Skaggs. He assembled a crack band for his album, Bluegrass Rules, which interestingly enough, was released on October 21 of that year, 21 years to the day before he was to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. It was the first of many successful recent projects, all with a bluegrass beat. The return to bluegrass has proved to be a wise career move, keeping Ricky and his music in front of large audiences around the world when most ’80s country stars couldn’t get arrested.
Many congratulations to Ricky Skaggs for this achievement. Well earned, and certainly well deserved. And he’s not done yet!