Ricky Skaggs on bluegrass hair

The Washington Post Clik Track blog had a piece last Friday (1/8) on bluegrass hair, and who better to discuss it than Ricky Skaggs.

This was actually an offshoot of a more serious discussion about the future of country music, and how much he prefers working in bluegrass – specifically because it has stayed truer to its roots.

From the interview with Chris Richards:

Your new album is look back on the history of bluegrass, but how do you feel about the future of the genre?

Bluegrass, I think, is really doing well. There’s a lot of new, young horses out there running… I’m much more hopeful for bluegrass music than I am for country music. Listening to country on the radio? Phew! Wow.

You think it’s that bad, huh?

Country music has really, really lost its identity. It’s tried to be something that it’s not for so long now, it doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be. It’s really lost its way. There’s groups out there that are making good-sounding records but they have such a rock influence or such a pop influence. It’s too rock to be country or too country to be rock. It’s just… somewhere, hanging in the balance.

But the real fun starts when they turn to the topic of bluegrass hair. Jesse McReynolds, Del McCoury, Ralph Stanley, and Marty Stuart are singled out for their coif before the questions begin.

Why do so many bluegrass stars have such fantastic hair?

Oh my goodness… Well, in the early days, probably one of the reasons people had these great hair-dos — and long hair — is that they probably couldn’t afford to get it cut! They weren’t making enough money to get it cut in the early days. And probably traveling on the road so daggone much, they probably didn’t have time, either.

What about your hair?

Hair is something that comes in and goes out. I’ve certainly had two, three or four different looks during my career. But I guess it was in 2007 when I felt it was time to grow my hair back out again. So I haven’t really cut it since then. Just a trim here and there.

Do people comment on your hair?

I know Mr. Monroe [the late bluegrass icon Bill Monroe] had quite a coif there for many years. When I was working with J.D. Crowe & the New South, Mr. Monroe used to say “That J.D. Crowe and his outfit — they look like a herd of Shetland ponies!”

Read the whole thing to see who Ricky thinks has the best bluegrass hair of all time. You might be surprised.

Thanks to Josh Kohn at the National Center for the Traditional Arts for pointing us to this interview.

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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.