Roby Huffman, popular singer and bandleader in eastern North Carolina, passed away on December 29, 2012. He was 74 years old, and had been ill since being diagnosed with lung cancer a few months back.
Huffman toured internationally with his band, Roby Huffman and the Bluegrass Cut Ups, starting in the 1950s. With some personnel changes, the group that lasted into the ’80s. Roby’s soaring tenor was the focus of their sound, and the similarity between his and Bobby Osborne’s voice was widely remembered, especially when Huffman was younger.
The Cut Ups were reconstituted in 1997, and continued performing sporadically with them and as a guest on other shows until recently.
Throughout his time in bluegrass, though, Roby maintained a career in the building trades, working as a self-employed brick mason, something that NC fiddler Johnny Ridge remembers well.
He did travel a lot back in the ’70s and ’80s, but still stayed with that day job.”
Another North Carolina grasser that remembers Huffman fondly is Lorraine Jordan of Carolina Road, who credits him for teaching her the skills required of both a band leader and a promoter, two areas where Lorraine has since shone.
He was a great band leader and bluegrass promoter. Roby had the clearest, highest high lead voice you could ever hear. He sang almost everything in the key of B. When I moved on to other bands they would ask me if I was comfortable playing and singing tenor in the key of B. I always answered to them, ‘I played with Roby,’ and of course then they knew I could!
Many of us eastern North Carolina bluegrass musicians owe it all to Roby and the Blue Grass Cut Ups for paving the way for us.”
A funeral was held earlier this week at Tee’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church in Smithfield, NC.
Here is video of Roby with the Cut Ups back in 2006.
Special thanks to Laura Tate Ridge of Deep River Management for her assistance in putting this obituary together.