Ron Stewart’s search for work didn’t last long after the Boxcars disbanded a few weeks back. Next Saturday, he’ll officially join the Seldom Scene at a show in Cincinnati, transferring his stout banjo and fiddle skills from one Grammy-nominated bluegrass band to another.
Stewart replaces Rickie Simpkins, who announced over the weekend that it was “time to move on to my next musical journey” after nearly two years with the Scene. The remaining members were familiar and comfortable with Stewart, who filled in for Simpkins for a few gigs in August.
“We thank Rickie for the time he spent with us, and we’re looking forward to the next chapter in the Seldom Scene with Ron Stewart,” said lead singer and guitarist Dudley Connell.
Stewart is excited about the new gig. “I’ve been a fan of the Scene since Act 1,” he said, referring to the band’s 1972 release. “And I’ve known these guys, the current lineup, forever, but this is a whole new ballgame. We’re going to have a ball.”
Simpkins, who had long stints with the Tony Rice Unit and Emmylou Harris, had big shoes to fill when he joined the band at the start of 2016. He replaced Ben Eldridge, the last original member of the group that formed in 1971 after practicing in the basement of Eldridge’s Bethesda, MD, home.
He added a new dimension to the Scene’s live shows – fiddle, switching from banjo during sets. Stewart, who has won IBMA awards for both instruments, will bring the same versatility to the band. He’s as low key and unpretentious as he is talented.
Stewart will join Connell, resophonic guitarist Fred Travers, mandolinist Lou Reid and bassist Ronnie Simpkins, Rickie’s brother. Connell, Travers and Ronnie Simpkins joined the band on the same day in 1995. Reid returned to the band in 1996, after an earlier stint, taking the place of band co-founder John Duffey.
Rickie Simpkins didn’t say what his next act will be, but he thanked “all the folks who came out in support of the music.” And, he concluded, “Stay tuned.”