Ron Stewart lands with Seldom Scene

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.”

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.

  • The Seldom Scene is an “Iconic Bluegrass Treasure”! What a relief that through the years they have always found a way to keep the band together. Rickie, good luck to you, Sir, as you begin your new journey – always an exiting time! Ron, these guys wouldn’t have brought you on board if they weren’t sure that you would be a synergistic fit, not only as a musician, but as a person. I know this will turn out to be one of many high points in your career! Enjoy the ride!