We are saddened to learn that banjo player Rual Yarbrough has passed away at 81 years of age. He had been ill of late, following a heart bypass a few years back, and passed away quietly at home Monday evening (9/20).
Rual first came to prominence with The Dixie Gentlemen, a group he formed with Herschel Sizemore on mandolin and Jake Landers on guitar in 1956. The group was popular throughout the southeastern US, and recorded an album for United Artists, The Country Style Of The Dixie Gentlemen. The band later included Vassar Clements on fiddle.
Rual went on to play with Bill Monroe in the 1970s, and remained a fixture on the bluegrass scene in the Deep South until he retired from working as a barber.
Yarbrough, Sizemore and Landers had remained close all these years. Herschel was thinking of Rual today, remembering the first time they met.
“Rual had moved down to Florence, AL from Tennessee and was working as a barber. I went in to the shop to get a haircut, and saw a banjo sitting in the corner. I happened to be in Rual’s chair, and asked whose banjo that was. He said it was his, and we got to talking about music.
He said that he was just trying to learn the banjo, so I helped him with what I could. We started up a little band, and when Jake Landers came back from the, we got The Dixie Gentlemen going in earnest.”
In addition to being a fine, Scruggs-style banjo player, Rual was a warm and kindly man. He will be sorely missed by his family and many friends.
A funeral service is planned for Saturday in Florence, AL.