Thayer Washer remembered

Thayer Washer, best known for his time with Connie Gately and Babe Lofton and the Backwoods Boys, passed away on December 12, 2017, at the age of 88. He was a resident of Madison, Tennessee. 

Thayer Maxwell Washer was born on April 19, 1929, and raised in Smith County, middle Tennessee, where he loved lake fishing. 

Although diminutive in stature, Washer was a very talented member of the bluegrass music community with a strong, distinctive voice, singing the lead and baritone parts, and a triple threat on guitar, banjo, and bass. 

He was one half of the Washer Brothers, a duet act that performed on country music radio. 

He played with the Black Mountain Boys (circa 1951 to 1954), then with the Backwoods Boys – firstly led by Connie Gately and Joe Drumright – from about 1960 through to about 1973 (The group was dormant in the late 1950s due to the demands of military service). 

During the 1960s the Backwoods Boys played for a new audience of college students and other urban listeners, both of whom were discovering the appeal of bluegrass. “We played a place called The Third Floor on Second Avenue [Nashville],” Connie Gately said of that time.

In the 1980s Washer led his group The Music City Bluegrass. They released two LPs, both on the Lafayette, Tennessee, based Atwell Records label.  

Luthier Sim Daley remembers Washer with affection …

“Missy and I played a little with Thayer. He was a lovely chap.

I first came across him when I first moved to Nashville. He was with The Music City Bluegrass band. They had quite a following locally and always had killer harmonies. As the band got older, they played less and less.

I had approached Thayer about learning to sing baritone. Missy and I used to go over to his house and he would tutor me. That kinda turned into us playing a few local shows.”

Washer was laid to rest in the Hermitage Memory Gardens & Mausoleum, Hermitage, Tennessee.

A Discography

Thayer Washer is featured on the following albums .. 

Connie & Babe and the Black Mountain Boys –   

  • Roll on Blues (Republic 7090), one side of a single (b/w The Lonely Waltz), 1954
  • How Will the Flowers Bloom (Republic 7106), one side of a single (b/w The Last Love Letter), 1954 

Connie & Joe and the Backwoods Boys –

  • My Dollie Would Cry / Toil, Tears and Trouble (Starday single, 1960)
  • Lonely Years / Home is Where the Heart Is (Starday single, 1960) 

Connie & Babe and the Backwoods Boys – 

  • Basic Bluegrass (Rounder, 1973)
  • Backwoods Bluegrass (Rounder, 1975)
  • Early Days of Bluegrass Vol. 10 (Rounder, 1980)
  • Down the Road to Home (Rounder, 1995)

The Music City Bluegrass –

  • The Music City Bluegrass (To You, Our Fans) (Atwell, 1980s)
  • To You, Our Fans Vol. 2 (Atwell, 1980s) 

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.