The Dillards inducted into the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame

It’s a long way from Mayberry, NC to Bean Blossom, IN, but that’s exactly the road that Rodney Dillard has trod on his way to seeing The Dillards inducted last month into the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame, located in The Bill Monroe Museum at the park where Big Mon put on his festival while he was alive.

The honor was bestowed on September 24 during the 48th annual Uncle Penn festival in Bean Blossom, IN. Rodney brought his current edition of The Dillards to perform, alongside fellow bluegrass legend Bobby Osborne.

As the only living member of the original band – Rodney Dillard on guitar, Doug Dillard on banjo, Dean Webb on mandolin, and Mitch Jayne on bass – Rodney accepted the induction for his deceased bandmates.

He tells us that he was filled with pride accepting the induction for the band.

“I was very blessed and very honored to finally be a member of the Bill Monroe Hall of Fame. It is among the greatest tributes I have ever received. All the guys would have loved this. I accepted the honor for all the other guys.

They were so nice to us in Bean Blossom. They have really fixed that place up. We stayed in a little cabin on site. I am really impressed by that Museum. There is a lot of history in that room. There’s Bill Monroe’s smashed mandolin case in there. That really meant a lot to me to see that.”

The following is the biography of the band that will be displayed in the Bill Monroe Museum.

The Dillards, besides being a band that made wonderful and time tested music, are amongst bluegrass’s greatest ambassadors, innovators and contributors.   

Through a variety of means, the Dillards introduced people to bluegrass and influenced people in a major way. As teenagers Rodney and Doug Dillard, Mitch Jayne, and Dean Webb left Salem, Missouri for California with $10.50 in their pocket. They brought their Ozark Mountain Bluegrass sound to LA’s blossoming folk scene where they made fans and influenced musicians.

Their classic episodes on the Andy Griffith Show have been bringing bluegrass to the world for over 60 years. The Dillards are the most watched bluegrass group in history! Later they toured with rock acts such as Sam the Sham, Mitch Ryder, Bill Cosby, The Byrds, and Elton John where they brought the bluegrass sound and energy to young rock fans.  

The Dillard’s were innovative and experimented with new sounds through their whole career. They added electric bass, drums, steel guitar, and orchestra to bluegrass triad harmonies, and brought the bluegrass feel to other folks. They were the first bluegrass band to cover a Bob Dylan tune. Rodney was one of the very first musicians to layer vocals in the studio in order to create a full choral sound from 3-4 voices. The Dillards played a crucial role in bringing two brand new music genres to mainstream America – bluegrass and country rock. Rolling Stone magazine called Rodney Dillard “The Father of Country Rock.”

Doug Dillard had a very distinctive sound on his banjo, and featured unique rolls and licks. He played banjo for the soundtrack of the hit movie, Bonnie & Clyde, which caused a great bluegrass revival. (Scruggs did Foggy Mountain Breakdown).

The Dillards have had substantial influence on many musicians. John McEuen, one of the founding members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, said he would not be playing music except for the inspiration of the Dillards. John Paul Jones, Linda Ronstadt, Steve Martin, Buffalo Sprinfield, Sam Bush, Billy Strings, and The Avett Brothers all cite the Dillards as an influence. Dean Webb helped The Byrds arrange the vocals on their first #1 hit, Mr. Tambourine Man.

The Dillards have been top songwriters, having composed hundreds of songs including such classics as Old Home Place, There Is A Time, Dooley, Doug’s Tune and Ebo Walker. Their songs have been covered by artists from Alan Jackson to Phish to The Kingston Trio. They had many great albums ranging from traditional to progressive including Back Poarch Bluegrass, Live!!!!Almost!!!, Wheatstraw Suite, Copperfields, and Pickin’ & Fiddlin’.

Not only were the Dillards great musicians, they were also lovable showmen and entertainers. Mitch Jayne was an exceptional MC. Both he and Rodney used their keen wit and humor to bring laughter to all. Audiences left their shows in a great mood. The Dillards are also members of the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame.

In 2022, Rodney carries on the Dillards, is an ordained minister, and has a Christian themed “Mayberry Values” ministry.

Talking about being inducted brought on a recall stream of consciousness for Dillard, now 80 years old.

“We first met Monroe when we were kids. I remember he came up to me one time and said, ‘Hey Dillard. How’d you get on that Andy Griffith Show?

You can’t do what those guys did… Bill Monroe, the Stanleys. You can’t copy what these guys did, and the young people in bluegrass today are taking it in their own direction. I’m so happy to see that. I don’t believe in suppressing creativity.

When we first started on Elektra, the New York critics really slaughtered us.

But I remember Earl said to me, ‘I like to see music progress. When I first started learning banjo, I wasn’t playing bluegrass, I was playing banjo.’ I was lucky to get to know those guys.

It’s been a good run. When I can’t hear anymore, or can’t sing on key, I’ll be done. But for now, I’m having a blast.”

Long live The Dillards!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.