The School of Bluegrass with Doyle Lawson – tell us about Bean Blossom

Here we go again, and I must tell you I appreciate your questions, and quite honestly I have to dig deep in my memory bank for some of them. But that’s a good thing.

Throughout the history of DL&Q, except for a brief period in the mid ’90s I always notice you carried an electric bass as opposed to an acoustic upright. I think it requires a lot of discipline to make an electric fit in the context of bluegrass music. Did you prefer the electric bass over the acoustic, and did you ever get any backlash from venues for using one? Thank for all the great music through the years. You certainly taught me through your albums, and I hope you’re enjoying retirement, Sir.

Tim Bradley

Tim Bradley wonders why I used an electric bass rather than an acoustic for the biggest part of the DL&Q years. Over time prior to DL&Q, I had worked in a 4 piece band setting and many times the acoustic bass would not be heard because of lack of proper mic placement (if there was even a mic for the bass), which more times than there was not. I love the sound of the acoustic bass and I’m happy to say that these days it gets the proper attention it deserves. But in the early days we traveled in a ’79 Ford van and having enough room for an acoustic was out of the question. And too, with only a 4 piece band, I thought that it would give an even bigger band sound overall.

I will tell you that Lou Reid was a really good acoustic bass player, and the first time I saw him that’s what he was playing. But again the electric was more to our liking for us at the time, and Lou certainly could deliver the goods.

And yes I did get some backlash every now and then, but I would point out the other bands who were using the electric and stated that I wasn’t doing anything that some of my peers weren’t doing. When Dale Perry came aboard he played the acoustic bass, as did Jamie Dailey until he moved from the bass to the rhythm guitar and Barry Scott moved to the bass. Barry had played electric bass and that was his preference, and it made sense to have him playing the instrument he was comfortable with given the fact that he was heavily featured on vocals. Having the ability to have the bass be consistent in volume was important to me, but having the bass not be too far out front was just as important.

The J.D. Crowe & the Kentucky Mountain Boys album Ramblin’ Boy or Blackjack has always been a favorite. I’d like to know more about the impact of Larry Rice on the band’s music, the choice of material and arrangements, etc. It must have been an exciting time.

Tom Keeney

Tom Keeney, I’m glad you asked about the J.D. Crowe Ramblin’ Boy LP, later retitled Blackjack, and Larry Rice’s input or impact on the recording .

When I went back to work for Jimmy Martin in ’69, J.D. brought in Larry who was living in California at the time. Bobby Slone knew about him because of having known his dad, Herb Rice, when he was in the band The Golden State Boys, and told J.D. about him. In the early part of ’70 J.D. called me and asked me to come back to the band and play the guitar and front the show. To be truthful, I loved Jimmy’s music, but I really missed picking with Crowe and was happy to go back. 

So rehearsal began and I do mean rehearsal, every day for hours and hours. As it turned out, the blend of our voices worked better with inverted harmonies and Larry singing the low tenor with J.D. singing baritone and me high lead, a sound pioneered and perfected by The Osborne Brothers. We had started working more and more festivals and realized that we couldn’t go out and do nothing but the other groups of that day’s material. So that’s when You Can Have Her, I’m Walking, Born To Be With You, and songs that Larry introduced us too such as Sin City, Devil in Disguise (Christine’s Tune), and others. Once we started looking outside the perimeters of where we had been searching we tried to blend it with traditional bluegrass songs and some country flavor as well. It was an exciting time of exploration due in no small part to Larry .

Larry was one of the best fellows to work with and for a time we lived next door to each other. He was sort’a quiet but could have you in stitches with some of the comments he made. He deserves more credit than he gets! IMO

Hi Doyle. I was hoping you would share with me some of your memories about the Bill Monroe Bluegrass festival in Indiana. Our family and friends would always look forward to your shows there and how professional you and your band were. One of our favorite songs is Country Store. Thank you so much for all the music and everything you’ve done for bluegrass over the years, you are awesome!

Ed Hamilton

Ed Hamilton wants some memories of Bean Blossom, so I’ll start with my first time of going to the June festival in, as I recall, 1968. Bobby Slone was a friend of Kenny Baker’s, and we drove over to Bean Blossom from Lexington on Sunday after having worked the night before at the Holiday Inn’s Red Slipper Lounge. This was still in the early days of festivals, and many of the pioneers in bluegrass were still very much a part of it all. Leaving Nashville, IN and heading  up toward Bean Blossom, the drive with the beautiful winding road combined with the anticipation of seeing many of my heroes perform was a feeling I can’t describe in words. Understand, I had only been involved in professional music for 4 years or so and I was like a kid in a candy store!

When you drive through the gates of the festival there is a sense of “something special is going on,” and driving (or walking) towards the stage and hearing the music coming through and over the trees assures the feeling of “this is where I need to be!”

In times past I enjoyed the occasional morning conversations with Mr. Bill before the days happenings would begin, and I must tell you of one morning while talking with Mr. Bill, a fellow wandered up and obviously had not been to bed and was still feeling the effect of the night before. Well he wanted to talk and liked to be close in doing so, and Mr. Monroe would turn to one side or the other and the fellow would follow and continued to converse too “close.” Folks, that didn’t last too long and Mr. Bill grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him like a rag doll telling him, and I quote, “you get away from me you sorry drunk, go somewhere else and drink that old slop!”

I really do think the guy sobered up then and there. Mr. Bill was not a young man at the time, but still much of a man. Sorry about getting off track a bit, but what memories I have.

Through the years, performing at Bean Blossom was always special whether it was The Country Gentlemen or DL&Q for all the many years. And we know that today it is still the longest running Bluegrass festival in existence.

Hello Doyle,

I first heard your name in1971. I had just returned home from Naval service and a fellow came by with a reel to reel tape recorder. He had a tape of you and J.D. playing Train 45 live. Wow!! When you joined the Gentlemen I bought many of your records and would attend your shows at the Mountaineer Opry House in Milton, WV. I’ve been a fan  from the beginning.

My question is, when did you first get an F-5 mandolin and do you still have it? Also, did your father’s quartet ever record?

Thanks for your great music through the years!

John Arnold

John Arnold, thank you for being a fan and supporter of the music I have been involved in down through the years. I too have great memories of The Mountaineer Opr’y House in Milton, WV, beginning with the many times I was there with the Country Gentlemen and on into DL&Q’s countless appearances there, until it was sold and torn down making way for so called “progress.” I believe that progress is a good thing so long as you don’t give up more than you get.

The first F-5 that I owned was built by Homer Ledford in Winchester, and I bought it while working with J.D. and used it on the Bluegrass Holiday recording.  

My father never recorded with the quartet he sang with, nor did they ever aspire to. They just loved to sing and believed in what and who they sang about.

I must be getting better with the H&P system of typing, and it’s serving me well in keeping the calluses on my fingers tough for if and when I decide to pick one!

Let’s do this again,


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About the Author

Doyle Lawson

Doyle Lawson, a legend in bluegrass music, has recently retired after 42 years of full time touring with his band, Quicksilver. But he's not done yet! Doyle will remain active in the music business, just as he has done since joining Jimmy Martin in 1963. Lawson also had important stints with J.D. Crowe and The Country Gentlemen before launching Quicksilver in 1980.