Charles Thurman Pugh of Galax, Virginia, bass player with the Mountain Ramblers, passed away in the Grayson Nursing and Rehab Center, Independence, Virginia, on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. He was 80 years old.
The Mountain Ramblers is a name synonymous with all that is good about the early days of bluegrass music.
Born on March 16, 1935 in Carroll County, Virginia, Pugh was originally inclined towards a pure folk tradition although as he grew up he became a big fan of Country music singer Ray Price.
He joined the Mountain Ramblers in 1956 playing bass fiddle and singing lead in a group that became noted for its three-part harmonies.
Just as the band was a multiple winner in contests at the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention, so was Pugh in the Folk Song section, an award for singers.
In 1959 Alan Lomax recorded 13 performances by the Mountain Ramblers; these cuts being featured on three different LPs in what is known as the Atlantic series (so called because of the label on which the albums were released).
Further recordings were released in small numbers, with four cuts put out on the County label.
These were followed by an album of 12 instrumentals, Mountain Dance Music from the Blue Ridge,
(County 720) another full LP, The Mountain Ramblers, (GHP 908) and then Hills of Grayson (Heritage XVII).
For many years the band was a regular feature on Radio WBOB, in Galax, Virginia, and in later years they had a monthly 45-minute spot on Radio WPAQ, in Mount Airy, North Carolina.
Kip Lornell interviewed Thurman Pugh, speaking about various subjects. Recordings of these conversations are held in Digital Library of Appalachia.
In this instance Pugh talks a bit about the folk song Barbara Allen and sings a brief refrain.
Here there is an audio clip of The Old Hickory Cane by the Mountain Ramblers (Thurman Pugh, vocal)
The funeral service was at 11:00 am on Saturday, August 1, 2015, at Snow Hill Baptist Church, Galax, Virginia, with the Rev. Ernie Smith officiating. Burial followed in the Snow Hill Cemetery.