Wayne Yates passes

Wayne and Bill YatesWayne Yates, brother to former Country Gentleman Bill Yates, passed away last night (12/11) at the age of 75. He is picture on the left in this album cover from a project he and Bill made together.

Wayne worked with a number of bluegrass bands over the course of his life, including stints with both Red Allen and Del McCoury.

Dennis Saterlee, whose book on Red Allen, Teardrops In My Eyes, was published earlier this year, put together a brief history of Wayne’s contributions to bluegrass music.

Wayne Yates, originally from Manassas, Virginia, and his brother Bill, formed The Clinch Mountain Ramblers bluegrass band in the Washington D. C. area in the late 1950s. The Ramblers, which included, legendary banjo player Porter Church, recorded a few sides for the Nashville based Kash label.  To earn some extra money they also teamed up with Patsy Stoneman who had left the famous Stoneman family band to strike out on her own.  It was during that  period that a recently relocated Red Allen, fresh from Dayton, Ohio, started playing as a regular member of The Clinch Mountain Ramblers

Red was fresh from his breakup with the Osborne Brothers who had placed more than a couple of hits on the country music charts. It wasn’t long before Red arrived that he took over the band. They first started playing as Red Allen and the Yates Brothers but soon changed the name to the Kentuckians, Red’s original band name.

As the mandolin playing member of the Kentuckians, Wayne helped record two landmark albums.  One for the Washington based Melodeon label and a second for the fledgling County record label. With the addition of the Yates Brothers, Red had the ability to sing Osborne style harmonies once again. These recording were well received by the fans who remembered Red with the Osbornes as well as by a new audience which was coming to bluegrass music from the folk music explosion that was taking place in the nation.  These albums are currently available on the Rebel, Lonesome and Blue CD released a few years back.

After two albums Wayne left the band to concentrate on his day job.  His brother Bill would go on to fame with Jimmy Martin and the Country Gentlemen, among others, but Wayne preferred to stay at home.  In the 1970s and early 1980s   Wayne could be found sitting in with local bands at any of a number of popular bluegrass music venues in the Washington D. C. area. Although not wanting to give up a steady income from his day job, he remained a part of the local bluegrass scene for years.

Just a few years back Bill and Wayne reunited to record a new CD which should still be available.

Wayne will be remembered as a well respected pioneer in the Washington D. C. music scene.

Dennis’ book on Red Allen can be obtained through bookstores and retailers who specialize in bluegrass music, including County Sales, Bluegrass Publications and IBMM.

UPDATE 4:56 p.m. Eddie Adcock shared a few wordsin Wayne’s memory…

“In the Washington DC era of my youth I spent quite a bit of time ‘running around’ with Wayne Yates and his brother Bill, and I’ll always remember that experience fondly…even though we sure got into a lot of scrapes together!  One thing I remember most about Wayne, though, is that he would rather sing than eat.  He was a fine singer, and he could sing all the parts – lead, baritone and tenor.  Wayne was a mainstay on the Washington DC bluegrass scene for a long time, when for good reason DC was known as ‘The Bluegrass Capitol’.

Wayne Yates was a big part of it all.”

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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.

  • nothinfancyfiddler

    I have known Wayne Yates for literally my entire life. My father, “Buster” Sexton, was the banjo player for Wayne Yates and Company. This band was the only band that Wayne had led personally, and my father was an integral part in a band that would be part of the amazingly active DC bluegrass scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Along with Wayne Lanham (currently playing with Bill Emerson), Ed Wilson, my father, and the late Jimmy Arnold, they played actively in the hot bluegrass club circuit and showed a boldness in song selection and arrangements that was also a hallmark of their fellow contemporary artists like the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene.

    I was born in the “bluegrass capital” in 1975, with my father taking me to festivals and bluegrass concerts at an early age. Wayne was a funny man to be around with an irrepressible wit. It wasn’t so much about the joke he was telling; it was all in his delivery that made it hilarious to those who heard it. He did love to sing and did so with relish. My father credits him for being a great teacher of the music, and asserts that Wayne was responsible for giving my dad the opportunity to play for the first time in a professional band. He may not have made prolific contributions, but it does not diminish his legacy.

    Wayne Yates and Company released one album, “Relivin’ Old Habits,” in 1981. Its rarity makes it all the more precious, but the album certainly speaks of the DC bluegrass sound in a unique way. Notable tracks include an arrangement of “Greensleeves,” “Old Habits Are Hard to Break,” an original instrumental by my father, “New River Rag,” “Good Time Charlie,” “Everchanging Woman,” and “Jordan’s Stormy Banks.”

    He will be remembered and missed.

    Chris Sexton
    Nothin’ Fancy

  • Buster Sexton

    My son, Chris Sexton, fiddler for Nothin’ Fancy said it well about our old friend and colleague, Wayne Yates. His passing particularly hit me hard, as I always looked at Wayne as one of the two greatest influences on my life and my music…one being Mr. Bill Emerson, who taught me the banjo, and Wayne who shaped a raw young banjo picker into a musician.

    We had the best time touring on the road, playing festivals and clubs…he was absolutely the funniest man I have ever personally known. A joke a minute! Working withhim, Wayne Lanham on mandolin, Ed Wilson on bass, and the late, legendary Jimmy Arnold on fiddle was some of my life’s most memorable times. The stories I could tell would fill a book.

    My point of this note is to give a fitting tribute to a man I enjoyed picking with, his humor, friendship, and his mentoring of this old banjo picker. Above all, Wayne, if you have the Blog up there, I love you.

    Buster Sexton (formerly of Wayne Yates and Company)