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Josh Graves

Uncle Josh Graves revolutionized the role of the Dobro in country and bluegrass. An extraordinarily gifted musician renowned for his rolling syncopated technique and astonishing speed, his seminal recordings as a member of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs' Foggy Mountain Boys established the resonator guitar as an essential component of postwar roots music. Born Burkett Graves in Tellico Plains, TN, on September 27, 1927, he first adopted the Dobro in emulation of boyhood hero Cliff Carlisle, a fixture of Jimmie Rodgers' landmark RCA sessions. Graves invented the "Uncle Josh" persona as a teen while working as an announcer for Knoxville radio station WROL, and upon joining the Pierce Brothers in 1942 he served as both a guitarist and comedian. Stints in support of Esco Hankins, Molly O'Day, and Mac Wiseman followed before Graves attracted broad attention backing Stoney Cooper and Wilma Lee on WWVA's weekly Wheeling Jamboree. While a member of Lexington-based WLEX's Kentucky Mountain Barn Dance in 1949, Graves apprenticed under banjo innovator Scruggs, eventually adapting Scruggs' syncopated, three-finger picking style to the Dobro. With his elegant yet bluesy approach, Graves was an invaluable addition to ballads, but it was the uptempo breakdowns where his lyricism and energy shone most brilliantly.

By the time Graves joined Scruggs and partner Lester Flatt full-time in May 1955, a move coinciding with the duo's recent addition to Nashville station WSM's legendary Grand Ole Opry, the Dobro was so much out of favor with country music tastemakers that he was instead installed as the Foggy Mountain Boys' bassist, additionally contributing comedic material to their live performances. Graves nevertheless brought his Dobro on tour and was given his own spotlight number, "Steel Guitar Chimes." The song proved so popular with audiences that Flatt and Scruggs hired a new bassist, Joe Stuart, to allow Graves to play resonator guitar full-time. Many country and bluegrass enthusiasts credit the Dobro for reinvigorating Flatt and Scruggs' sound, and Graves remained a member of the Foggy Mountain Boys until the band splintered in 1969. He also served as a member of Flatt's subsequent outfit, the traditional bluegrass combo the Nashville Grass, and later tenured with the Earl Scruggs Revue as well. Graves finally mounted a solo career in 1974, releasing his debut LP, Alone at Last, on Epic Records. He also emerged as a much sought-after session musician, contributing to LPs including Kris Kristofferson's Jesus Was a Capricorn, Steve Young's Seven Bridges Road, and J.J. Cale's Really.

In the wake of his fourth headlining effort, 1979's Same Old Blues, Graves shelved his solo career in favor of resuming his sideman career on a full-time basis. In 1984 he partnered with fiddler Kenny Baker, a collaboration that continued on an on-and-off basis for more than two decades. In 1990, they teamed with banjo virtuoso Eddie Adcock and mandolin great Jesse McReynolds as the Masters, winning the International Bluegrass Music Association's award for Instrumental Recording of the Year with their debut LP, Saturday Night Fish Fry. Graves also earned induction into the IBMA's Hall of Honor in 1997. Although he suffered from myriad health problems in the autumn of his life, eventually losing both legs to amputation, Graves continued recording and touring into the 21st century, often performing alongside son Josh Jr., a multi-instrumentalist who previously served as a member of surf-rock hitmakers Ronny & the Daytonas; in 2002, he issued his swan song, Memories of Foggy Mountain, teaming with a new generation of bluegrass pickers including J.D. Crowe and Audrey Haney. Graves died in Nashville on September 30, 2006, just three days past his 79th birthday. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Memories Of Foggy Mountain

1. False-Hearted Lover

2. Foggy Mountain Special

3. Flatt Lonesome

4. Foggy Mountain Chimes

5. Foggy Mountain Rock

6. Road To Aspen

7. Jennifer Waltz

8. Just Joshin'

9. Maggie Blues

10. Maiden's Prayer

11. Pike County Breakdown

12. Jesus, Saviour, Pilot Me (The Sailor's Hymn)

13. Shiloh March

14. Shuckin' The Corn

x

Track List: World Famous Dobro

1. Great Speckled Bird

2. Nine Pound Hammer

3. Gathering Flowers From The Hillside

4. Wreck Of The Old '97

5. Silent Night

6. Down In The Valley

7. What A Friend We Have In Jesus

8. Beautiful Brown Eyes

9. Maple On The Hill

10. Columbus Stockade Blues

11. In The Pines

12. Just Because

x

Track List: Sultan Of Slide

1. Panhandle Rag

2. Come Walk With Me

3. Down South In New Orleans

4. Great Big Woman

5. Evelina

6. Satisfied Mind

7. Fireball Mail

8. Step It Up And Go

9. Fireball

10. Carolina Sunshine Girl

11. Someday I'll Sober Up

12. Bright Side Of The Road

x

Track List: Josh Graves

1. Just Joshin'

2. Someone You Have Forgotten

3. Cannonball Blues

4. Cora Is Gone

5. I'll Be All Smiles Tonight

6. Big Ball In Brooklyn

7. Will You Be Lonesome Too

8. Columbus Stockade Blues

9. Your Love Is Like A Flower

10. Rainbow

11. Come Back Darling

12. Indian Killed A Woodcock

13. Shuckin' The Corn

14. He Took Your Place

x

Track List: King Of The Dobro

1. Introduction

2. Reubin's Train

3. Katy Hill

4. Marty Stuart Talks

5. Cuttin' The Grass

6. Border Town Blues

7. Ain't They Crazy

8. Lance Leroy Talks

9. Little Burma Through The Bayou

10. Gretna Green

11. Earl's Breakdown

12. Martha White Theme - You Bake Right

13. Shig-A-Dig

14. The Boys From North Carolina (Introdution)

15. The Boys From North Carolina

16. Little Home In West Virginia

17. Joe Wilson Talks

18. Rock Away

19. Bill Monroe Talks

20. Wheel Hoss

21. Dobros In Scotland

22. Mac Wiseman Talks

23. Reading Your Letter Again

24. In The Jailhouse Now

25. Seven Bridges Road

26. Jerry Douglas Talks

27. House Of Scruggs

28. Jerry Douglas Talks

29. Fireball

30. Conclusion

Comments

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krwheeler6
A greater Dobro artist than Graves still has not surfced.
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