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Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder

By the time he was in his mid-thirties, Kentuckian Ricky Skaggs had already produced a career's worth of music. At age seven he appeared on TV with Flatt & Scruggs; at 15 he was a member of legendary Ralph Stanley's bluegrass band (with fellow teenager Keith Whitley). None of his '80s peers, male or female, had better musical credentials than Skaggs. The term "multi-talented" lacks the power to characterize this extraordinary singer and instrumentalist. Not only can he sing and pick with the best in progressive country, his broad and deep experience in traditional music separates him from the crowd. In the estimation of many, he is without peer as a combination vocalist and instrumentalist (guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo). After playing with Ralph Stanley for three years, Skaggs moved on to progressive bluegrass bands the Country Gentlemen and J.D. Crowe & the New South. With his own band, Boone Creek, he mixed the old and the new, even referencing the swinging Gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt. Skaggs took Rodney Crowell's place in Emmylou Harris' Hot Band in 1977, and the band's excellent Roses in the Snow album showcased Skaggs' versatility. Two number one hits came out of his 1981 album Waitin' for the Sun to Shine, and the awards started arriving. Skaggs is largely responsible for a back-to-basics movement in country music. He showed many that a bluegrass tenor with impeccable taste and enormous talent could sell traditional country in the '80s, a time when pop music had invaded the land of rural rhythm.

Skaggs began playing music at a very early age, being given a mandolin from his father at the age of five. Before his father had the time to teach Ricky how to play, the child had learned the instrument himself, and by the end of 1959 he had performed on-stage during a Bill Monroe concert, playing "Ruby Are You Mad at Your Man" to great acclaim. Two years later, when Skaggs was seven, he appeared on Flatt & Scruggs' television show, again to a positive response. Shortly afterward, he learned how to play both fiddle and guitar and began playing with his parents in a group called the Skaggs Family. In addition to traditional bluegrass, Skaggs began absorbing the honky tonk of George Jones and Ray Price and the British Invasion rock & roll of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. In his adolescence, he briefly played in rock & roll bands, but he never truly abandoned traditional and roots music.

During a talent concert in his midteens, he met Keith Whitley, a fellow fiddler. The two adolescents became friends and began playing together, with Whitley's brother Dwight on banjo, at various radio shows. By 1970, they earned a spot opening for Ralph Stanley. Following their performance, Stanley invited the duo to join his supporting band, the Clinch Mountain Boys, and they accepted. Over the next two years they played many concerts with the bluegrass legend and appeared on his record Cry from the Cross. Skaggs also appeared on Whitley's solo album Second Generation Bluegrass in 1972.

Though he had made his way into the bluegrass circuit and was actively recording, Skaggs had grown tired of the hard work and low pay in the Clinch Mountain Boys and left the group at the end of 1972. For a short while, he abandoned music and worked in a boiler room for the Virginia Electric Power Company in Washington, D.C., but he returned to performing when the Country Gentlemen invited him to join in 1973. Skaggs spent the next two years with the group, primarily playing fiddle, before joining the progressive bluegrass band J.D. Crowe & the New South in 1974. The following year, he recorded another duet album with Whitley, That's It, and then formed his own newgrass band, Boone Creek, in 1976. In addition to bluegrass, the outfit played honky tonk and Western swing. Boone Creek earned the attention of Emmylou Harris, who invited Skaggs to join her supporting band. After declining her several times, he finally became a member of her Hot Band once Rodney Crowell left in 1977.

Between 1977 and 1980, Skaggs helped push Harris toward traditional country and bluegrass, often to great acclaim. Skaggs also pursued a number of other musical avenues while he was with Harris, recording a final album with Boone Creek (1978's One Way Track), two duet albums with Tony Rice (1978's Take Me Home Tonight in a Song, 1980's Skaggs & Rice), and finally, his first solo album, Sweet Temptation, which was released on Sugar Hill. Sweet Temptation was a major bluegrass hit, earning the attention of the major label Epic Records. The label offered him a contract in 1981, releasing Waitin' for the Sun to Shine later that year. The album was a big hit, earning acclaim not only in country circles, but also in rock & roll publications. By the end of the year Skaggs had become a star and, in the process, brought rootsy traditional country back into the consciousness of the country audience.

During 1982 and early 1983 he had five straight number one singles -- "Crying My Heart Out Over You," "I Don't Care," "Heartbroke," "I Wouldn't Change You If I Could," "Highway 40 Blues" -- as well as earning numerous awards. Later in 1982 he was made the youngest member of the Grand Ole Opry. For the next four years, he was a major artistic and commercial force within country music, raking up a string of Top Ten hits and Grammy Award-winning albums. His success helped spark the entire new traditionalist movement, opening the doors for performers like George Strait and Randy Travis. Toward the end of the decade, Skaggs wasn't charting as frequently as he had in the past, but he had established himself as an icon. Each of his records sold well, and he collaborated with a number of musicians, including Rodney Crowell, the Bellamy Brothers, Johnny Cash, Jesse Winchester, and Dolly Parton.

During the early '90s, Skaggs and his traditional music were hit hard by the slick sounds of contemporary country, and consequently, his records ceased to sell as consistently as they had ten years earlier. Columbia Records dropped the musician in 1992 due to poor sales. However, Skaggs continued to perform concerts and festivals frequently, as well as host his own syndicated radio program, The Simple Life, which hit the airwaves in 1994. The following year, Skaggs returned to recording with Solid Ground, his first album for Atlantic Records. Life Is a Journey followed in 1997, and two years later he released Soldier of the Cross. Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe followed in 2000 and was re-released in 2002 on the Lyric Street label as Ricky Skaggs and Friends Sing the Songs of Bill Monroe. In 2003 Skaggs released Live at the Charleston Music Hall on his own Skaggs Family label, followed by Brand New Strings in 2004, A Skaggs Family Christmas in 2005 and Instrumentals in 2006. He joined forces with the Whites for 2007's Salt of the Earth.

Released in 2008, Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass paid homage to Bill Monroe's classic mid-'40s lineup of the Bluegrass Boys and featured the only surviving member of that band, Earl Scruggs, as a guest player. For 2009's Solo: Songs My Dad Loved, dedicated to his father, Hobert Skaggs, he played all the instruments and sang all the vocals himself, while 2010’s Mosaic, co-produced by Skaggs and Gordon Kennedy, found him singing gospel-inflected country songs with more of a pop and rock feel. Released in 2011, Country Hits: Bluegrass Style saw Skaggs returning to some of his country hits and reshaping them as bluegrass pieces. 2011 also saw the release of a second holiday album, A Skaggs Family Christmas, Vol. 2, a ten-song CD that featured both studio and live recordings and came packaged with a bonus DVD, A Skaggs Family Christmas Live, presenting the family’s holiday concert filmed at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. A live set with Bruce Hornsby, Cluck Ol' Hen, appeared at the end of the summer in 2013. ~ David Vinopal, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


Uncle Pen raised Bill Monroe! He was real. A great tribute to a man I wish I had known.
Best bluegrass ever!!!
I love bluegrass music
Love it! The harmony is amazing. Second only to the pickin'��
Another one I am hearing now called Missing Vasser. :o)))
Really great sounding group. Great Violin Solo on SPAM JELLY absolutely LOVE it. Should be hit on the Billboards. Like Duelling Banjos.
These guys are the real deal!!!!! Tap your toes to BLUEGRASS!!! ! ! ! !
Nothing like good bluegrass
Play get up john
Only Wished I could have played that Clarinet like he does. Great solo.
Saw Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder a few years ago in Ann Arbor. Ricky had a terrible cold and couldn't sing any high lonesome parts so the band was changing keys on the fly and whoever was singing harmony would jump up or down to lead vocals for a phrase or two and then get back to harmony. It was an extraordinar y performance by everyone, and a demonstratio n of just how good KT is at improvisatio n . We were sorry that Ricky didn't feel well, but not sorry about the show that we saw.
Love that Bluegrass
This is real talent:) Yes I listen to bluegrass:p <3 Going to Richmond has a tiny bit of Beverly Hillbillies theme in it:) Well...I guess all banjo bluegrass does;)
I have a track the they were playing along and talking to each other as they are playing try that sometime never equalled in my opinion never. Real PROFESSIONAL S !
Front or back porch
I love the Track called SPAM JELLY see if you do too. Absolutely EXCELLENT :o))
Has Scottish flavor don't you think ? :o))
God Bless you folk! I hope the Thunder come out to the Northwest sometime for sure.
Great artist and gentleman!
I have an album that he recorded I think he was around 8, saw him many years ago in the late 70's
This man is truly a legend in his own time.I would venture to say that even now he is one of the most pivotal figures in the history of bluegrass music,along with Bill Monroe,Flatt , S c r u g g s , t h e Stanley Bros.,and others.
kevindavis52 2
I've had the distinct privilege of seeing Ricky back in the early 80's when he was doing country, then catching up to him and Kentucky thunder in recent years at bluegrass festivals. Truly remarkable talent.
Rocky skaggs and ky thunder are one of my all time favorites, especially their instrumental s
good stuff
Thank God for Ricky his music is a blessing and trurely an insporation to all.
will be seeing ricky and kentucky thunder this saturday...s o excited
amen raincruiser
Most of the allison krauss stuff I hear is not bluegrass.
I wish ricky skaggs & Alison krauss would sing togather
i just love rickey skaggs and bluegrass music and bill monroe and earl scruggs
Coll love It ty
"this is a kick-a** band with a glorious harmonic sound"
Ricky is the very reason the Good Lord gave us ears.
Hell yeah,I'd make a deal with satan himself to play like that!
Sure wish I could play like that. Amazing.
Ricky Skaggs must have been quite a guy if he added Django Reinhardt to his band in the 1980's, as Django had been dead since 1953. Did he add Django Reinhardt MATERIAL?
http://www.p a n d o r a . c o m / m u s i c / a l b u m / r i c k y + s k a g g s + k e n t u c k y + t h u n d e r / s o l d i e r + o f + c r o s s
http://www.p a n d o r a . c o m / m u s i c / a l b u m / r i c k y + s k a g g s + k e n t u c k y + t h u n d e r / h i g h w a y s + h e a r t a c h e s
teresa.1577- - - - - w e need more men in our country today like him; not just musicians, decent christian men!!!!!
I've seen Ricky Skagg's several times since the 1980's. He is an awesome artist and his show never dissapoints
Saw Ricky Skagg's In Green Bay,,, ROCK'N SHOW
Possibly the top bluegrass band performing today and Ricky Skaggs is just tremendous
Playing at our Music Festival Next week on July 3rd!! We CANNOT wait!! :)
Love da grass
He is a great Talent, and just good darn music!
Good Stuff!!!!
He's one of the best talents around. Could go on for hours talking about his music. And to top it off is a good Christian man. Now you just cant top that.Great personality too.Praise the Lord
He's a great Christian and American. I can't believe the people making tasteless Bolshevik political comments here. Save the commie content for another web site.

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