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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


Track List: Honoring The Fathers Of Bluegrass

1. Goin' Back To Old Kentucky

2. When You're Lonely

3. Toy Heart

4. It's Mighty Dark To Travel

5. Mother's Only Sleeping

6. Bluegrass Breakdown

7. Little Cabin Home On The Hill

8. Mansions For Me

9. Sweetheart You Done Me Wrong

10. Why Did You Wander

11. Remember The Cross

12. The Old Cross Road


Track List: Instrumentals

1. Going To Richmond

2. Missing Vassar

3. Wayward To Hayward

4. Montana Slim

5. Crossing The Briney

6. Crossville

7. Gallatin Rag

8. Dawg's Breath

9. Spam Jelly

10. Goin' To The Ceili

11. Polk City


Track List: Brand New Strings

1. Sally Jo

2. Sis Draper

3. I Corinthians 1:18

4. Enjoy The Ride

5. Lonesome & Dry As A Bone

6. Brand New Strings

7. Spread A Little Love Around

8. Appalachian Joy (Instrumental)

9. If I Had It All Again To Do

10. Love Does It Every Time

11. Why Did I Wait So Long?

12. My Father's Son

13. Monroe Dancin (Instrumental)


Track List: Live At The Charleston Music Hall

1. Introduction (Live)

2. Black Eyed Suzie (Live)

3. How Mountain Girls Can Love (Live)

4. On A Lonesome Night (Live)

5. Song Intro (Live)

6. Amanda Jewell (Live)

7. Why Did You Wander (Live)

8. Song Intro (Live)

9. A Simple Life (Live)

10. Band Intro (Live)

11. Goin' To The Ceili (Live)

12. The Old Home Place (Live)

13. Song Intro (Live)

14. I Heard My Mother Call My Name In Prayer (Live)

15. Song Intro (Live)

16. Crossville (Live)

17. Song Intro (Live)

18. Somewhere Nice Forever (Live)

19. Uncle Pen (Live)

20. Pig In A Pen (Live)

21. Song Intro (Live)

22. Cat's In The Cradle (Live)

23. Song Intro (Live)

24. Get Up John (Live)

25. Get Up John (Live)


Track List: Soldier Of The Cross

1. Battle Cry

2. Soldier Of The Cross

3. A Voice From On High

4. The Darkest Hour

5. Gone Home

6. The Joshua Generation

7. Waiting At The Gate

8. Seven Hillsides

9. Are You Afraid To Die

10. Remember The Cross

11. Were You There

12. Jacob's Vision

13. I'm Ready To Go

14. Lead Me To The Rock


Track List: Ancient Tones

1. Walls Of Time

2. Lonesome Night

3. How Mountain Girls Can Love

4. Mighty Dark To Travel

5. Carolina Mountain Home

6. Connemara

7. Coal Minin' Man

8. I Believed In You Darlin'

9. Pig In A Pen

10. Give Us Rain

11. Boston Boy

12. Little Bessie


Track List: Super Hits

1. Cajun Moon

2. Crying My Heart Out Over You

3. I Don't Care

4. Heartbroke

5. I Wouldn't Change You If I Could

6. Highway 40 Blues

7. Din't Cheat In Our Hometown

8. Honey

9. Uncle Pen

10. Country Boy


Track List: Highways & Heartaches

1. Heartbroke

2. You've Got A Lover

3. Don't Think I'll Cry

4. Don't Let Your Sweet Love Die

5. Nothing Can Hurt You

6. I Wouldn't Change You If I Could

7. Can't You Hear Me Callin'

8. Highway 40 Blues

9. Let's Love The Bad Times Away

10. One Way Rider


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Ricky's always been gifted beyond words- I just want to comment on 1 of so many shows-Hallow e e n , S a n t a Cruz;Emmy's fav' spot the Catalyst (It was a Magic Bar!Acoustic s were splendid,a converted Bowling alley all you could wish for...)Emmy was PG w/2nd Daughter8-9M o ' s - a n d it was an acoustic Bluegrass trio of Ricky and Emmy singing for 3 scintillatin g harmonies w/ Brian Ahearn playing all manner of large bodied guitars-I still have the recording and it still sends chills-1 of Top 5 shows ever!
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jph672 great one and will leave a mAssive legacy
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Ricky is a true child prodigy who joined up with old-Timers and learned chops and took to Whitleys and Boone Creek and evolved to playing Bluegrass with Emmy Lou and I saw the best show when Emmy was Pregnent and Ricky and her ex- Brian Ahearn they Played an outrageous show at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz,Ca.-the Harmonies were spellbinding ! - H e ' s evolved and covered many genres!Lot of respect!!!
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I love these Pandora bios , most usually they are spot on and leave no doubts...and true that.. Ricky Skaggs has no equal when it comes to all around musicianship !
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Time to get my guitar....��
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liked old time
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Something you just have to chill
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Masonry of the rows, maybe 15/45
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Kol liK llIk'ml Lil k lkllook ol llkl
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Your not even the ones I love the fact is the most recent version and the first place I have no clue
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Wow it has been 25 years ago I saw Ricky in Ukiah California in an outside venue. A great show and wonderful performance. Still waiting for another chance to catch him live before we both get too old. Great stuff!
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Awesome musicia
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Ricky u r the bist
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Blue Grass Music is my roots thanks for the great music
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Blu grass is my life

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I just signed up with Pandora. What a delightful service you provide!
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Walls of Time ....that gentle, mournful song done perfectly by a true Bluegrass artist.
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Del mccury is on the TOP SHELF!!!!!
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Mr. Skaggs,
Would you think of playing up here very near Canada? We met you at the Fowlerville Fair years ago here in Michigan. That was a show that I have never seen the likes of!
I would like to have my Mother be able too see you play again. Our nearest venue is the Casino in Sault Ste Marie Michigan. It would be an honor to host you and your people up here! God Bless!
Mike Gillett
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Hearing an awesome song called crossville! YOU HAVE TO LOVE IT!
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Play again
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I totally agree that he is a true American & Christian! He also gives me hope for the future of bluegrass. Ok, being from Kentucky doesn't hurt him. I kinda love the state myself!
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Uncle Pen raised Bill Monroe! He was real. A great tribute to a man I wish I had known.
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Best bluegrass ever!!!
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I love bluegrass music
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Love it! The harmony is amazing. Second only to the pickin'��
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Another one I am hearing now called Missing Vasser. :o)))
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Really great sounding group. Great Violin Solo on SPAM JELLY absolutely LOVE it. Should be hit on the Billboards. Like Duelling Banjos.
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These guys are the real deal!!!!! Tap your toes to BLUEGRASS!!! ! ! ! !
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Nothing like good bluegrass
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Play get up john
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Only Wished I could have played that Clarinet like he does. Great solo.
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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.
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Love that Bluegrass
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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;)
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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 !
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Front or back porch
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I love the Track called SPAM JELLY see if you do too. Absolutely EXCELLENT :o))
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Has Scottish flavor don't you think ? :o))
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God Bless you folk! I hope the Thunder come out to the Northwest sometime for sure.
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Great artist and gentleman!
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I have an album that he recorded I think he was around 8, saw him many years ago in the late 70's
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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.
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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.
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Rocky skaggs and ky thunder are one of my all time favorites, especially their instrumental s
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good stuff
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