23 July 2022

Blue Grass Boys of the past

From Richard Thompson's article on Bluegrass Today, the BIB learns with regret of the death of guitarist and singer (Esmond) Arnold Terry (22 June 1933-17 July 2022) of Virginia, one of the generation that began playing bluegrass before it was generally known by that name. He served in the US army during the Korean war; afterwards, on the recommendation of Bobby Hicks, he auditioned for Bill Monroe on 17 Dec. 1955 and played as a Blue Grass Boy to 2 Mar. 1956. He then became a member of Jim Eanes's Shenandoah Valley Boys, recording with Eanes, with other musicians, and under his own name (Richard Thompson's feature includes a discography and four YouTube videos), and in the 1960s left the music business to become a preacher. His funeral took place on Thursday 21 July.
Arnold Terry did not record with the Blue Grass Boys, but Richard Thompson has also drawn attention to another Virginia musician and Korean War veteran, Rudy Lyle (17 Mar. 1930-11 Feb. 1985), who joined the band in mid August 1949 and contributed his powerful playing, solidly based in Scruggs style with his own distinctive touch, to a dozen recording sessions between Oct. 1949 and Jan. 1954. The substantial interview article by Doug Hutchens for Bluegrass Unlimited in 1985, reprinted in Thomas Goldsmith (ed.), The bluegrass reader (2004), has been one of the fullest sources on his life till now. Max Wareham, banjo-player for the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, has written Rudy Lyle: the unsung hero of the five-string banjo, due for release on 23 Aug. This is not only a biography including previously unpublished photos, but an analytical study, with transcriptions, of all Lyle's recorded lead and backup playing with Monroe. More details, including a link for pre-ordering, are on Bluegrass Today.

Update 4 Aug.: Another of Richard Thompson's valuable obituaries - Leslie Matheson 'Les' Sandy of North Carolina died on 28 July, less than two weeks short of his ninety-fourth birthday. He spent brief periods as a Blue Grass Boy in the 1950s, but these included recording (on guitar) several tracks on Monroe's first LP, Knee deep in blue grass. He also played and recorded with Jim & Jesse and other major figures of the founding years of bluegrass. Much more detail is on Bluegrass Today.

© Richard Hawkins

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