Ricky Lee Skaggs (born July 18, 1954) is an American country and bluegrass singer, musician, producer, and composer. He primarily plays mandolin; however, he also plays fiddle, guitar, mandocaster and banjo.
Skaggs was born in Cordell, Kentucky. He started playing music at age 5 after he was given a mandolin by his father, Hobert. At age 6, he played mandolin and sang on stage with Bill Monroe. At age 7, he appeared on television’s Martha White country music variety show, playing with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. He also wanted to audition for the Grand Ole Opry at that time, but was told he was too young.
In his mid-teens, Skaggs met a fellow teen prodigy, guitarist Keith Whitley, and the two started playing together with Whitley’s banjoist brother Dwight on radio shows. By 1970, they had earned a spot opening for Ralph Stanley and Skaggs and Keith Whitley were thereafter invited to join Stanley’s band, the Clinch Mountain Boys
Skaggs later joined The Country Gentlemen in Washington, DC, J. D. Crowe’s New South. For a few years, Skaggs was a member of Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band. He wrote the arrangements for Harris’s 1980 bluegrass-roots album, Roses in the Snow. In addition to arranging for Harris, Skaggs sang harmony and played mandolin and fiddle in the Hot Band.
Neotraditionalism and experimentation
Into the 1990s and 2000s, Skaggs has embraced his bluegrass roots, as well as experimenting with new sounds. With his band, Kentucky Thunder, he is a perennial winner of Grammy Awards and International Bluegrass Music Association for best bluegrass album.
Ricky Skaggs jams with the Old Crow Medicine Show at the Grand Ole Opry on February 23, 2013
“I always want to try to promote the old music, as well as trying to grow, and be a pioneer too,” Skaggs once said.
In 2000, he shared the stage with Vermont-based jam band, Phish. On March 20, 2007, Skaggs released an album with rock musician Bruce Hornsby.
In 2008, Skaggs released an album he recorded with The Whites on his Skaggs Family Records label.
In 2008, Skaggs recorded a bluegrass version of “Old Enough” by the Raconteurs with Ashley Monroe and the Raconteurs. He played mandolin on the track as well as sharing vocals with Jack White, Brendan Benson, and Ashley Monroe.
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