Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bluegrass Banjo HOFer and The Andy Griffith Show Musician Doug Dillard Passes Away at 75

To Bluegrass fans, he was one of the founding members of the Dillards, the bluegrass band that added electric instruments to the genre. To television fans, he was a member of the Darlings, a backwoods family on The Andy Griffith Show.  Doug Dillard passed away on Wednesday night in Nashville after a lengthy illness. He was 75.

Doug Dillard took up the guitar at age 5 and transitioned to the banjo at age 15. He and his brother, Rodney, formed the Ozark Mountain Boys in 1956, playing in area clubs and on local radio shows. Two years later, the brothers joined Joel Noel and the Dixie Ramblers whose members also included a young John Hartford.

At the same time, Doug and Randy began recording for Mario Records in St. Louis as the Dillard Brothers, releasing a series of singles. Over the next few years, they added mandolin player Dean Webb and DJ Mitch Jayne, who learned to play the bass, to form the original Dillards.

The group played their first show in 1962 at Washington University in St. Louis, a performance that was recorded to tape and stored for almost forty years until it was released as Dillards Live: A Long Time Ago.

Bucking the trends of the day, the group decided to skip Nashville and, instead, moved to Los Angeles where they started playing clubs like the Ash Grove. Their reputation grew to the point that Richard Link, an associate producer for The Andy Griffith Show, arranged for the group to audition for Elektra Records. Not only did they get the recording contract, but they were hired on the show as semi-regulars in the character of the Darlings. Their performances on the show, which were encouraged by Griffith himself, helped expose bluegrass to the mass audiences.

For the rest of the decade, their reputation and careers grew, playing at numerous festivals with some of the great names of music, appearing on other TV shows and touring with the likes of Elton John, Bob Dylan and Carl Perkins. While they may never have achieved mass fame, their music influenced many of the acts from the southern California folk scene including the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco.

Starting in 1967, Doug began branching out with a series of solo albums along with scoring television commercials and playing as a guest on other artists projects including Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Harry Nilsson, Linda Ronstadt and many more.

The Dillards are members of the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame (2009).

1 comment:

  1. Always loved the AG episodes when this group played their music. Very talented!