Ricky Skaggs traces his journey from child mandolin prodigy to country and bluegrass stardom during this interview, hosted on May 13, 2017, at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
The program begins with a video of Skaggs, at age seven, performing on Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs' television show. Skaggs reminisces about that experience, and tells how, at age five, he received his first mandolin for Christmas from his father. By age six, Skaggs was brought up on stage during a Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys show, and played Monroe's mandolin.
In his teens, Skaggs joined Ralph Stanley's bluegrass band alongside his friend Keith Whitley, and later, joined the Country Gentlemen band before moving on to J.D. Crowe and the New South, an influential bluegrass group in the 1970s. Skaggs left that group to form a band called Boone Creek, which recorded two albums.
During the interview, Skaggs recalls accepting an invitation to join Emmylou Harris' Hot Band, which gave him more financial stability and the opportunity to attend to "that eagerness inside of me for the unknown."
Harris gave Skaggs his first prominent duet on a major label with "Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn." Meanwhile, Skaggs says, he was receiving encouragement from such country stars as Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and George Jones to strike out on his own. When Harris stepped back from her career for a maternity break, Skaggs finally went solo, determined to realize his vision of blending the best of bluegrass with the best of traditional country.
Skaggs tells the story of a chance meeting with a record executive on an airplane that eventually led to a recording contract and a successful solo career. After enjoying several years of country stardom, however, Skaggs decided to return to his bluegrass roots in the early 1990s—a move, he explains, that was precipitated by Bill Monroe's death.
The Country Music Hall of Fame member ends the program by performing an original instrumental song, titled "The Ancient Tones." "What I like about it," he explains, "is that it sounds so old."
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