Legendary bluegrass and country musician Skaggs reflects on his life and career.
Born and raised in the eastern Kentucky mountains, the author knew from an early age that he was destined to be a musician. After receiving his first mandolin at the age of 5 in 1959, young Skaggs was given his first big chance only a year later, performing side by side with his idol Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys at a local concert. Skaggs’ natural talent had already made him something of a local celebrity—the only reason he got on stage with Monroe was because the crowd chanted for him—but Skaggs’ musical roots go even deeper. Raised in a musical home, he recalls his mother singing hymns and other tunes around the house as she did chores. He also tells how his father aspired to be a musician, but the death of Skaggs’ uncle in World War II killed the brothers’ dream of making it as a duo. As Skaggs’ musical talent developed, so, too, did his passionate Baptist faith. For Skaggs, music was synonymous with spirituality. Even after becoming a crossover country music star, Skaggs recalls his mother asking him, “Son, you know who got you here, don’t you?” To which Skaggs replied, “Yes, Mama. Jesus did.” Skaggs’ memoir is not only his personal history, but also a narrative history of bluegrass music and its eventual decline. He is a faithful observer, and among his best anecdotes are those from his time playing with New South at the Red Slipper Lounge in Lexington. Having been superseded by pop country, bluegrass would be bumped to the festival circuit. Years later, Skaggs re-embraced his bluegrass roots, though he doesn’t regret his foray into country, and he remains a formidable presence in the music scene as the owner of Skaggs Place Recording Studio and Skaggs Family Records.
Lacking the dirt of other high-profile music memoirs, Skaggs’ life is an affirmation of hard work, drive and faith.