Bluegrass Banjo Great Doug Dillard Dead at 75

Posted by Michael Mueller on May 17, 2012 at 6:55 PM

Country music blog The Boot reports that banjo player Doug Dillard, who with his brother Rodney, formed the Dillards, has died following a lengthy illness. He was 75.

Douglas Dillard was born in 1937, in Salem, Missouri, and started playing guitar at age 5. He picked up his first banjo at age 15. He learned his own unique three-finger picking style by listening to the early recordings of Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, and Ralph Stanley. At his web site, Dillard recalls the first time he heard the music of Earl Scruggs (who passed away in March of this year): "I was driving down the road with the radio on. All of a sudden I heard this incredible banjo music. I got so excited that I drove off the road and down into a ditch. I had to be towed out."

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After playing in countless groups, Doug and Rodney stuck together and eventually got billed as the Dillard Brothers, which was later shortened to the Dillards. Their brand of high-energy and entertaining bluegrass soon became a hit on college campuses, and so, as the song goes, they "loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly," well, actually Hollywood, but close enough. Soon an A&R man from Elektra Records caught one of their after-hours sets and signed them to a multi-album deal.

Not long after, they were invited to audition for a recurring role on "The Andy Griffith Show." They were an immediate hit, and through their performances on that show, they introduced urban American audiences to their unique mountain music.

Doug eventually left the Dillards and went on to play with the Byrds, Johnny Cash, Arlo Guthrie, Linda Ronstadt, Glen Campbell, and even the Monkees and Beach Boys. Even up until his illness, he remained an in-demand session banjo player in Nashville.


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