Jerry Douglas Bio

Gerald Calvin “Jerry” Douglas was born on May 28th, 1956 in Warren, Ohio, and is a renowned resonator guitar/lap steel/Dobro player and record producer. Throughout his career, he has played on more than 1,600 albums, won 13 Grammy awards, and is a three-time Country Music Association Musician of the Year. He began playing the Dobro at age eight, and by his teens he was a member of his father’s bluegrass band, the West Virginia Travelers. His playing was influenced by Josh Graves, a member of Flatt & Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Boys. The Country Gentlemen discovered Douglas at a festival and took him on tour with them, later bringing him into the recording studio. Afterward, Douglas was an in-demand session musician, and during the 1970’s he worked with artists such as J.D. Crowe, David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, Doyle Lawson, and Tony Rice. Douglas and Skaggs co-founded the bluegrass combo Bone Creek in 1976.

Douglas released his debut solo album, Fluxology, in 1979 and followed that with Fluxedo three years later. During this time, he also became a full-time member of the country group the Whites. He left the Whites in 1985 and became Nashville’s most in-demand session Dobro player while he continued to develop his own solo career, releasing Under the Wire on Sugar Hill in 1986, Changing Channels in 1987, and Plant Early in 1989. In the early 1980s, he had formed the group Strength in Numbers with Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’Connor. He continued to work and collaborate on other recording projects including Slide Rule in 1992 and The Great Dobro Sessions in 1994, which won a Grammy.

In the late ‘80s, Douglas was asked by Alison Krauss to fill in on a Union Station tour. The shows went so well that he became a permanent member. Since his association with this group, Douglas has balanced his work with Union Station and his ongoing solo career, along with a variety of collaborative projects and being a co-Music Director for the BBC TV series Transatlantic Sessions. Douglas also collaborated with Jan A.P. Kaczmarek for the music score in the film “Get Low” that released in 2012.

In 2011, Jerry Douglas received the Annual American Honors and Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist.

In 2012, he released the solo album Traveler, which was recorded in Nashville, New Orleans, New York, and Banbury, England. Guest artists featured on the album include Alison Krauss and Union Station, Eric Clapton, Mumford & Sons, and Paul Simon.

On his website, Douglas ends an interview about Traveler with:

“Making Traveler has really been an eye-opening experience. After doing this, I’m not interested in going back to making records the way I was, going to the studio with 12 songs and recording them with the same group of people. This one taught me about what options are out there, what other ways there are to do things, and what other kinds of music I can play. That’s important when you’ve been doing this as long as I have. Now I’ve got all kinds of records that I want to make.”

2014 marked the first release from the Earls of Leicester. This group features Barry Bales, Tim O’Brien, Shawn Camp, Charlie Cushman, and Johnny Warren, and was assembled by Douglas to pay homage to his greatest musical influences including Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and the Foggy Mountain Boys.







Thoughts on “Hillbilly Music”

“Hillbilly Music”, the second chapter of Robert Cantwell’s book “Bluegrass Breakdown”, details some of the influences from other music genres such as jazz and also the impact that the radio made on Bill Monroe’s bluegrass sound. Elements associated with jazz were implemented Monroe’s music and became a defining trait to not only his music, but as well as other aspiring groups that took influence from Bill Monroe. The radio helped Monroe and other bluegrass artists spread their music out to a wider audience because of its wide use at the time. It provided a source for listeners to enjoy genres they were already familiar with or even discover new sounds that may not have been as prevalent within their region/location.


Discussion Questions:

What are some other examples of music genres being influenced from another to the point where that influenced style/sound has become widely used within that genre?

What is your primary source for discovering new artists/bands/genres/sounds?

The Carolina Tar Heels

The Carolina Tar Heels was an American old time string band featuring a rotating group of four musicians from the mountains of North Carolina. The group first began to form in 1927 when Dock Walsh (banjo and lead vocals) and Gwen Foster (guitar, harmonica, vocals) traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to record songs for RCA Victor. Songs recorded during this session include “Going to Georgia,” “There Ain’t No Use Working So Hard,” “Her Name Was Hula Lou,” and “Bring Me a Leaf From the Sea.”

A year later some changes to the group’s line up were made. Guitar player Clarence “Tom” Ashley was added and Gwen Foster was replaced with Garley Foster (no relation) on guitar and harmonica. The group continued to record with the Victor label six more times, recording 18 records overall. The last recording sessions for the Carolina Tar Heels took place after the Great Depression, in which the economic hardship ended up being a contributing factor to the disbandment of the group in 1932.

The Carolina Tar Heels’ Dock Walsh implemented a three-finger banjo picking style, which was common at the time. However, one aspect of the group that was unique was that the Tar Heels did not have a fiddle as most string bands did at the time. Instead this role was replaced with the harmonica playing of Gwen Foster and Garley Foster. Gwen Foster’s harmonica playing has led to him being referred to as one of the greatest harmonica players in country music and all time.

After many decades of inactivity, the Carolina Tar Heels were reformed in the early 1960s with Doc Walsh, his son Drake, and Garley Foster. This version of the band recorded an LP for Folk Legacy in 1964.

Works Cited: