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Popular bluegrass and mandolin player Ricky Skaggs is known for several popular country hits, including "Country Boy."
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"I walked in," Ralph Stanley remembered, "and these two boys were singing the Stanley Brothers' music better than the Stanley Brothers."
A year later, the Stanley Brothers invited both men to join the Clinch Mountain Boys. From 1971 to 1974, Skaggs performed and recorded with the band while also releasing a 1972 album with Whitley entitled Second Generation Bluegrass on the small label Rebel Records. In 1974, Skaggs left the Clinch Mountain Boys to join the Country Gentlemen,
another bluegrass band, and in 1975 he and Whitley teamed up again on the single "That's It."
After briefly performing with his own band, Boone Creek, in 1977 the great bluegrass singer Emmylou Harris invited Skaggs to join her Hot Band; his playing was a driving force behind the breakthrough success of her 1980 album Roses in the Snow. Harris also sang on Skaggs' 1979 solo album Sweet Temptation, which, while not commercially successful, marked Skaggs' transition to a more mainstream country sound. He traded in the banjo for tap drums and electric bass and featured fuller vocal harmonies while still maintaining strong elements of bluegrass.
In 1981, Skaggs made his major label debut on Epic Records with Waitin' for the Sun to Shine, landing two No. 1 singles on the country charts with "Crying My Heart Out Over You" and "I Don't Care." Propelled by his debut album, throughout the rest of the 1980s Skaggs' bluegrass-themed music enjoyed a near ubiquitous presence atop the country music charts.
He later scored three consecutive No. 1 country albums with Highways & Heartaches (1982), Don't Cheat in Our Hometown (1983) and Country Boy (1984). These albums featured No. 1 country singles such as "I Wouldn't Change You If I Could," "Highway 40 Blues," "Don't Cheat in Our Hometown" and "Country Boy." While not quite as commercially successful as his early 1980s albums, Skaggs nevertheless achieved major hits with subsequent records such as Love's Gonna Get Ya! (1986), Comin' Home to Stay (1988) and Kentucky Thunder (1989).
While Skaggs has yet to recapture the popularity he enjoyed during the 1980s, he has continued to record and tour with considerable success over the past two decades. His 1990s albums include My Father's Son (1991), Solid Ground (1995) and Bluegrass Rules! (1997), a throwback to traditional bluegrass. More recent recordings include Salt of the Earth (2007), a gospel album, Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass (2008), Songs My Dad Loved (2009) and Mosaic (2010).
Ricky Skaggs stands out as one of the greatest country singers and musicians of recent decades, a musical prodigy who started out backing up greats like Bill Monroe and Emmylou Harris before breaking out as a star in his own right during the 1980s. In recent years, assuming the role of elder statesman of country music, Skaggs has sought to keep alive and pass on the great bluegrass tradition he inherited.
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The "high, lonesome" style that defines the bluegrass sound comes from the experiences of the music's original composers, the Scots-Irish immigrants of Appalachia. Early bluegrass musician Lester Flatt brought the sound of the genre into the popular lexicon in 1948, when he helped found The Foggy Mountain Boys. He was joined by fellow musician Earl Scruggs, who expertly picked his banjo in the three-finger style that is carried on in the music of bluegrass great Ricky Skaggs. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Alison Krauss snagged more than 26 Grammy awards for putting a contemporary twist on the music of her bluegrass predecessors—proof that the genre still resonantes with listeners.
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