Mike Auldridge, the legendary dobro player who co-founded the Seldom Scene and later, Chesapeake, died yesterday morning after a long battle with cancer. He was 73. He had been under hospice care until his passing. His expressive talent on the resophonic guitar had no bounds as he played bluegrass, country and even jazz with style and elegance. He performed primarily around his Maryland home but certainly performed across the nation and the globe.
As a founding member of the progressive bluegrass group, the Seldom Scene, his infectous style melded perfectly with the other members making the Scene one of the most easily recognizable artists in bluegrass music. His impact on the music of the Scene as well as others in country and acoustic music was significant.
Many artists today still consider Auldridge the model of the Dobro. Many Dobro artists indlucing Rob Ickes, Phil Leadbetter, Jerry Douglas and others, have helped bring the Dobro into prominance in bluegrass music. Auldridge was certainly one of the pioneers and in good company with the instrument.
The Seldom Scene gained rapid acceptance and growth as the group brought non-bluegrass music into the genre's fold. Songs from the popular folk artists were recorded into the Scene's albums where they were received to great reviews. In addition to the Seldom Scene, Auldridge also recorded with other artists and released a series of solo albums where he stretched the domain of the Dobro into new and uncharted musical territory.
"The first time I heard Mike play, it literally changed my life. I started playing the dobro the next day and have kept at it ever since. I know he has inspired thousands of others as well."
- Rob Ickes
The impact of Auldridge on the instrument can be found in the various signature guitars that bear his name. Bear Guitars is the last to carry an Auldridge signature instrument.
Born in 1938 and raised in Kensington, Maryland, Auldridge began playing guitar and banjo at an early age before settling on the Dobro at age 17. While the Dobro was used by such musicians as Josh Graves, who performed with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Auldridge is credited with bringing the Dobro new recognition. 2004 NEA National Heritage Fellow Jerry Douglas said, "Mike changed everything. He phrased differently. He was the first guy to use the Dobro in a more modern way, to phrase it more like a saxophone or some other instrument."
After graduating in 1967 from the University of Maryland, Auldridge continued to play in local clubs in the Washington, DC area. In 1969, he joined the band Emerson and Waldron, later called Cliff Waldron and the New Shades of Grass, and in 1971 he co-founded the Seldom Scene, a group he remained with until the mid-1990s. The Seldom Scene, which performed weekly at the Birchmere in Virginia, became pioneers of the newgrass sound, which incorporated elements of jazz, folk, and rock into traditional bluegrass harmonies. Douglas described the Seldom Scene as changing "the mind-set that bluegrass couldn't be modern music. . . . They made it clear that it was okay to change, that bluegrass wasn't just about who your influences were."
Auldridge's first two solo albums, Dobro and Blues & Bluegrass, demonstrated his versatility; he went on to record six more solo albums as well as doing session work on more than 200 recordings with a diverse array of artists including Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Patty Loveless, Lyle Lovett, Doc Watson, Ricky Skaggs, Hank Williams, Jr., and Bill Monroe. In addition to the Seldom Scene, Auldridge has performed with a number of other bands, including Chesapeake, the Good Deale Bluegrass Band, and John Starling and Carolina Star (which featured three original members of the Seldom Scene). He has also performed with the touring bands of Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris.
In 2007, Auldridge was recognized for his contributions to the development of bluegrass with International Bluegrass Music Association's Distinguished Achievement Award. Earlier in 2012, he was awarded the National Endowment of the Artist National Heritage Fellowship. The NEA recognition concert on October 4th was his last public performance.
Mike leaves behind his wife and daughters and an entire world of fans, peers and artists. The Auldridge family advises that a visitation will be held on Thursday Jan. 3 at St. Michaels Church in Silver Spring, Maryland at 3:00, followed by a mass at 4:00, followed by a reception.
St Michael the Archangel Catholic Church
805 Wayne Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: (301) 589-1155 Fax: (301) 589-3470
After graduating in 1967 from the University of Maryland, Auldridge continued to play in local clubs in the Washington, DC area. In 1969, he joined the band Emerson and Waldron, later called Cliff Waldron and the New Shades of Grass, and in 1971 he co-founded the Seldom Scene, a group he remained with until the mid-1990s. The Seldom Scene, which performed weekly at the Birchmere in Virginia, became pioneers of the newgrass sound, which incorporated elements of jazz, folk, and rock into traditional bluegrass harmonies. Douglas described the Seldom Scene as changing