Raleigh, NC -- PineCone is delighted to welcome The Del McCoury Band back to Raleigh, North Carolina for a night of world-class bluegrass music. Del McCoury has spent more than 50 years as a professional musician, and during that time, he and his band have become the most awarded act in the history of bluegrass. Make plans to see the Del McCoury Band on April 4.
One of the greatest ambassadors for traditional bluegrass, Del has been no less acclaimed for embracing offshoots of the genre, embodying both aspects of his career through his annual Delfest music festival, where tradition is both honored and extended by the presentation of a wide array of bluegrass and string music performances. Over the past two decades, he and his band have appeared on late night television shows like David Letterman’s and Conan O’Brien’s, and at venues ranging from Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center to popular festivals like Bonnaroo and the Newport Folk Festival.
“Here’s a guy who has been playing for fifty years, and he’s still experimenting-still looking to do things outside the box, to bring other kinds of music into bluegrass form,” says Americana music icon Richard Thompson, who saw his “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” turned into a bluegrass standard when McCoury brought it into the fold. “I think that’s the best bluegrass band, period. That’s it.”
McCoury’s most recent project was a tribute to the father of bluegrass himself, Bill Monroe. Released in September 2011, marking the 100th anniversary of Monroe’s birth, Old Memories: The Songs Of Bill Monroe was the result of a decision that was as spontaneous as it was inevitable, because for Del McCoury, Bill Monroe’s legacy isn’t just a matter of history, but something that’s as immediate and personal as the guitar he picks up every time he gets ready to play.
McCoury got his first taste of the limelight when he joined Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in early 1963; the Father of Bluegrass moved McCoury from the banjo to guitar, made him his lead singer, and gave him a lifetime’s worth of bluegrass tutelage direct from the source in the course of little more than a year. But rather than parlay his gig with the master into a full-time career of his own, McCoury returned to Pennsylvania in the mid-60s to provide steady support for his new and growing family.
McCoury settled into work in the logging industry while keeping one foot in the music world, forming his own band, the Dixie Pals, which he led for 15 years as a part-time career built mostly around weekend appearances at bluegrass festivals and recordings for labels ranging from the short-lived and obscure to roots music institutions like Arhoolie and Rounder Records. During that time, McCoury began to build a songbook filled with classics remade in his own image and a growing number of originals that would become an important part of his legacy in years to come.
The first big sign of change came in 1981, when McCoury’s 14-year-old son, Ronnie, joined the Dixie Pals on mandolin. Banjo playing younger brother Rob came on board five years later, and by the end of the decade, the three McCourys were ready to make a move. “We came to Nashville in 1992,” Ron recalls, “and it was dad’s idea. He’d been watching bluegrass on TNN—Bill Monroe, the Osborne Brothers, Jim & Jesse—and thought that it was the place to be, that we’d have a new outlet there, where we could get some more attention. And without a doubt, moving to Nashville and just going for it turned out to be really big.”
Armed with a new Rounder Records association and a newly named Del McCoury Band that soon included not only his sons but a complete cast of youngsters, Del McCoury’s career soared. Del himself got the ball rolling early in the decade with three consecutive Male Vocalist of the Year awards from the prestigious International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), and in 1994 the quintet began an astonishing streak of top Entertainer of the Year honors that would net them nine trophies in an 11-year stretch, along with ongoing honors for Ronnie (eight straight Mandolin Player of the Year awards), fiddler Jason Carter (three Fiddle Player of the Year trophies), and a wide array of projects featuring Del and the ensemble.
But though the ’90s propelled the Del McCoury Band to the top of the bluegrass world, they also led to the emergence of the group onto the larger musical scene as a unique torchbearer for the entire sweep of bluegrass and its history.
Ronnie McCoury tells a story from a recent appearance that underlines just how broad an appeal the band’s music has these days. “You know, we’ve really been getting outside of the bluegrass box,” he says with a laugh. “I mean, dad’s voice is what you’d call traditional, but he’s open-minded, too. And so it seems like in the last few years, especially, he’s become more than bluegrass-he’s being recognized as just a great singer, period. So that’s really been bridging the gap between bluegrass and other kinds of music and musicians. Last year we played at the Austin City Limits festival, and the limo driver who picked us up said he’d just taken [platinum-selling international pop star] Bjork out to the festival-and she was telling him that she wanted to see us. It’s just unbelievable.”
The Del McCoury Band has only had one change in membership in 15 years; their namesake earned membership in the cast of the legendary Grand Ole Opry in 2003, and the band earned their first Best Bluegrass Album Grammy award two years later; they traveled with the groundbreaking post-O Brother “Down From The Mountain” tour, performed and recorded (on his Grammy-winning These Days) with Gill and with country star Dierks Bentley; they’ve made multiple appearances at the spectacular Bonnaroo Music Festival, and launched an impressively popular annual New Year’s Eve show at the Ryman Auditorium, where Del first appeared on the Opry with Bill Monroe some 46 years ago.
Perhaps most importantly, McCoury took an almost unprecedented step in 2003 when he took control of his own music by creating the McCoury Music label, home to that Grammy-winning album along with a select set of releases by the Del McCoury Band, country icon Merle Haggard, and more.
Please join PineCone in welcoming the Del McCoury Band back to Raleigh to close out this year’s Down Home Concerts in Meymandi Concert Hall at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are still available – by phone through PineCone’s Box Office (919-664-8302), online via Ticketmaster.com, or in person at the Duke Energy Center box office (located on the Wilmington Street side of the Center).
Read more about the Del McCoury Band: http://www.pinecone.org/event-detail.php?id=167
Learn about other PineCone programs: http://www.pinecone.org
Find out about bluegrass in Raleigh://www.pinecone.org/news_detail.php?newsID=65