One of bluegrass music's favorite guitar legends, James Alan Shelton, has passed away. Best known for his work with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, Shelton's melodic guitar style was instantly identifiable and unique. He died while at Holston Valley Hospital in Kingsport, Tennessee where he was fighting the cancer within him.
Shelton's love of music came true when he joined Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys in 1994 where he played guitar and also served as Stanley's road manager where he took care of the band's business while on the road. He was included on many Stanley albums and also released ten albums by himself. Shelton's last solo release “Where I’m Bound” was on his own Sheltone label. One of his earlier solo projects, “Half Moon Bay” on Rebel Records, was nominated for Best Instrumental Album Of The Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in 2005.
Shelton was loved throughout the bluegrass community. Many guitarists followed his style and easily identified with the kind man.
Nathan Stanley, grandson of the banjo pioneer Ralph Stanley made the announcement saying, "My heart is very heavy right now... My friend James Alan Shelton passed away just a little while ago. Heaven has gained one of the finest Lead guitar Pickers that ever was. I sure do miss him. Please keep his wife Greta and his family in your prayers. RIP in my friend."
Born in Kingsport, Tenn. and raised on a tobacco farm across the state line near Gate City, Virginia in the Yuma Community of Scott County, Shelton grew up steeped in the music of the Stanley Brothers, The Carter Family, Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe. As a matter of fact, he was raised within about fifteen miles of the homeplace of A. P. Carter. At age twelve, his maternal grandfather taught him his first licks on guitar and he also began learning the banjo a year later. Like many young guitar pickers, Shelton had become fascinated by the deceptively complex “cross-picking” guitar style developed by North Carolina native George Shuffler, who worked with the Stanley Brothers in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Shelton will be remembered for his kind and gentle nature as well as his melodic guitar style. He is surved by his wife Greta.