NEWTON — Ricky Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder will make their Newton Theatre debut on Saturday, June 24, at 8 p.m.
Fourteen-time GRAMMY Award-winner Ricky Skaggs’ career is easily among the most significant in recent country music history. Legendary guitarist Chet Atkins once credited Skaggs with “single-handedly saving country music.” His life’s path has taken him to various musical genres, from where it all began in bluegrass music, to striking out on new musical journeys, while still leaving his musical roots intact.
Born July 18, 1954 in Cordell, Kentucky, Skaggs showed signs of future stardom at an early age, playing mandolin on stage with bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe at 6 and appearing on TV with Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs at 7. He emerged as a professional bluegrass musician in 1971, when he and his friend Keith Whitley were invited to join the legendary Ralph Stanley’s band the Clinch Mountain Boys.
Skaggs then went on to record and perform with progressive bluegrass acts like the Country Gentlemen and J.D. Crowe & the New South, whose self-titled 1975 Rounder Records debut album was instantly recognized as a landmark bluegrass achievement. He went on to lead the band Boone Creek.
But Skaggs turned to the more mainstream country music genre in the late ‘70s when he joined Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band, replacing Rodney Crowell. He became a recording artist in his own right in 1981 when his Epic label debut album Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine topped the country charts and yielded a pair of #1 hit songs (Cryin’ My Heart Out Over You, I Don’t Care). Overall, his productive stay at Epic Records would result in a total of twelve #1 hits. Additionally, he garnered eight Country Music Association Awards, including the coveted Entertainer of the Year trophy in 1985.
Skaggs, of course, fit right in with young “new-traditionalist” ‘80s artists like Randy Travis, and helped rejuvenate the country music genre after the worn-out “Urban Cowboy” period. Skaggs put his own stamp on the country format by infusing his bluegrass and traditional country music roots into the contemporary Nashville sound.
Skaggs’ 1997 album Bluegrass Rules!, released on his newly-formed Skaggs Family Records label, marked a triumphant return to bluegrass—which he’s solidified ever since with a series of GRAMMY® Award winning albums, recorded with his amazing bluegrass band, Kentucky Thunder (8-time winners of the IBMA ‘Instrumental Group of the Year’).
"This group of guys meets my approval every night," Ricky says. "Each and every one of the pickers in Kentucky Thunder totally amazes me in every show...and that, to me, outweighs any award we could ever win." The all-star lineup of Kentucky Thunder includes Paul Brewster (tenor vocals, rhythm guitar), Scott Mulvahill (bass, bass vocals), Russ Carson (banjo), Jake Workman (lead guitar), Mike Barnett (fiddle) and Dennis Parker (baritone vocals, guitar).
Ricky struck his first chords on a mandolin over 50 years ago, and he continues to do his part to lead the recent roots revival in music. Clearly his passion for it puts him in the position to bring his lively, distinctively American form of music into the ears and hearts of audiences across the country and around the world. Ricky Skaggs is always forging ahead with cross-cultural, genre-bending musical ideas and inspirations.
Tickets for Ricky Skaggs range from $44 to $59. Purchase tickets by visiting www.thenewtontheatre.com or contact the Box Office at 973-383-3700.