First broadcast August 19, 2005

In Memoriam: Vassar Clements

10 p.m. to Midnight Host: Steve Winters

Acclaimed fiddle virtuoso Vassar Clements, known as the “Miles Davis of bluegrass”, died Aug. 16 at age 77 after a battle with lung cancer. His death brought to an end a remarkable 60-year career that started with Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys and progressed to stints with, among others, Jim & Jesse, Earl Scruggs, the landmark Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” recording of 1972 and the legendary Old & In The Way.

The International Blue Music Association recognized Clements in 2001 as a “First Generation Pioneer” of bluegrass music. During his lifetime, he recorded 27 solo albums, including explorations of country swing that earned him the title, “The King Of Hillbilly Jazz.” He was an always-in-demand studio musician, appearing on more than 2,000 albums. His musical associates ranged from John Hartford to the Allman Brothers, Paul McCartney to Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt to Woody Herman, the Grateful Dead, David Grisman, Stephane Grappelli and even the Monkees.

As Grisman, who produced his final album, “Living With The Blue” in 2004, told the Washington Post: “He was a musical giant. He had an incredible sound. He had incredible imagination. He was a fountain of ideas and could execute them amazingly.”

Two paramount career highlights in a career that had countless major highlights: His playing on “New Muleskinner Blues” with Monroe on the King of Bluegrass’s first Decca recording session in 1950 and his playing and virtuosity in “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” that catapulted him to fame.

  • Artist, "Title", Album, Label Old & In The Gray, “Good Old Boys”, Old & In The Gray, Acoustic Disc --------------- Nitty Gritty Dirt Band et al, “Nashville Blues”, “Tennessee Stud”, “Black Mountain Rag”, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Capitol --------------- Nitty Gritty Dirt Band et al, “Lonesome Fiddle Blues”, “Avalanche”, “Down Yonder”, “Orange Blossom Special”, Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Capitol --------------- Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys”, “My Little Georgia Rose”, “I’m Blue I’m Lonesome”, “Used To Be”, “I’m Going Back To Kentucky”, “Toy Heart”, The Music Of Bill Monroe 1936-1994, MCA --------------- Old & In The Way, “Lonesome Fiddle Blues”, “Love Please Come Home”, That High Lonesome Sound, Acoustic Disc Old & In The Way, “Kissimmee Kid”, “Midnight Moonlight”, “New Muleskinner Blues”, Breakdown, Acoustic Disc --------------- John Hartford et al, “Symphony Hall Rag”, “Tear Down The Grand Ole Opry”, “Holding”, “Leather Britches”, Aereo-Plain, Warner Brothers (Rounder) --------------- Old & In The Gray, “Vassar’s Fiddle Rag”, Old & In The Gray, Acoustic Disc Northern Light & Vassar Clements, “Kinfolks In Carolina”, “Dixie Breakdown”, Three August Nights, Prime CD Vassar Clements, “Turkey In the Straw”, Grass Routes, Rounder Vassar Clements, “Fiddlin' & Faddlin'”, “Green Onions”, Livin’ With The Blues”, Acoustic Disc