Author, Kentucky Traveler (2013)
Latest album Cluck Ol’ Hen with Bruce Hornsby
Multiple awards and honors including 14 Grammy awards
Had 12 #1 hits on the charts; Inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1982 (youngest member at the time)
Inducted into Gospel Music Assoc. Hall of Fame 2012
Started Skaggs Family Records in 1997
Country Music Association Artist of the Year 1985
Married to Sharon White, 2 grown Children
Ricky Skaggs, The Kentucky Traveler
FAITH, FAMILY, AND MUSIC
Country legend Ricky Skaggs shows no signs of stopping with his music career that has spanned over 50 years and counting. Always growing and innovating as an artist, he has often said that he is "just trying to make a living" playing the music he loves. Currently, he is performing regularly with his band Kentucky Thunder and has several music projects in progress. Ricky says the key elements in his life have always been faith, family and music. He grew up in the hills of Kentucky which shaped his faith and music. There was a lot of music and a lot of preaching. His mother nurtured his faith. She taught him to pray and read the Bible and she would always have scriptures and Bible references for him. Ricky's father nurtured him in music.
When Ricky was five, his father gave him his first mandolin after hearing Ricky harmonizing with his mother. Ricky proved to be a child prodigy. Two weeks after his father taught him three chords, Ricky already showed musical aptitude and soon earned a reputation among the locals in his community. The following year Ricky had a life defining moment. Bluegrass patriarch Bill Monroe came to town to perform. He called six-year-old Ricky up on the stage to play with him and he placed his own mandolin around his neck and adjusted the strap to fit Ricky. By age seven, Ricky had made his Grand Old Opry debut and earned his first paycheck for a musical performance when he performed with bluegrass legends Flatt & Scruggs on their popular syndicated television show.
EARLY COMMITMENT TO CHRIST
Another life-changing event happened to Ricky in 1967 when he was thirteen – he got saved at a revival meeting. Though he had heard the Gospel throughout his life, this time it was different. He felt a conviction and urge from the Holy Spirit to go forward during the altar call. He was afraid to go up but when he saw his father go forward that gave Ricky the courage to. When he went down the aisle, he kneeled in front of the altar and repented to God then sobbed and cried. Ricky describes it as not a “Paul on the road to Damascus experience” where there was a marked difference in his life but he knew he made a commitment to Jesus. However not long after that, a seed of doubt was planted that questioned if he really did get saved. Ricky says for years Satan used that against him. He wasn’t sure of his salvation and it haunted him. Ricky felt he never really grew in his faith. He says it took a long while to go back and realize that Christ did not change or forget Ricky’s prayer of commitment to Him. For Ricky, his Christianity was more religious than a relationship with Jesus until later in his life.
A YOUNG BLUEGRASS MASTER
His family moved for a short while to Columbus, OH when Ricky was a teenager, where in his loneliness he mastered the fiddle before moving back to Kentucky. In 1970 when Ricky was 16, his big break came when he and his friend (the late) Keith Whitley filled in for bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley after Ralph’s bus broke down in Ft. Gay, WV and they were called on stage to fill in until repairs were made. Ricky soon began to build a reputation for creativity and excitement through live appearances and recordings with acts such as J. D. Crowe & the New South. He performed on the band's 1975 debut album for Rounder Records, which is widely regarded as one of the most influential bluegrass albums ever made. After this Ricky was a bandleader with Boone Creek which brought him the challenges of leadership while giving him further recording and performing experience. At this early point in his career at age 21, Ricky was already considered a “recognized master” of bluegrass. He achieved great success early, singing as a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band and then as an individual recording artist on his own. With the release of Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine in 1981, Ricky reached the top of the country charts and remained there throughout the 1980s with twelve #1 hits. In 1982 he became the youngest member of The Grand Ole Opry to be inducted at the time. Many awards followed and he trail blazed a new breed of bluegrass.
A NEW COURSE
In 1997, after Ricky's then-current recording contract was coming to an end, he decided to establish his own record label - Skaggs Family Records. This way, he could make the music he wanted to make when he wanted to make it. Not only was Ricky returning to his musical roots, he was returning to his commitment to God. He rededicated his life to the Lord and was fully committed. Though it took some time, Ricky realized who he was in Christ. His second wife, Sharon White of the famed country group The Whites, and her mother helped him on this journey. He also formed a new group, Kentucky Thunder. Ricky's first release for Skaggs Family Records, Bluegrass Rules!, set a new standard for bluegrass, breaking new sales records in the genre, winning Skaggs his sixth Grammy Award, and earning the International Bluegrass Music Association's (IBMA) Album of the Year Award. In 1999, his second all-bluegrass album, Ancient Tones, won a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album - his second consecutive Grammy in that same category. Just one year later, Ricky won his eighth Grammy Award in the Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album category for Soldier of the Cross, his first all-gospel recording project.
Since then, Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder have released an amazing 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated classics, (8 of which went on to earn the revered award) while also opening the label to a variety of other musical artists, all the time keeping emphasis on bluegrass and other forms of roots music.
SOME MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF 2000 AND BEYOND
Ricky made further progress with the release of his fourth bluegrass album in 2000, Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe, a project which featured an all-star cast of musicians ranging from Dolly Parton and Bruce Hornsby and celebrated the music and the life of Ricky's mentor, Bill Monroe. Big Mon received much critical acclaim, including a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. Ricky’s first all-live album with Kentucky Thunder, Live at the Charleston Music Hall (2003), led to an IBMA Award for Instrumental Group of the Year - an award Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder has taken home 8 times in the last decade.
By the middle of In 2005, Ricky earned his 10th career Grammy (Best Bluegrass Album) for Brand New Strings - a beautiful collection of music featuring four Skaggs originals as well as several tunes by some of his most admired contemporaries. In 2006, Skaggs was honored with a Grammy Award - this time in the Best Musical Album for Children category - for his contribution to Songs from the Neighborhood: the Music of Mister Rogers. Greater success followed with the release of Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder Instrumentals, an album of all-original, all-instrumental material in Fall 2006. Praised by fans and critics alike as a landmark album for Skaggs, Instrumentals debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's bluegrass album chart and earned Ricky his 12th career Grammy Award (Best Bluegrass Album). In September of 2007 on Skaggs Family Records, was a literal family affair. After years of blending their voices from the living room to the stage, Ricky and The Whites teamed up for their first collaborative gospel album, Salt of the Earth, which resulted in a 13th career Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album and other numerous awards. In 2008, Skaggs paid tribute to the man he has often referred to as his "musical father," Bill Monroe, and the original lineup of the Bluegrass Boys (Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise and Howard Watts) with the release of Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947, earning a 14th career Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. Ricky’s first-ever solo album, Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved (2009) celebrated the man that caused him to fall in love with music - his father, Hobert Skaggs.
At the beginning of this decade Ricky's album, Mosaic (2010), marked a return to a full band sound that mixed elements of Country music with Beatles-esque melody and lyrics that spoke to Skaggs' faith, making "music that is in my head and in my heart," as Ricky said. The song, "Return to Sender" from Mosaic was nominated for a Grammy for Best Gospel Song, and the album was a contender for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards, receiving major critical acclaim. Marking Ricky's 50thyear in music was the release of Country Hits Bluegrass Style (2011), a compilation of many of Skaggs' #1 country hits and fan favorites, played in a bluegrass style.
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