Bluegrass banjo player Doug Dillard passed away last night after a lengthy illness. He was 75.
Dillard began playing banjo as a child and idolized Earl Scruggs (who passed away back in March). After Scruggs replied to a letter he wrote, Dillard convinced his parents to drive him to Scruggs home in Madison, Tennessee. He knocked on Scruggs’ door and asked the bluegrass legend to install his tuners on his banjo. Dillard was only sixteen at the time.
Dillard and his younger brother Rodney along with Dean Webb and Mitch Jayne would form The Dillards. They got their first break on The Andy Griffith Show as a fictional bluegrass band known as The Darlings and made regular appearances on the show between 1963 and 1966. Here they are singing “Dooley”.
The Dillards were to bluegrass what Bob Dylan was to folk in that they were amongst the first bluegrass groups to play with electric instruments. Dillard liked the electric sound so much that he eventually left The Dillards to tour with The Byrds. He became close with Gene Clark and in 1968 they left The Byrds to form Dillard & Clark. They recorded two albums The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark and Through the Morning, Through the Night. Neither album sold well but Dillard & Clark were an influence on country-rock acts like Gram Parsons, The Eagles and Poco and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Take a listen to “Why Not Your Baby” and you’ll hear why Dillard & Clark were indeed on a fantastic expedition.
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