BY GAYLA DRAKE PAUL
Open your dictionary and find the entry for
superpicker. The guy in the picture next to
that word is Ricky Skaggs. Okay, not really,
but it should be. He’s been a flat-out phe-nom since the age of six, and now at 55 (with
thirteen Grammy Awards to his name) he’s
revered as the Ambassador of Bluegrass.
Bluegrass and country music aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but nobody who knows anything about chops has anything but respect, if
not awe, for Skaggs’ abilities.
When he was six, a symbolic gesture from
Bill Monroe heralded Skaggs’ destiny.
Monroe put his own mandolin on the child
and sent him out on stage to sit in with the
Bluegrass Boys. Since then, he’s been like a
force of nature on the bluegrass scene, from
his first major gig with Ralph Stanley and the
Clinch Mountain Boys (along with his boyhood friend, the late guitarist Keith Whitley)
to his return to bluegrass after a decade
breathing new life into traditional country
music. One of a handful of artists to thrive
after thumbing his nose at the established
mainstream music industry, Skaggs knows his
way around a studio, too, and was the first
“unknown” artist in Music Row history to be
allowed to serve as his own producer from
the very beginning of his contract.
You’d expect a guy with such legendary chops
to have killer axes, and Skaggs is a connoisseur. He told me that in his studio currently
he’s got fifteen amazing guitars strewn around
that he’s using on a new solo project (Songs
My Father Loved, Skaggs Family Records,
release date to be determined). Recently he’s
been involved in the design and production of
some of the most amazing guitars ever made:
the Bourgeois Ricky Skaggs Limited Edition
and the new acoustics from PRS.
Eager to talk about pickin’, guitars and gear,
Skaggs was a peach to interview.