Doug Dillard was one of the preeminent ambassadors of bluegrass banjo during the '60s and '70s, incorporating pop, folk, and country-rock material into his repertoire and supporting a wide variety of artists with those sensibilities. Born in Salem, Missouri, in 1937, Dillard started playing bluegrass early on, eventually teaming with his younger brother, Rodney. The duo made their first recordings in 1958, then played with several bands before forming their own group, the Dillards. In 1962, the Dillards relocated to Los Angeles, where they quickly landed a deal with Elektra and issued a string of groundbreaking albums over the rest of the '60s. The Dillards were among the first bluegrass groups to use amplified instruments, and they also had highly eclectic taste in covers, drawing from pop and rock as well as traditional material. Dillard was active outside the group as well, working with a side project called the Folkswingers, backing ex-Byrd Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, and collaborating with Rodney on material for the Bonnie & Clyde soundtrack in 1967.
Later in 1967, Dillard left the band he'd co-founded to pursue new projects. He recorded a solo LP, The Banjo Album, in 1968, which featured backing by several rock musicians, including Gene Clark and Bernie Leadon. Dillard soon formed a partnership with Clark, and recording with a backing band as Dillard & Clark, the two cut some of the earliest country-rock material in existence. Two groundbreaking albums followed before Clark went solo in 1970, and Dillard briefly reorganized the remaining band as the Doug Dillard Expedition, which contributed a song to the soundtrack of 1971's Vanishing Point. Dillard soon resumed his solo career, however, taking occasional session gigs and signing with 20th Century. He released two solo albums -- Duelin' Banjo and You Don't Need a Reason to Sing -- in 1973 and 1974, respectively. In 1977, he re-teamed with brother Rodney and John Hartford in Dillard-Hartford-Dillard, who recorded two albums for Flying Fish in 1977 and 1980. Dillard himself released two LPs on the same label: the 1979 gospel effort Heaven and the concert set Jackrabbit in 1980. During the '80s, he performed regularly with the Doug Dillard Band and also recorded sporadically; Flying Fish released What's That? in 1986 and Heartbreak Hotel three years later. Doug Dillard died in Nashville on May 16, 2012 at the age of 75. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi