For the eighth time, the Del McCoury Band won the most coveted award from the International Bluegrass Music Association — entertainer of the year. But this particular ceremony, held Thursday night (Oct. 2) in Louisville, Ky., will loom large in McCoury’s memory because his acceptance speech was interrupted by Ricky Skaggs and Sonny Osborne, who invited him to join the cast of the Grand Ole Opry.
Although they had been up until the wee hours for most of the week, the crowd went wild. It was a touching transition from the World of Bluegrass convention which is capped by the annual awards ceremony, to the Bluegrass Fan Fest which began Friday morning (Oct. 3).
McCoury, a former member of Bill Monroe’s band, recounted a story about not having his union card back when he was playing the Opry with Monroe. Then the North Carolina native added, “I am so honored to be a member of the Opry. When I was a kid, we listened to it, but I didn’t even know where it was. But later on, I found out it was way over there in Nashville, Tennessee. I’m just so honored.”
As the evening’s biggest winner, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver captured three trophies — vocal group, gospel recorded performance (for “The Hand Made Cross”) and song of the year (for “The Hard Game of Love”). Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member John D. Loudermilk, who wrote “The Hard Game of Love,” also took the stage to accept the award.
“Without songwriters, there wouldn’t be singers,” Lawson told the audience. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart on behalf of all my guys.”
“I am overwhelmed with emotion,” Loudermilk said to Lawson. “Especially when you hit those high triads back there. You sounded to me like a buzz saw with diamond blades. I kept looking for bone dust to come falling over the audience.”
Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski co-hosted the ceremony and shared the award for album of the year, Alison Krauss & Union Station: Live, which was recorded in Louisville.
“We feel so grateful that we get to play music for a living,” Krauss said. “And that people have been kind enough to support us through the years. Thank you so much. And I have to personally thank these guys up here for being the most inspirational bunch of people I get to be around.”
Krauss also won in the recorded event category, for her participation in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s album Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. III. (Other Circle participants winning in that collaborative category include Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Tom Petty and Dwight Yoakam.) Meanwhile, Tyminski won his third consecutive trophy for male vocalist.
“This means a whole lot to me, but I want to talk about something else,” Tyminski said. “I just wanted to say what an honor it was tonight to be a part of this show when they inducted J.D. Crowe in the Hall of Honor. There is no way on God’s green earth that I would be here playing music for anyone here, if it weren’t for that man. I know this is a male vocalist award, and I am so, so thankful and so happy for the votes, but J.D. Crowe is my all-time hero.”
A legendary banjo player and bandleader, Crowe was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Honor. At the finale of the two-and-a-half hour show, he jammed with many former members of his celebrated band, the New South, including Skaggs, Lawson, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Bobby Slone and Todd Phillips.
“This is a great honor,” Crowe said. “Probably one of the best things I’ve had. It sure makes you feel good when all you peers vote for you, and I think that’s the greatest accomplishment. And thanks to God almighty that I’m here.”
He added that a Flatt & Scruggs concert in 1949 led him to a career in bluegrass and even displayed a black-and-white photo of himself watching that particular show. “That was my first introduction to music of that caliber. When I first heard that sound, I knew I had to try to emulate that. And brother, I thought it would be easy. Was I wrong.”
Rhonda Vincent claimed her fourth win as female vocalist, and Krauss harmonized with her on “One Step Ahead of the Blues.” Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder won the instrumental group category, Aubrey Haynie won the instrumental album for The Bluegrass Fiddle Album and Kenny & Amanda Smith won the emerging artist award.
Musician honors went to Jim Mills (banjo), Mike Bub (bass), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Adam Steffey (mandolin), Rob Ickes (Dobro) and Jason Carter (fiddle). Bub and Carter play in the Del McCoury Band, Mills performs with Kentucky Thunder and Steffey is a member of Mountain Heart.
Highlights of the ceremony included the Del McCoury Band sharing the stage with the Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney and the standing ovation received by presenter Lynn Morris, who suffered a stroke earlier this year. Chris Thile, Josh Williams, Michael Cleveland and Cody Kilby proved their performance was no gimmick 10 years ago when they were billed then as the Young Bluegrass All-Stars. Now 22, they jammed with a handful of today’s youngsters, all doing their part to ensure that the legacy of bluegrass will go on.