Del McCoury Shares His Bluegrass Adventures

The legendary musician joins us on this week's Biscuits & Jam.

Del McCoury
Photo: Emma Delevante

This week, I'm talking to the legendary bluegrass musician Del McCoury. Del's illustrious career began in 1963 when the "Father of Bluegrass," Bill Monroe, asked him to join his band – and the rest is history. Almost 60 years later, Del is still playing shows, releasing albums, and performing with everyone from Vince Gill to Billy Strings. Today, we'll talk about the return of DelFest, his latest album, Almost Proud, his hope for the future of bluegrass, and more.

Get to Know Del McCoury

Delano Floyd McCoury is the most awarded artist in bluegrass history. He was born in York County, Pennsylvania, nearly 80 years ago, and as a teen, was captivated by the banjo playing of the legendary Earl Scruggs. In early 1963, Del got the opportunity of a lifetime joining Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. Considered the "Father of Bluegrass," Monroe transformed Del, moving him from the banjo to guitar, and later appointing him lead singer. Del McCoury has won 31 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, including Entertainer of the Year four consecutive times (nine in total). He became an official member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2003. As the leader of the Del McCoury Band, he plays guitar and sings lead vocals along with his two sons, Ronnie and Rob. Del McCoury's sixth decade in a half-century of bluegrass music brings new triumphs, new collaborations, and new music.

What Del Talks About in This Episode

*Learning to play the guitar at a very young age

*Singing with his family as a kid in church

*Listening to his mother's incredible voice

*Enjoying his mother's cooking

*Defining bluegrass music

*Releasing his new album "Almost Proud"

*Being inspired to write songs

*Performing at Bonnaroo

*Starting his own music festival, DelFest in Cumberland, Maryland

Quotes from Del McCoury

"[Mom] did all the cooking...She made the best cornbread, and soup beans, we'd call them. Soup beans was pinto beans and green beans because she had a garden. A lot of times we'd eat cornbread and milk."

"I went completely from one instrument and singing to another before I went with Bill, I was a tenor singer, and I sang, all parts with bands I had been in…for some reason, I'd just pick them out but I wasn't interested in singing, I was more interested in banjo, because I'd heard Earl Scruggs when I was 11 years old, and man, I said, 'That's it, right there.' "

Del McCoury

I was more interested in banjo, because I'd heard Earl Scruggs when I was 11 years old, and man, I said, 'That's it, right there.'

— Del McCoury

"I was just forced into writing, and sometimes I'd have an idea, and sometimes I wouldn't. I'd just sit down and write something on a piece of paper and get started that way… We grew up on a farm and worked hard, and Bill Monroe wanted you to work hard. He was the type of guy that when you got on stage, he just wanted you to work hard. He didn't say, 'Now do this like this', or, 'Sing this like that,' or 'Play this guitar run here,' he never told me anything about that, but I found out that I could play with the man. He was the father of this music…"

About Biscuits & Jam

In the South, talking about food is personal. It's a way of sharing your history, your family, your culture, and yourself. Each week Sid Evans, editor in chief of Southern Living, sits down with celebrity musicians to hear stories of how they grew up, what inspired them, and how they've been shaped by Southern culture. Sid takes us back to some of their most cherished memories and traditions, the family meals they still think about, and their favorite places to eat on the road.

Download and listen to this episode of Biscuits & Jam with Del McCoury on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, or everywhere podcasts are available.

Get a transcript of the full interview with Del McCoury.

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