Bluegrass Guitar Pioneer Josh Graves Dies

Josh Graves passed away Sept. 30, 2006. Born in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. in 1928, Graves played a major role in bringing the resonator guitar to prominence as a lead instrument in bluegrass music.

While working on the WLEX Kentucky Mountain Barn Dance in Lexington in 1949, he learned the three-finger roll from Earl Scruggs and adapted it to the almost obscure slide bar instrument. With Flatt & Scruggs from 1955-1969, Graves introduced his widely emulated driving, bluesy style on the “hound dog guitar” to millions through personal appearances, recordings, radio and syndicated television.

Having adopted the stage persona “Uncle Josh” as a teenager in the early 1940s on WROL, Knoxville (Tennessee), he gained renown for his consummate showmanship and comedy as part of The Flatt & Scruggs Show. After working in the bands of Flatt (1969-72) and Scruggs (1972-74), he began a 10 year solo career followed by partnership with Kenny Baker begun in 1984.

A vocal stylist and excellent three-finger guitarist with a life-long love of blues music. Josh Graves recorded prolifically as both a supporting musician and featured artist.

Although he suffered from health problems related to diabetes for the last several years. Graves remained optimistic and continued to perform up until two weeks before his death. He had agreed to perform at IBMA Bluegrass Fan Fest in Nashville for a “Bluegrass Legends” set with Curly Seckler, J.D. Crowe and Everett Lilly on the day he passed away.

Instead, Randy Kohrs led a group of well-known Dobro players in a musical tribute to Uncle Josh, performing “Fireball” and “Foggy Mountain Rock.” In addition to Kohrs, Leroy Mack, Rob Ickes, Phil Leadbetter, Ferrell Stowe, Andy Hall,Kim Gardner and Josh Swift participated.

Photo courtesy of Gibson Musical Instruments.

Obituary courtesy of International Bluegrass Music Association.