John Duffey's Bluegrass Life

John Duffey's Bluegrass Life

by Stephen Moore and G.T. Keplinger

Publication Date: 08/05/2019


John Duffey’s Bluegrass Life: Featuring The Country Gentlemen, Seldom Scene and Washington, D.C. with a Foreword by Tom Gray is the definitive biography of one of bluegrass music’s most important artists of the genre. Through his work as a founding member of these two pioneering bands, John Duffey urbanized bluegrass and introduced it to a broad new audience. John’s quotes from a four-hour, never-before-published 1984 interview are italicized throughout and provide the book’s foundation.

The book begins with a profile of his father, John Humbird Duffey Sr, Metropolitan Opera star and chronicles Duffey’s earliest exposure to music, listening to opera on the radio with his dad. Childhood friends Bill Blackburn, Bill Emerson, and Sterling Ellsworth serve up memories of Duffey from the 2nd grade through high school.

Accounts of Duffey’s early musical career provide an overview of John’s first bands, leading up to how The Country Gentlemen were formed following a horrific car accident. The Country Gentlemen’s Bill Emerson, Charlie Waller, Eddie Adcock, and Tom Gray are profiled and interviewed.

For the first time, John’s biological daughter, Ginger “Sam” Allred, speaks candidly about her relationship with both Duffey, and her father, Pete Kuykendall. Duffey discusses why he quit The Country Gentlemen, setting up the complete story of The Seldom Scene, as told by Duffey, John Starling, Ben Eldridge, Dave Auldridge, Mike Auldridge, Phil Rosenthal, and Tom Gray.

More than 50 rare or never-before-seen photographs create a fascinating portrait of the complex, iconoclastic entertainer. Gary Oelze, the owner of the Birchmere music club where the Scene became stars, share his memories of John.

Sam Bush, Jonathan Edwards, Pete Kennedy, Martha Adcock, Akira Otsuka, Dick Cerri, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Gaudreau, Bryan Bowers, Peter “Dr. Banjo” Wernick, Tom Travis, Cliff Waldron, and others are among the many voices that contribute informative and compelling interviews.

The book’s narrative is supplemented with a 43-page Discography that provides track listings, recording dates, producers, composers, and musicians for every time Duffey entered a recording studio. The book includes a Duffey genealogy and index.


"An exhaustively researched profile of bluegrass legend John Duffey (1934-1996) that covers not only his life in music but also those of his colleagues and contemporaries... Despite the copious detail, however, the book offers a rich and entertaining musical history of the bluegrass scene as well as more academic materials, including an essay by Robert Kyle on Duffey’s Irish roots and a lengthy discography... A truly definitive look at a bluegrass legend and the scene that produced him."

— Kirkus Reviews

"The definitive John Duffey biography. Stephen Moore, who interviewed Duffey for this book, with co-author G.T. Keplinger, a bluegrass historian, have captured a faithfully compelling and comprehensive portrait of John as both performer and person."

— Cerphe Colwell, WHFS pioneer radio broadcaster and founder of today’s online Music Planet Radio.

"A great overview of the acoustic side of the DC music scene, with a unique focus on the inception of the progressive bluegrass movement and the cast of colorful characters who pushed the music forward, while respecting and preserving the roots. It's all there in these pages."

— Pete Kennedy (multiple WAMMY award winner and member of Kennedy Center Artists-in-Residence, The Kennedys)

Country & Western music
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