Jerry Douglas

Jerry Douglas

Dobro master Nashville, Tennessee
Photo Credit: photo courtesy of artist
Jerry Douglas

Jerry Douglas is widely recognized as the greatest innovator on the Dobro in the last half century—possibly the greatest ever. He’s been described as the Jimi Hendrix and the Charlie Parker of acoustic music. The New York Times has called him “Dobro’s matchless contemporary master.” He has won 14 Grammy® Awards, three Country Music Association Musician of the Year citations, 28 International Bluegrass Music Association honors, and received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the nation’s highest honor for traditional artists. Though he got his start in bluegrass, Douglas has made an impact in fields ranging from rock and roll to jazz, blues to Celtic, mainstream country to contemporary classical and beyond.

Born in Warren, Ohio, Jerry was exposed to music at home by his father, John, a steelworker who played bluegrass on the side. In 1963, John took his young son to a Flatt & Scruggs concert. Entranced by the sound of Uncle Josh Graves playing the Dobro, Jerry embarked on a lifelong commitment to the instrument. The Dobro is an acoustic guitar with a metal resonator that is played with a slide. It was invented by the San Diego-based Dopyera brothers in the 1920s and gained national popularity during the Hawaiian steel guitar craze of the 1920s and ’30s. The Dobro made its way through the vaudeville circuit and was eventually adopted by blues and bluegrass musicians.

In 1973, Douglas joined the pioneering “newgrass” band the Country Gentlemen. The following year he became a member of J.D. Crowe & the New South. He earned his nickname “Flux” during this time for the rich tone of his playing and lightning-fast style. By the mid-’80s he was the number one Dobro artist on Nashville recording sessions. He was featured in the National Council for the Traditional Arts’ acclaimed Masters of the Steel String Guitar tours in 1990, ’91 and ’93. Since 1998, he has toured regularly with Alison Krauss & Union Station as a featured soloist. Whether as a soloist or bandleader for projects like the Earls of Leicester or the Jerry Douglas Band or Trio, he is a brilliant and innovative performer.

Jerry’s distinctive sound graces over 1,500 albums, with artists including Paul Simon, Bela Fleck, Reba McEntire, Yo-Yo Ma, and Ray Charles. His recording with mohan vina player Vishna Mohan Bhatt led to a following of Dobro players in India. With Scottish fiddler Aly Bain, he is co-music director of BBC Scotland’s acclaimed Transatlantic Sessions. In addition to his various projects, Douglas has co-produced and performed on a series of platinum albums. He has produced albums for Alison Krauss, the Del McCoury Band, Maura O’Connell, the Whites, Jesse Winchester, and Steep Canyon Rangers.

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