Skaggs joined the Opry on May 15, 1982, on the brink of a long streak of best-selling albums and Top Ten country hits that included “Heartbroke,” “Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’,” “Crying My Heart Out Over You,” and “Don’t Cheat in Our Hometown.” At the time he was the Opry’s youngest member.
(Yes, that’s Bill Monroe in the above video, playing the role of “Uncle Pen.”)
Thirty years later, on May 15, 2012, Skaggs will be the subject of a special Opry tribute that includes Alison Krauss, Josh Turner, and The Whites (all Opry members themselves), the group Eden’s Edge, and special guests Dailey & Vincent, a bluegrass group that has three times won the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Entertainer of the Year award.
Skaggs himself has been awarded regularly by the IBMA during the 1990s and ’00s; he’s also won numerous GRAMMYs, and is currently a 2012 recipient of the Cliffie Stone Award from the Academy of Country Music.
Best known for his mandolin and vocal skils, Kentucky native Skaggs proved he could be a country chart topper, but it’s bluegrass that runs through his veins. He played with Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs as a child, then became a member (alongside his friend Keith Whitley) of Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys.
Skaggs has also been a member of the Country Gentlemen, J.D. Crowe and the New South, and Emmylou Harris‘s Hot Band.
During the 1990s, he re-dedicated his career to playing bluegrass music. He even went so far as to promise to Bill Monroe, on the bluegrass founder’s death bed, that he would keep the music alive.
“I made a commitment to Mr. Monroe on his deathbed,” Skaggs told the L.A. Times in 1997. “He was very worried and concerned about what would happen to the music. I told him on his deathbed that I was absolutely going to do everything in my power to keep bluegrass music alive. I told him not to worry about it, that his music is gonna stay intact; people are gonna play it, and I’m gonna do my part to keep it going as long as I live. And I believe he knew I was a man of my word.”
And he’s kept that promise. Ricky started his own label, Skaggs Family Records, and now records and performs bluegrass with his band Kentucky Thunder.
Tickets are available for the May 15 event on the Opry website.