By Sherrie Norris
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder will be coming to Blowing Rock on Saturday, Dec. 14, for two shows at the Samaritan’s Purse Training and Conference Center. That’s quite the Christmas present for the High Country, and especially to those who love bluegrass/gospel music.
‘Christmas in Blowing Rock: An Evening with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder” is hosted by the Boone-based international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, which, along with its President and CEO, Franklin Graham, has a personal place in the heart of the 15-time Grammy award winner and beloved entertainer.
“I’ve known Franklin and the Graham family for over 30 years now,” Skaggs told High Country Press. “ We’ve hunted, fished and done ministry together during all those years. He’s a dear friend and I would do anything for him. I’m really looking forward to coming back to Blowing Rock to play some music and visit with Franklin and the family. They’re just the best.”
On behalf of Samaritan’s Purse and Franklin Graham, his wife, Jane Graham said, “ We do love the Skaggs. They are old and sweet friends. We just don’t get to see them enough and are really looking forward to this time together.”
Skaggs and his award-winning band will perform at 4 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. with tickets currently available for both shows.
Having recently been inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, Skaggs is a musician whose career is recognized easily among the most significant in recent (country)music history.
If Skaggs’ rapidly expanding trophy case full of awards wasn’t already enough evidence of that fact, consider that legendary guitarist Chet Atkins once credited Skaggs with “single-handedly saving country music.”
According to his biography, provided to High Country Press by his press agent, Skaggs’ life’s path has taken him to various musical genres — from where it all began in bluegrass music, to striking out on new musical journeys, while still leaving his musical roots intact.
Born July 18, 1954 in Cordell, Kentucky, Skaggs showed signs of future
stardom at an early age, playing mandolin on stage with bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe at 6 and appearing on TV with Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs at 7. He emerged as a professional bluegrass musician in 1971, when he and his friend Keith Whitley were invited to join the legendary Ralph Stanley’s band, the Clinch Mountain Boys.
Skaggs then went on to record and perform with progressive bluegrass acts like the Country Gentlemen and J.D. Crowe & the New South, whose self-titled 1975 Rounder Records debut album was instantly recognized as a landmark bluegrass achievement. He then led Boone Creek, which also featured Dobro ace and fellow New South
Alumnus, Jerry Douglas.
But Skaggs turned to the more mainstream country music genre in the late ‘70s when he joined Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band, replacing Rodney Crowell. He became a recording artist in his own right in 1981 when his Epic label debut album, Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine, topped the country charts and yielded a pair of No. 1 hits. Overall, his productive stay at Epic Records would result in a total of 12 No. 1 hits. Additionally, he garnered eight Country Music Association Awards — including the coveted Entertainer of the Year trophy in 1985.
Skaggs, of course, fit right in with young “new-traditionalist” ‘80s artists, like Randy Travis, and helped rejuvenate the country music genre after the worn-out “Urban Cowboy” period. But, Skaggs put his own stamp on the country format by infusing his bluegrass and traditional country music roots into the contemporary Nashville sound.
Skaggs’ 1997 album Bluegrass Rules!, released on his newly-formed Skaggs Family Records label, marked a triumphant return to bluegrass—which he’s solidified ever since with a series of Grammy Award winning albums, recorded with his amazing bluegrass band, Kentucky Thunder, eight-time winners of the IBMA ‘Instrumental Group of the Year’). Skaggs’ label has also served as a home for similar bluegrass and roots music-oriented artists including The Whites.
In the past decade, Skaggs has been honored with inductions into the Gospel Music Association’s Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Musicians Hall of Fame. In 2018, a landmark year, Skaggs was also awarded membership into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame, the IBMA Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and country music’s greatest honor, the
Country Music Hall of Fame.
Skaggs struck his first chords on a mandolin over 50 years ago, and he continues to do his part to lead the recent roots revival in music. Clearly his passion for it puts him in the position to bring his lively, distinctively American form of music out of isolation and into the ears and hearts of audiences across the country and around the world.
Ricky Skaggs is always forging ahead with cross-cultural, genre-bending musical ideas and inspirations.
Tickets are available and going fast for his upcoming Blowing Rock shows; general admission seating is $20 and may be purchased at
Doors open 45 minutes prior to the 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. concerts.
Samaritan’s Purse Training & Conference Center is located at 7691 Valley Boulevard, in Blowing Rock. Venue parking is limited and on a first-come basis. A shuttle will be available for overflow parking at First Baptist Church Blowing Rock.