Banjo player and TV performer Doug Dillard, who gained fame for his appearances on "The Andy Griffith Show" with musical group the Dillards (known on the TV series as the "Darlings") has died following a lengthy illness. A family spokesperson tells The Boot that Dillard was taken to a Nashville emergency room on Wednesday night (May 16) and died shortly thereafter.
Doug Dillard was born in Salem, Mo., in 1937 and was playing guitar by age 5. He received his first banjo as a teenager and soon began performing with various bands on radio and TV. He had been encouraged to pursue his instrument by banjo legend Earl Scruggs. According to his official bio, at 16, Dillard wrote a letter to Scruggs and received a positive reply. He then pestered his parents into driving him to Scruggs' home in Madison, Tenn., some five hundred miles away from Salem. Doug brazenly walked up to the front door and rang the bell, introducing himself and asking the iconic banjo picker to install Scruggs' tuners on his banjo.
Along with his brother Rodney, Doug soon formed the Dillards. Their folk-bluegrass blend became popular on college campuses and elsewhere, which led to their move to California and resulted in a recording contract and their stint on the hit CBS series starring Andy Griffith. After parting ways with the Dillards, Doug joined folk-rock group the Byrds on their first European tour. After the tour, Doug teamed up with former Byrds member Gene Clark, forming the influential Dillard & Clark, one of the first acts to popularize the country-rock sound that would include other artists such as Gram Parsons and the musicians who would later form the Eagles. Comedian and banjo player Steve Martin recently told The Boot that Doug Dillard was among the first influences on his banjo playing.
Drat. He was a good player and a nice guy as well. I used to trade bad jokes with him when he was still living out here on the west coast.
Which reminds me.
He told me once that when it came time to record "Doug's Tune" in it's first incarnation he hadn't yet got the triplet break down pat, so the whole band tuned their instruments down a notch, recorded the tune as fast as he could play it, and then they sped up the tape to get everything back up to concert pitch. There were banjo players all over the US who were driving themselves crazy trying to match his speed on that break when he himself hadn't actually been able to play it that fast at the time.
He said by the time the album came out, though, he'd been woodshedding and could play the triplet break up to speed so nobody ever caught on that he'd faked it.
I never figured out if that was a true story or if he was just pulling my leg (again), but that was Doug all over either way.
Very sad. I too thought he was on the mend. The "Darling's" on the Griffith show always made me run to the TV. When the Dillards were together, I thought their more traditional bluegrass was some of the best of its kind going. Doug always seemed to have a great smile on his face. I last saw the Dillards together in Oden Indiana about maybe 5 years ago. I was always proud that I too like the Dillards was born in Salem, Missouri where much of their written material was inspired from. This has been a very sad year for banjo players.
My sympathy to Doug's family and close friends.
Edited by - From Greylock to Bean Blossom on 05/17/2012 01:15:09
I met Doug at a Banjo Academy in the Ceders of Lebanon state park in 1992. He was in the minority as a "great" who would hang out with the lesser mortals. What a beautiful cat. I will cherish that memory all my life.
I'm saddened to hear this. I grew up in the country watching the Andy Griffith show and "The Darlings" were on of the reasons I fell in love with that sound early in life. I was hoping "someday" to get to Mount Airy and see them.
I was sitting in the music store yesterday lusting over a walnut archtop and the guy behind the counter asked me what "that tune" was I was playing. It was Doug's Tune.
Now I'm going to go to my music files and listen to Doug's Tune!
One the greats! Few played with such fire and with such joy. Infectious joy! Hey played intricate, clever solutions at high speed as if he were enjoying a casual game of hopscotch. The most underrated player of all time. His playing---and his grin---should have been known to every music fan. He lived a joyful life, but his passing brings great sadness . . . another I will never meet.
That's not what I was expecting this morning, one of the kindest and friendliest people of I have ever met. My friend, your friend, Douglas always had time for folks. Good Bye Old Pal. Bad year for banjo pickers and we are not to June. Rest well Douglas
Doug is one of my all time favorite banjo pickers along with Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, and Jim Mills. The stuff that the Dillards recorded were some of the most brilliant pieces of music I have ever heard in my life. R.I.P. Doug
What a shame. RIP, Douglas. He was such a tasty banjo player. As a college student, I used to go see the Dillards' shows at the Mecca, in Orange County, whenever they came through town. They've been a favorite ever since then. I still listen to their music.
Here's a shot of Doug that I caught at the Huck Finn Jamboree out in Victorville several years back. You can of course click on the image to enlarge it.
Oh No more Terrible News, what with Earl, Barney McKenna, and now Doug Dillard its been a Bad few Months. What a great Banjo Player Back Porch Bluegrass, and Live Almost Live in my Car CD Player. RIP Doug.
...what a shame !!...."Doug's Tune" was one of the earliest tunes I ever learned to try to play. It was the first tune my Mom and sister though was "pretty"....hahahahaha......Jim Holder,( btw, was a fine local mandolin player), taught me the tune which goes to show just how much Doug D.'s pickin influenced those who heard him play. If you want to hear how to drive a break, listen to the 2nd. one he took on Shady Grove from the AGS....talkin' about shovin' it!!!!!! ...IMHO....rest in peace Douglas Flint Dillard, one of the best....
Back in the '60s, when the Los Angeles area coffee houses and small clubs were the main source of affordable opportunities to see live entertainment, Doug Dillard was on the top of the list of those whose appearances I NEVER missed. In my experience, he was always approachable, gracious, and patient with anyone who sought his advice and direction on picking the banjo. And, lord, what a player! You could listen to a hundred banjoists and Doug's touch and phrasing were ALWAYS immediately identifiable. Truly one of the greats.