Acoustic Music, Bluegrass Music
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Honoring Mike Auldridge

Tonight was bittersweet.

John Starling and Tom Gray

Three of the founding members of the pioneering urban bluegrass band the Seldom Scene gathered this evening in Silver Spring to pay tribute to their ailing partner: dobro master Mike Auldridge. Original Scene bassist Tom Gray, shown at left onstage with fellow alumnus John Starling, alerted me at this morning’s Farmers Market that the folks at the Maryland State Arts Council had added the tribute to their annual ALTA (Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts) Awards show as a way to honor Mike’s 2012 NEA National Heritage Fellowship.

The tribute came at the end of an entertaining and informative night. 

The Old Bay Ceili Band from Baltimore opened with a spirited Irish set in memory of former ALTA award winner Joe Byrne, the late proprietor of J. Patrick’s Pub. Flutist Laura Byrne told of hearing the master traditional flute player Chris Norman while she was studying classical flute at the Peabody, asking him where she could learn to play that style of music, and being told to go to J. Patrick’s.

Old Bay Ceili Band

Other ALTA award winners honored this evening were the community members of the Sparrow Point Steel Mill, the traditional family bluegrass band The Carroll County Ramblers, and the nation’s second oldest almanac, the 236-year-old J. Gruber’s Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack.

Then the current members of the Seldom Scene, led by founding member Ben Eldridge on banjo, took the stage to kick off the tribute.  The first tune began with a recorded version of one of Mike’s beautiful Dobro instrumentals, with the live band and dobroist Fred Travers taking over on the second pass. Starling and Gray soon joined the other members on stage for a heartfelt tribute to their fellow band mate – who played with the Scene for 24 years – and the ground-breaking music they made together.

Starling’s voice was strong as he took the lead on Scene classics such as Dark Hollow. Mandolinist and fiddler Rickie Simpkins added his always tasteful licks throughout the set. Gray told the story of Mike’s slide guitar playing uncle Ellsworth Cozzens, who performed with Jimmie Rodgers in the 1920s, and then sang the Cozzens’ composition Treasure’s Untold. The full band ended the evening with the first tune the Seldom Scene played in public, the Vic Jordan instrumental Pickaway.

Auldridge was too ill to attend tonight’s tribute, but his presence was in the auditorium throughout the evening. His old band mates recreated the magic of his music onstage, musicians such as Mark Schatz were in the audience to pay tribute to his influence, and fans from across the region came together to honor a master musician and a real gentleman.

Thanks to the Seldom Scene – past and present – for a moving, meaningful, and music-filled evening. And to remember Mike’s playing, I’ll end with Auldridge, in a backstage moment, playing – what else – Pickaway. 

More to come…


Ben Eldridge, Rickie Simpkins, John Starling, and Ronnie Simpkins

This entry was posted in: Acoustic Music, Bluegrass Music


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.


  1. Nice article, but “Pickaway” isn’t an Earl Scruggs composition. It was written by Vic Jordan and recorded by Lester Flatt & the Nashville Grass.

    • Thanks for the information, Dan. I thought it was an Earl Scruggs composition because I recall Ricky Skaggs saying to Earl on the “Three Pickers” CD, “This is one of your tunes, right Earl?” However, he was referencing Pick Along, the Scruggs tune that was included on the Strictly Instrumental album with Doc Watson. Glad to have that cleared up!

  2. John O'Dell says

    Mike is the best and he brings out the best in all who ever palyed with him. God bless him.

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