by RICK GRANT
At 64, Doyle Lawson is my kind of performing musician. He has been in the business for 45 years and is spiritually entwined with his music. Moreover, he is dedicated to bringing his bluegrass melded with gospel music to the people. Indeed, Doyle and his band Quicksilver make a joyful noise for the Lord and hit records. Doyle is also active in his community. He has hosted the Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Festival in Denton, NC for more than 25 years.
Doyle comes from deep American roots. His father ran a farm. This salt-of-the-earth upbringing included weekly church attendance and singing gospel music, which gave Doyle a strong foundation in roots music. Doyle still tours but not as much as in his younger days. But Doyle’s mission is to bring his music to live audiences with the message of Jesus Christ. However, he stresses that his music is enjoyed by secular audiences, but the spiritual side of his playing speaks for itself.
Last Wednesday, I spoke with Doyle on tour in Virginia:
“Lately I’ve been touring but not as much as I did in the early days. However, after 45 years in the business and 30 years with my own band, Quicksilver, we still can produce a hit record. Presently our latest record is on the top ten bluegrass charts, which is always a thrill.”
“I play music because I love it and it’s tied-in with my spiritual beliefs. I love playing for people who enjoy our music. I tell a new band member that if he or she has come to play music because they love it, then they are in the right band.”
“People ask me if I play gospel fused with bluegrass? I tell them that my music is inspired by gospel but we play a higher percentage of bluegrass. At 17 years old I started playing gospel and then segued into bluegrass. There are times that bluegrass and gospel merge into our sound-other times we sound more bluegrass. However, I make a living playing music and bluegrass or roots music has a broader appeal. I just let my audiences decide what we are playing as long as I can sell my CDs and entertain live audiences. When all is said and done, the audience’s enthusiasm tells me we are on the right track.”
“I grew up in a family without much money. But we were happy. If we felt sad or discouraged we went to church and prayed for better times. To me, music was my salvation. And, my commitment to my religion and my music are one in the same. I will say that the music I’m performing these days is the best I’ve accomplished in many years. I’m having a great time out on the road.”
That concluded our congenial chat.
In bluegrass or blues, older musicians are lauded and respected because the musicians are playing for the right reason-the love and joy of playing music. And, they pass that joy along to their audiences. Roots music communicates strong family values and the love of God. Thus, bluegrass festivals draw families for old fashioned get-togethers like they did years ago in the town gazebo, which was usually the only entertainment, before radio or television.
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver will be playing at the new annual Palatka Fall Bluegrass Festival October 9-11 with a legion of bluegrass luminaries. Call 706-864-7203 for tickets and further information.
by RICK GRANT