Take a whiff of Sista Smiff and you'll come back for more, that's fo sho!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Uncle Josh

Word began to filter out mid morning around the Nashville Convention Center were the IBMA festivities were still in full swing that dobro legend Burkett "Uncle Josh" Graves had passed away after many years of failing health.

Josh went to work with Flatt and Scruggs in 1955. The Tellico Plains, TN native adopted a style of dobro playing that paralelled Earl Scruggs three finger banjo style. In doing so, Joshwas the first person to use the dobro in bluegrass and he influenced just about anybody you see playing dobro today, including people like Jerry Douglas, Phil Ledbetter, Mike Auldridge, and Rob Ickes.

There's a way bluegrass people say the name "Uncle Josh" that evokes nothing but pure respect and admiration. Besides being the man credited for bringing the resonator guitar, or the dobro, into bluegrass music and into national prominence, Josh was loved and respected as a friend and more than that, a devoted family man.

In fact, one of my most vivid memories of Josh did not occur on a stage or at a picking party, but, at Centennial Hospital in Nashville in 1998. I had just given birth to #2 after a rather traumatic delivery. Mr. Smiff and I went for a walk down the hall to the nursery to look at #2 (he had some minor issues and they kept him in the nursery a lot to monitor him).

We're looking in the window and I looked up and thought I was seeing things. "Is that Josh?" I asked Mr. Smiff. Indeed it was. He had come down to the hospital to see his newest great-grandchild. Josh was not a large man in stature, but, he swelled up pretty big with pride pointing out his great-grandbaby.

Josh had had a number of health problems in recent years. In spite of a number of brushes with death, he was still working when he could and worked as recently as August at J. D. Crowe's festival in Kentucky.

Josh Graves will be missed by countless people around the world. I hope there will be tons of articles and tributes to this legendary man.

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