DOUGLAS FLINT DILLARD
FROM THE PAST TO THE PRESENT
Douglas and Rodney (The two brother's Dillard) made their debut as part of their own family band. The family band played four square dances and pie suppers in Salem, Missouri. Their dad Homer Sr. played fiddle, mom Lorene played guitar and the oldest brother Earl played keyboards. They played all of the traditional songs like "Sally Goodin" and "Bill Cheatam."
Douglas Dillard the second of three son's, was born March 6, 1937 in Salem, Missouri. As a kid he and his life long buddy Bill Glenn played up and down the streets of Salem for anyone and everyone who would listen.
Doug originally started playing guitar at age (5) and he picked up his first banjo as a Christmas present from mom and dad at the age of (15). In 1956 Douglas played banjo on the local weekly radio show of Howe Teague at KSMO in Salem. From 1956 to 1959 Doug and his younger brother Rodney, along with Bill Glenn, Henry and Jim Lewis and Paul Breidenbach formed The Ozark Mountain Boys. Mitch Jayne who was a local radio personality (and a member of The Dillard's to come), invited the band to play on "Hickory Hollow" his Saturday morning radio show on KSMO in Salem. Doug also played banjo for The Hawthorn Brothers and during that time he appeared on TV with the group "Lee Mace and The Grand Ozark Opry." Doug learned his own very unique style of THREE-FINGER PICKING by listening to the early recordings of Earl Scruggs, Don Reno and Ralph Stanley.
Doug recalls the first time he heard the music of Earl Scruggs... "I was driving down the road with the radio on. All of a sudden I heard this incredible banjo music. I got so excited that I drove off the road and down into a ditch. I had to be towed out."
That was the beginning of one of the longest lasting admiration society's in music (which is what Doug has always had for Earl Scruggs). Young Doug wrote Earl a personal letter inquiring "if sixteen was too young to learn the banjo?" Earl graciously replied and he supplied the needed encouragement. Doug, then pestered his parents into driving him to Scruggs' home in Madison, Tennessee, some five hundred miles away from Salem. With courage not usually found at this young age, Doug boldly walked up to Scruggs' front door and he rang the bell. He introduced himself and asked Earl to install the Scruggs' tuners on his banjo. Earl kindly installed them and even brought out this own banjo for Doug to inspect. Earl Scruggs WAS and IS a great inspiration to Douglas and a real fine country gentleman too.
Earl Scruggs remains a motivating force to all students of the banjo everywhere. In 1958, Doug and Rodney joined up with Joel Noel and The Dixie Ramblers. Based in St. Louis this band featured John Hartford, Buddy Van Hoosier, and Joel Noel. (A few years later John Harford wrote "Gentle On My Mind" which was recorded by hundreds of musical artists). Shortly after joining The Dixie Ramblers, Doug and Rodney began recording for Mario Records (K-Ark Records) a St. Louis based record label.
Their first single was "Banjo in The Hollow / You're On My Mind" followed by three more singles, "Doug's Breakdown / My Only True Love", "Highway Of Sorrow / Mama Don't Allow", and "I Saw The Light / Cabin In Gloryland." Soon thereafter billed as "The Dillard Brother's", Doug and Rodney began to perform on their own. Doug and Rodney came to meet Dean Webb through dale Sledd. (At that time Dale was in The Ozark Wpry and later he joined "The Osborne Brothers"). Dean Webb, a mandolin player from Independence, Missouri was a asset to Doug and Rodney's music as he had great musical skills and pure back home intuitive feel for the style of music they were playing. Next came Mitch Jayne a radio announcer at KSMO in Salem who had been friends with Doug and Rodney for a few years. With the help of Doug, Rodney and Dean, Mitch learned to play the bass fiddle. Mitch ahd a very keen wit, extremely original downhome Ozark humor and a sense of natural comedic timing which when combined with his bass playing rounded out the sound, look and personality of The Dillards. In 1962 they played their first debut show at Washington University in St. Louis which captured and preserved for bluegrass history (over and throughout the past 35 years) to bbe remastered by Rodney Dillard and released finally in 1999 on the CD entitled DILLARDS LIVE - ALONG TIME AGO (varese). That night's first performance as The Dillards held such high energy that the crowd roared and stomped with enthusiasm over the sheer passion of the playing and singing that the Dillards group brought to the stage. Bluegrass music had finally arrived on the college campus.
The Dillards knew then that they must go to Hollywood and bring their special sound to the music world at large. So they left Salem, Missouri in pursuit of a recording career in the big city. At that time most of the country music was produced in Nashville. Country music and bluegrass music was pretty much nonexistent in Hollywood. Once they arrived here they found out about a burgeoning folk scene that was happening at a club called The Ash Grove (which had after-hours jam session nights). Appearing that night was The Greenbriar Boys (a NY based bluegrass band). The Dillards took their instruments up onto the stage after closing time, and just like in a dream the perfect opportunity opened up - as Jim Dickson an A&R man from Elektra Records happened to be there and witness this incredibly talented new group fresh from the Ozark's. By the next night they were quickly signed to a multi-album recording contract with Elektra Records. Dickson, who would later produce the Byrds, was impressed by the novel sound of the Dillards. Dean Webb, by the way, had arranged the vocal harmonies on Mr. Tambourine Man for The Byrds. The Dillards debut album for Elektra was called Back Porch Bluegrass as many of the songs had been composed on the back porch of Mitch's home in Salem.
Their next album was (Dillards Live...Almost), recorded at a three night engagement at the Mecca nightclub in Los Angeles. Around this same time, Richard Link, the Associate Producer of The Andy Griffith Show contacted Elektra Records and arranged to audition the band. There was an opportunity on the Andy Griffith show for the right group to play a musically inclinded backwoods mountain family. They were signed immediately as semi regular cast members and came to be known as "The Darlin Boys" on The Andy Griffith Show. Whenever possible, Andy Griffith allowed and encouraged The Dillards to perform their own material on the show. They performed in many key episodes in the show and helped to introduce the urban American television audience to this special brand of mountain music that The Dillards grew up with. With their high energy, musical talent and special delivery they brought bluegrass music and mountain culture to the American television masses. The Dillards did many guest spots on other classic shows such as "The Judy Garland Special", "The Tennessee Ernie Ford Special" and more, gathering really great reviews, and (also creating some incredible live recordings) after playing "The Newport Folk Festival" (which was released in 1992 as Bluegrass Breakdown-Newport Folk) on Vanguard Records, at the Festival they shared the stage with Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers and alot of other really classic bluegrass musicians. They also performed to extremely responsive crowds at "The Monterey Folk Festival", "The UCLA Folk Festival", and "New York's Folk Festival." The Dillards during this time toured with Elton John, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Carl Perkins and many others. On their tour to the UK they received The Edison Award in England for their excellence in music. Around that same time Jim Dickson asked the Dillards to work with him on an instrumental project with Glen Campbell featured on 12 string guitar and Tut Taylor. The group was to be called "The Folkswingers" and they recorded folk and bluegrass songs for two albums released on (The Folkswingers - 12 String Guitar Volume 1 and Volume Two - on the World Pacific Label). They also did another special project with Dickson and The Byrds called "Various Artists-Early LA-Archive Series-Volume Four" which was released on Together Records. Also around this time The Dillards did their instrumental album for Elektra entitled "Pickin and Fiddlin with Byron Berline." After that album The Dillards left Elektra and recorded some singles for Capitol Records (Nobody Knows / Last Thing On My Mind). After this point, Douglas decided to part way's with the Dillards as he wanted to explore some new musical territories, so he joined up with The Byrds for their first European tour. He was featured on their live European album (The Byrds - The Live Byrds on Bulldog Records) with Roger McGuinn, Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman and Kevin Kelley. After the tour Douglas and 'ex-Byrd' Gene Clark teamed up to form a completely new sound, a blend of back hills country and rock music. The band at this time consisted of Bernie Leadon, Mike Clarke, Byron Berline, David Jackson, John Corneal, Don Beck and Donna Washburn. This new country rock sound the groundbreaking band created was further emulated and duplicated by later acts such as "The Flying Burrito Brothers", "Poco", "The Eagles" and many, many others. Doug and Gene Clark recorded (as The Dillard-Clark Exhibition and as Dillard & Clark) the albums "Fantastic Expedition" and "Through The Morning Through The Night", and "Grass Roots" on A&M Records), (Kansas City Southern - Doug Dillard & Gene Clark - Ariola/Eurodisc) and singles as "Dillard & Clark" (Laying Down The Middle / Don't Be Cruel) and (Why Not You Baby / The Radio Song). The musical sound Doug and Gene made together was a forerunner to the big country meets rock sound to come.
In 1969 Doug recorded "The Banjo Album" - (Together Records) which featured The Original Gang of Four - (Don Parmley, Byron Berline, and David Lindley), (which also had an unbilled Gene Clark, John Hartford, Red Mitchell, Milt Holland, Andy Belling and Don Beck).
In 1973 - 1974 Doug cut two great solo albums with 20th Century Records, (You Don't Need A Reason to Sing and Duelin Banjo). Doug also was performing in and scoring for commercials for 7-Up, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chevrolet and Visa. He performed the song "Songbird" on an album with the group "The Country Coalition" on Bluesway Records of whcih the band members were Peggy and Dick Bradley, John Kurtz, and David Jackson. Doug signed on as a regular cast member on "Music Country USA", a Nashville based television show on which he performed the Theme Song - "Runaway Country." He was seen in a recurrent guest spot on "The Dean Martin Show. In the late 1970s John Hartford would do a few albums in Nashville with Douglas and Rodney called Dillard-Hartford-Dillard, and also "Glittergrass Hollywood Strings / Permanent Wave" for Flying Fish Records. In 1976 Doug recorded a single produced by Harry Nilsson for Warner Bros Records called "Goin Down / Poor Old Slave". In 1979 Douglas recorded as a solo artist for Flying Fish Records and released two very classic stellar banjo albums, "Jackrabbit" and "Heaven." Also on Flying Fish Records in the mid 1980s Doug formed "The Doug Dillard Band" with Ginger Boatwright on vocals, Roger Rasnake, Jonathan Yudkin and David Grier, and they recorded and released "Heartbreak Hotel" produced by Rodney Dillard. This album was nominated for the Folk-Bluegrass Grammy award in 1988. The Doug Dillard Band also recorded and released the album "What's That?" featuring guests such as David Grisman, Vassar Clements, Rodney Dillard, Mark Howard, Joe Osborne, Buddy Spicher, Gordon Stinson and John Probst. This album was later compiled with "Heartbreak Hotel" as a single CD set. It's interesting to note that Douglas and Rodney can be seen briefly in the Bette Midler movie "The Rose", playing musicians in Harry Dean Stanton's Band. The Original Dillards appear together in the video documentary - "A Night In The Ozarks" produced by John McEuen. The Dillards also have performed onstage with many great artists such as Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Earl Scruggs, and on many television shows such as Austin City Limits, Nashville Now, Grand Old Opry, and TV Specials and talk shows including Don Kirshners Rock Concert.
Douglas Dillard's extremely extensive session work includes albums with Hoyt Axton, Johnny Cash, Arlo Guthrie, Vassar Clements, Harry Nilsson, Bob Lind, Linda Ronstadt, Kay Starr, John Hartford, Glen Campbell, The Monkees, Aztec Two Step, Gene Clark with The Gosden Brothers, The Byrds, Judie Sill, Jess Pearson, James Lee Stanley, Steven Fromholz, Tom Pacheco, Michael Melford, Paul Hann, Michael Martin Murphey, Woody Guthrie, Ray Park, John Anderson, Larry Groce, Michael Nesmith, Ron Davies, Jim Ringer, Millenium, Hayseed, Larry Perkins, Byron Berline and The Beach Boys. He was also featured on Ginger Boatwright's album "Fertile Ground" on Flying Fish Records. Douglas has worked on countless motion picture's both scoring and performing in many such as Bonnie & Clyde, Junior Bonner, Vanishing Point (Soundtrack-Vanishing Point on London Records), The Honker's, Bunny O'Hare, the list goes on. His song's "Banjo In The Hollow" and "Doug's Tune" are featured in the movie, "Return to Mayberry" as well as many others heard in "The Original Andy Griffith Show" episodes.
Doug's songs also appear on many albums such as "Back Porch Bluegrass", "Dillards Live Almost", "Dillards - First Time Live", "Dillards-Country Tracks", "Pickin and Fiddlin", "Anthology-There Is A Time", "Homecoming and Family Reunion", "Byrd Part's", "American Dreamer / Flying High", "No Other (Gene Clark)", Country Gazette, "Hatchie Bottom Boys", "Hickory Hill", "Alan Munde", "New Liberty", "Molasses Creek", "Dillard-Hartford-Dillard", and "Permanent Wave."
In 1988 the original Dillards performed together with Byron Berline at The Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, they also toured England and did a TV Special Concert for the BBC Network.
Douglas Dillard was inducted into the Preservation Hall Of Fame for (SPBGMA) - The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Of America. Douglas Dillard lived in Nashville and was always in demand as a session banjo wizard. He passed on in May of 2012 at 75 years of age.
Bio written by Lynne Robin Green their longtime music publisher http://www.LWBHMusicpublishers.com