While every single interview I have conducted for Inner Views has been distinctive and personally memorable to me, I must tell you that the Inner Views I am sharing with you today will forever hold an extraordinarily special place in my heart. Doyle Lawson, a humble man of God, is a legendary giant in the world of bluegrass music and is one of my biggest musical heroes, hands down.
Cheryl Smith: Could you share with us about your childhood? What are some of your favorite memories to recall from your time growing up?
Doyle Lawson: As far back as I can remember I have loved the sound of music. Radio was the vehicle of entertainment in those days and there was an abundance of local, regional and national programs to listen to. The ones I remember vividly are of course the Grand Ole Opry on WSM in Nashville and the Farm and Fun Time show heard daily on WCYB in Bristol, Tenn./Va.. In the early 1950’s, my dad and mother, along with one of his nephews, started singing in churches locally, and I loved to watch them work out the harmony parts, and I absorbed everything I heard them do.After hearing Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys on the Opry, I was knocked out by Bill’s voice and mandolin playing, and decided that I was gonna be a picker and singer…When I was 11 years old, we were living in Hancock County, Tenn., and Dad was singing lead with the Clinch River Quartet, and I discovered that one of the men in the quartet (Willis Byrd) had a mandolin. I asked Dad to ask Willis if I could borrow it to learn to play.
In 1958, I got to meet the man who became my first professional boss in music. Jimmy Martin was from Hancock County, Tenn. and had gone to work for Bill Monroe in 1949. He went on to front his own band, the Sunny Mountain Boys in 1954, first teaming up with the Osborne Brothers. On the 3rd day of Feb. 1963, I went to Nashville and auditioned for (Jimmy) to pick the banjo, and that started my 55 years and country music career.
Smith: Were you raised in a Christian home?
Lawson: Yes, I was brought up in a Christian home after my dad rededicated his life in 1950. He and Mom along with one of his nephews started singing in church as a trio and later added a bass singer. At the age of eight during a revival service, I realized that I was lost, and I went to the altar and accepted Jesus as my Savior…
The music business can be full of worldly trappings and it can be easy to lose your way. And I did for a good while. But on the 1st Sunday of May in 1985, I humbled myself and asked God to take control of my life because I had made a mess of it.
On the outside things looked – and were – going great, but inside me I was miserable. I didn’t have the one thing I needed most of all and that was God. He never ever left me, I left him, but he was there when I truly asked for forgiveness. That was the best decision I have ever made as an adult.
Smith: Who has most influenced you, musically?
Lawson: Bill Monroe was my first musical hero and then came the first generation of what was to become known as Bluegrass music: Flatt and Scruggs, Mac Wiseman, Jimmy Martin, the Stanley Brothers, Reno and Smiley, and the Osborne Brothers and more.
Gospel music (influencers) would be: the Chuck Wagon Gang, the Statesmen Quartet, the Blackwood Brothers, the Masters Family, the Browns Ferry Four, and local and regional groups.
Smith: Can you share with us about a special highlight in your career?
Lawson: Oh my, there are many to draw from, but I suppose the first-time appearance at the Opry with Jimmy Martin was one of the standouts. I had always wanted to go see the Grand Ole Opry and as it turned out, the first time I saw it was from the stage. I was so nervous you could literally see my pants legs shaking. The National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship award is another treasured memory as well as being inducted into the IBMA Hall of Fame in 2012.
Smith: If you could go back and change one thing about your life, so far, what would it be?
Lawson: I wouldn’t want to go back and change anything because it could be that I would make it worse the second time. My belief is that when you humble yourself and pray for forgiveness of your transgressions, it’s done and one should not beat themselves up and be remorseful of their past mistakes. God forgives and forgets and we should be joyfully accepting of that. And I thank him for loving his children.
Smith: What advice would you give to the person who dreams of becoming a bluegrass musician/singer?
Lawson: It’s not an easy thing to accomplish and one must have what I call the three P’s: Practice, Patience, and Perseverance. That applies to any genre of music one undertakes. And remember the first reason to play music is for the love of the music. Money is a necessity but it should be the second reason for what one is doing. In my early days of music, I and most everyone else had day jobs to supplement our income. But the music was first.
Smith: How can we pray for you at this season of life?
Lawson: My hope and prayer is that the way I carry myself in the public eye is pleasing to God and the folks who see me. I appreciate your prayers as well.
If you would like to learn more about Doyle Lawson and his band, Quicksilver, go to www.doylelawson.com. The feature above is an abridged version of Cheryl Smith’s interview with Doyle Lawson. For the complete interview, visit https://www.homespundevotions.com/2018/12/the-inner-views-of-doyle-lawson.html
By Cheryl Smith
First published by SGNScoops Magazine in December 2018
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