Vassar Clements was one of the most celebrated fiddlers of all time, and one of the most revered instrumentalists in bluegrass music. Although he grew up listening to jazz and swing music, he became known as the father of Hillbilly Jazz, Vassar Clements became one of Bill Monroe’s “Bluegrass Boys” in 1949 at the age of 14. He became a session player in the 1960’s and in the early 1970’s after a stint with the Earl Scruggs review, Clements helped to expand the scope of bluegrass by joining in the creation of two legendary albums: “Old and in the Way” which included The Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”
These records helped introduce bluegrass – and Vassar Clements – to rock and folk fans, and led him to tour with the likes of The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers. In all Vassar recorded on more than 2000 albums including those of Hank Williams,Sr., The Byrds, Woody Herman, The Monkees, Buck Owens, Vince Gill, Linda Ronstadt, Paul McCartney, BB King, Willie Nelson….OK, and on and on and on.
Vassar also gained respect as a jazz player by recording with Stephane Grappelli and Miles Davis’ former band members Dave Holland, John Abercrombie and Jimmy Cobb. Considered a “musician’s musician,” Vassar had an incredible career lasting over 50 years that has earned him the respect reserved for the most gifted artists, and is one of the most popular touring instrumentalists the instrument has ever known.
On “Full Circle” Vassar returned to his bluegrass roots with an all star cast that includes Peter Rowan, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, John Cowan, Bryan Sutton, Josh Graves, Jeff Hanna, JD Crowe, Bill Troy, Alan O’Bryant, Ricky Skaggs, Jim & Jesse and many more. Shining through it all is the breathtaking creativity of Vassar Clements. Vassar died on August 5, 2005.
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