Doers: Jerry Douglas

Doers: Jerry Douglas

[click “Play” button to hear Susan’s conversation with Jerry Douglas]

Tn_NEADobro player Jerry Douglas is definitely Telluride’s B.M.O.C.  this weekend. He is in town celebrating his silver anniversary at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival: 25 years at the 36th annual gathering of the tribe of legendary artists on a first name basis with the crowd: Sam, Bela, Edgar, Bryan, Peter, Emmylou, Tim – and Jerry.

You might say Jerry is the alpha and omega of this year’s Telluride Bluegrass: he and Tim (O’Brien for the uninitiated) kick off the fun and games with a special duet set Thursday morning. Jerry joins the group who have come to define the Festival (as above) to close the curtain on Sunday night. In between, he should be everywhere you want to be…

Jerry has never been out to break any records, but in fact he has snapped quite a few like breadsticks.

Jerry’s dobro work can be heard on more than 1,500 recordings. Artists from Ray Charles to Paul Simon, James Taylor, Lyle Lovett, Garth Brooks and literally hundreds of other great musicians have sought him out to add the just the right touch of classic Americana to their sound. In recent years, Jerry has appeared regularly with iconic performers such as Alison Krauss and Elvis Costello. (Elvis is part of this year’s line up.) And occasionally he takes time out to do his own thing, such as the recent “Glide,” which he made with a talented band and guests such as his friends Edgar (Meyer, on bass) and Sam (Bush, on mandolin), banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs, and singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell.

If art is a corner of creation filtered through a temperament then Jerry’s temperament is, musically speaking, ecumenical. The genre which launched his career, the one over which he can claim dominion is bluegrass, not just Telluride bluegrass, which is a wild-haired hybrid, but classic Bill Monroe bluegrass. Jerry, however, is equally at home playing country and classical, gospel and blues, ragas and rag, jazz and Dixieland. No wonder: early influences are a potpourri of the best of the best: Flatts & Scruggs, Coltrane, Parker, Davis, the Beatles, the Stones, Clapton and Hendrix.

Not only is Jerry a master of the dobro, his claim to fame includes all subspecies of resonator and slide guitar. Jerry is, in a nutshell, a king of string.

The dobro was invented in 1928 by one John Dopyera, a Czech immigrant living in Chicago. A happy coincidence: dobro means “good: in Slovak. Jerry is good in any language.

To learn more about one of Telluride favorite adoptive sons, press the “play” button and listen to Jerry riff about his life and work.


By Susan Viebrock

Time in Town: Four days/year for 25 years
Age/Place of Birth: Warren, Ohio /53
Marital Status: Happily married   
Philosophy of Life: Treat others as you would like to be treated and be in the right place at the right time
Favorite Books: “Andrew Jackson”
Favorite Movies: “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Doctor Zhivago”
Favorite Music/Musicians: Any music that has a hummable melody/ My friends (they know who they are, so do you) plus Bill Frisell, Derek Trucks, and Stephane Grappelli
Favorite Animals: My dogs
My Last Meal Would Be: Delicious
Tragic Flaw /If I Could Change One Thing About Myself: It all seems OK so far.
Favorite Hangout/Retreat: Florida gulf or mountains of Maine or to my folks’ farm in WVA.
A Really Perfect Day: Nothing musical to do
Most Influenced By: Friends I still surround myself with now.
Favorite Childhood Memory: Measles and being carried down a dirt road on my father’s shoulders, wearing sunglasses with little pistols on the temples.
Friends in School Thought I Was: Normal. They didn’t know I was a bluegrass musician.
Growing Up I Wanted To Be: Josh Graves
If I Could Be Something/Someone Else: I like myself just fine.
Person I’d Like to Meet the Most: My grandfather or Abraham Lincoln
Actor Who Would Play Me:  Ewan McGregor
When I Grow Up I Want to Be: Dave McCullough (because I want to be a leading authority on American history)
I Would Never: Vote for George Bush for anything
What I Can’t Bear to Throw Out: My children’s drawings
Last Purchase: USB volume pedal
Greatest Indulgence: Skipping work for a great powder day
Most Prized Possession: A woman’s love
Weirdest Artifact Collected: Civil War bayonet
Favorite Phrase/ Least Favorite Word/Phrase: I’m finished/ wassup
Fitness Routine: Bending my elbow at 10 and 2
Proudest Accomplishment: National Heritage Award   
Wildest Dream: I can’t remember, but probably had it in Telluride
Biggest Challenge: Keeping it “balanced”                                                                                
Bottom Line: Keeping my feet on the ground and giving myself some downtime.

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