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Bill Emerson

Bill Emerson is one of the most influential musicians in bluegrass. He began playing guitar in 1955 and banjo the following year, which was when he heard a performance by Uncle Bob & the Blue Ridge Partners on a Rockville, MD, radio station. He was so captivated by their sound that he went to the station to meet them, and was asked to join them. A few months later, Emerson joined Buzz Busby & the Bayou Boys. When an auto accident put Busby and some of the bandmembers out of commission, Emerson and bandmate Charlie Waller assembled a new band, the Country Gentlemen, to keep their booking at the Admiral Grill in Bailey's Cross Roads, VA. They recorded three singles for Dixie and Starday, including "High Lonesome" b/w "Hey Little Girl." In 1958, Emerson left the Gentlemen to play live gigs with the Stonemans, later playing with Bill Harrell, Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys, and Red Allen & the Kentuckians. In 1963, he appeared on the Jimmy Martin album This World Is Not My Home.

While playing with Allen, he recorded a few albums as Bill Emerson & His Virginia Mountaineers, including Banjo Pickin' n' Hot Fiddlin' Country Style. In 1965, he left Allen's band and rejoined Jimmy Martin's for two albums. Emerson left again in 1967 and teamed up with Cliff Waldron to form Emerson & Waldron & the Lee Highway Boys. The group recorded three albums for the Rebel label, including Bluegrass Country. He returned to the Country Gentlemen in 1970, playing club dates and recording with them until 1972, when he was hit in the arm during a drive-by shooting as he and the band were leaving the Red Fox Inn in Bethesda, MD. He recovered fully and joined the U.S. Navy Band the next year.

Emerson's 20-year military stint was spent playing music in Washington, D.C., doing outside session work, and performing with his country/bluegrass band, the Country Current. Beginning in 1988, Emerson recorded two solo albums for Rebel, Home of the Red Fox (1987) and Gold Plated Banjo (1991). He was also honored by Sterling Banjo Works, who issued a Signature Series of banjos ("Bill Emerson Red Fox Model") and gear after him. Emerson released his Reunion album in 1992, which features various lead singers he had worked with over the years, including Jimmy Martin, Charlie Waller, and Tony Rice. He finally left the Navy in 1993 and subsequently released a duet album with protégé Wayne Taylor. His recorded output continued with Banjo Man in 1996, and Bill Emerson & the Sweet Dixie Band issued their eponymous Rebel debut in 2007. Emerson and the band returned in January 2010 with Southern (Emerson's sixth album as soloist or bandleader during his half-century career), a 12-track contemporary and traditional bluegrass album on the Rural Rhythm label featuring songs written by the likes of Vince Gill, Chris Hillman, Hazel Dickens, and Marty Stuart. Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie remained a popular bluegrass festival draw as the new millennium's first decade drew to a close. ~ Sandra Brennan
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Stelling Banjo Anthology

1. Emergency Pulloff

2. Cotton Patch Rag

3. Another Time, Another Place

4. Ticket To Alvarado

5. Roadrunner

6. Shuckin' The Corn

7. Nedscape Navigator

8. Powder Creek

9. Little Juniata

10. In Late September

11. Bury Me Beneath The Willow

12. Boatman Stomp

13. Home Sweet Home

14. Riding The Stelling

15. Apple Blossom

16. John Hardy

17. Trousdale Ferry Rag

18. Red Mary Janes

19. Home Of The Red Fox

20. Shenandoah Breakdown

21. Banjo Special

x

Track List: True Bluegrass Essentials

1. Sitting On Top Of The World

2. Fox On The Run

3. Rain & Snow

4. John Hardy

5. Shady Grove

6. Little Birdie

7. Man Of Constant Sorrow

8. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down

9. Orange Blossom Special

10. Going Across The Sea

11. Wildwood Flower

12. Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms

13. Home Sweet Home

14. Little Maggie

15. Black Mountain Rag

16. Down In The Willow Garden

17. Handsome Molly

18. Stone Coal West Virginia

19. Pretty Polly

20. Long Journey Home

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