The Country Gentlemen -- whose best-known lineup included Eddie Adcock, John Duffey, Tom Gray and Charlie Waller -- was one of the premiere bluegrass bands of the 1960s folk revival, and one of the driving forces behind the "progressive" bluegrass sound, the introduction of contemporary folk and country themes into the more traditional mountain music style. Over nearly five decades, the group was a proving ground for a number of musicians, including banjoist Bill Emerson, mandolinist Jimmy Gaudreau, singer Doyle Lawson, songwriter Randall Hylton, dobroists Mike Auldridge and Jerry Douglas, and a young Ricky Skaggs, among others. Charlie Waller (1935-2004) was the band's anchor, the one constant member from 1957 until his death in 2004. Here's a look at the group's legacy...
The Country Gentlemen "Country Songs Old & New" (Folkways, 1960)
The first album by the Country Gentlemen firmly established them as leading lights of the East Coast's bluegrass revival... The group had been performing for several years by the time this came out, and their professionalism comes through. Great stuff that holds up through the years.
The Country Gentlemen "Folk Songs And Bluegrass" (Folkways, 1961)
More dazzling truegrass... In retrospect, these earnest performances of old standards such as "Train 45," "Little Bessie," and "Prison Walls Of Love" sound a bit callow, the work of a young band approaching an old-world canon with great reverence and an impressive depth of knowledge, yet still a little wet behind the ears. On the other hand, John Duffey's original compositions, including "Victim To The Tomb" and "Wear A Red Rose," are impressive pieces of work, and show him as a master, not merely a student of the style. They've all become standards over the years, and these early versions are quite nice. The thing about the Gentlemen, though, is that they only got better and more soulful as time went on. From this promising debut to their decades together and working solo, none of these guys ever hit a false note.
The Country Gentlemen "Bluegrass At Carnegie Hall" (Starday/Gusto, 1962)
(John Duffy &) The Country Gentlemen "Blue Grass Hootenanny" (Design, 1963) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "On The Road (And More)" (Smithsonian Folkways, 1963/2001)
Live recordings made as the Gentlemen cut a swath through the booming '60s Folk scene. The sound quality is okay -- everything is clear, although there's a bit of echo from the large halls they were in, and almost every solo elicits an earnest round of applause from the appreciative fans. Nice chance to hear these guys in action, and they were pretty darn good. The CD reissue adds about a half dozen tracks that weren't on the original LP version.
The Country Gentlemen "Folk Session Inside" (Mercury, 1963)
The Country Gentlemen "Bringing Mary Home" (Rebel, 1966) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "The Traveler" (Rebel, 1968) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "Play It Like It Is" (Rebel, 1969) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "New Look, New Sound" (Rebel, 1970) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "One Wide River To Cross" (Rebel, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Charles R. Freeland & Roy Homer)
A swell, all-gospel album featuring the lineup of Bill Emerson, Jimmy Gaudreau, bassist Bill Yates and of course Charlie Waller on guitar. The repertoire is packed with great material, including a couple of Louvin Brothers tunes, Reno & Smiley's "Using My Bible For A Roadmap," several traditional hymns done up bluegrass style and the zippy title track, which kicks the album off. Everything is played in the same rollicking fast tempo, with little variation in delivery or tone. But it's heartfelt and fun... a nice, if slightly monochromatic spiritual set!
The Country Gentlemen "Sound Off" (Rebel, 1971) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "The Award Winning Country Gentlemen" (Rebel, 1972)
The Country Gentlemen "Going Back To The Blue Ridge Mountains" (Folkways, 1973)
The Country Gentlemen "Yesterday & Today Volume 1" (Rebel, 1973) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "Yesterday & Today Volume 2" (Rebel, 1973) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "The Country Gentlemen: Featuring Ricky Skaggs On Fiddle" (Vanguard, 1973)
Future bluegrass and Nashville Top 40 star Ricky Skaggs briefly dropped in for a stint with the Gentlemen after his celebrated tenure with the Ralph Stanley band... This version of the band also included Doyle Lawson and Bill Emerson, and served as a springboard for Skaggs into the progressive bluegrass world.
The Country Gentlemen "Yesterday & Today Volume 3" (Rebel, 1974) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "Remembrances & Forecasts" (Vanguard, 1974) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "Live In Japan" (Seven Seas, 1975)
The Country Gentlemen "Joe's Last Train" (Rebel, 1976)
A fine set of straight-ahead progressive bluegrass from the early 'Seventies. This edition of the band featured a young Doyle Lawson, along with Charlie Waller and the boys... a couple of tunes hint at Lawson's future as a major proponent of bluegrass gospel, particularly the fine a capella harmonies of "Lord Don't Leave Me Here," which closes the album. This album isn't dazzling or flashy, it's just a fine, solid effort by one of the most talented and professional bands of the bluegrass revival... Definitely worth checking out!
The Country Gentlemen "Calling My Children Home" (Rebel, 1978)
The Country Gentlemen "25 Years" (Rebel, 1980)
The Country Gentlemen "Sit Down, Young Stranger" (Sugar Hill, 1980) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "River Bottom" (Sugar Hill, 1981) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "Good As Gold" (Sugar Hill, 1983) (LP)
The Country Gentlemen "Return Engagement" (Rebel, 1988)
The Country Gentlemen "Classic Country Gents Reunion" (Sugar Hill, 1989)
The Country Gentlemen "Nashville Jail" (Copper Creek, 1990)
Reissue of an unreleased album that was shelved by the Mercury label in 1964...
The Country Gentlemen "Let The Light Shine Down" (Rebel, 1991)
A gospel album...
The Country Gentlemen "New Horizon" (Rebel, 1992)
The Country Gentlemen "Sugar Hill Collection" (Sugar Hill, 1995)
The Country Gentlemen "Souvenirs" (Rebel, 1995)
The Country Gentlemen "Early Rebel Recordings: 1962-1971" (Rebel, 1998)
The Country Gentlemen "High Lonesome" (Starday, 1998)
A 2-CD set...
The Country Gentlemen "Crying In The Chapel" (Freeland, 2001)
The Country Gentlemen "On The Road...And More" (Smithsonian Folkways, 2001)
The Country Gentlemen "The Complete Vanguard Recordings" (Vanguard, 2002)
The Country Gentlemen "45 Years Of Memories" (Pinecastle, 2002)
The Country Gentlemen "Can't You Hear Me Callin' -- Early Classics: 1963-1969" (Rebel, 2003)
The Country Gentlemen "Songs Of The American Spirit" (Pinecastle, 2004)
Randy Waller & The Country Gentlemen "Keeper Of The Flame" (Lendel, 2006)
Eddie Adcock/Jimmy Gaudreau/Randy Waller/Tom Gray "The Country Gentlemen Reunion Band"
(Produced by Eddie & Martha Adcock)
Hick Music Index