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Uncle Josh Graves

 

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Birthname: Burkett Howard Graves Born: 09/27/1928  in Tellico Plains,TN. Uncle Josh Graves is one of the greatest of all dobro players and probably the first to have played the instrument in bluegrass music. Historian Bill C. Malone summarized Graves' abilities as follows: "Graves perfected a rolling syncopated style that enabled him to play galloping breakdowns as well as slow love songs or ballads'. 

He was attracted to the dobro as a child on hearing Cliff Carlisle play on Jimmie Rodgers' recordings, and he later met Carlisle, who gave him help and encouragement. He was also influenced in his early career by the dobro playing of Pete Kirby (Bashful Brother Oswald). He learned not only dobro but also guitar and bass, and in 1942, he made his professional debut with the Pierce Brothers. 

After then playing with Esco Hankins in Knoxville, he played with Molly O'Day and Mac Wiseman, before joining Stoney Cooper And Wilma Lee on the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree. In 1957, he moved with them to the Grand Ole Opry, where he first met Flatt And Scruggs. He soon became a permanent member of their Foggy Mountain Boys, initially playing bass, but soon changing to dobro. 

He was impressed by Scruggs' brilliant three-fingered style of banjo playing which, with Scruggs" help, he soon adapted to the dobro. When Flatt And Scruggs split in 1969, he became a member of Flatt's Nashville Grass until 1971, when he joined the Earl Scruggs Revue until 1974. 

During the 60s and early 70s, he played on albums by both Flatt and Scruggs and as a session musician, he played albums by other artists including Steve Young and Kris Kristofferson. In 1974, he left Scruggs to work as a session musician and to make solo appearances. 

He recorded his debut, Alone At Last, for Epic Records and also appeared on releases by Charlie McCoy, Boots Randolph and James Talley. In 1975, he recorded a duet album with Jake Tullock as Uncle Jake And Uncle Josh (he had created Uncle Josh as an alter-ego comic character that he portrayed on stage, and he was friendly with Tullock from his days with Flatt And Scruggs). 

During the late 70s, he recorded with Bobby Smith and as one of Joe Maphis' Super Picker Pals, while also recording solo albums for CMH. In the 80s, Graves, Mike Auldridge and Jerry Douglas produced Dobro Summit, an educational video, and he also played as a member of the Masters, with Eddie Adcock, Kenny Baker and Jesse McReynolds. In the 90s, Graves was still in demand for session work and was regularly making appearances on various radio and television shows.

Josh Graves is one of the main people responsible for the acceptance and popularity of the Dobro® in bluegrass and country music. Josh Graves created the modern sound of the Dobro© and introduced it to Bluegrass Music when he became a member of Lester Flatt & Earl Scrugg's Foggy Mountain Boys in the 1950's. Today the Dobro© is an important contributor to the sound of modern country music, and that can be credited to Josh Graves.
 

Burkett “Uncle Josh” Graves died Saturday, September 30, 2006, in Nashville. He was 81 years of age.

 

 

 

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Copyright © 2005 Ron Hoysted
Last modified: October 28, 2006