Ben Eldridge

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Ben Eldridge, (born August 15, 1938) is a five-string banjo player and a founding member of the seminal bluegrass group The Seldom Scene. He also works as a mathematician. Eldridge is best known for his scat singing on "Lay Down Sally."

Biography[edit]

Ben Eldridge was born in Richmond, Virginia. He began playing the guitar at age ten and later in 1954 the banjo. In 1957, he began his studies at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. Four years later he moved to Adelphi, Maryland. Eldridge became acquainted with Bill Keith and Bill Emerson who were to become two major banjo picking influences in his life.

In June 1970, Eldridge joined "Cliff Waldron and his New Shades of Grass". Eldridge was among five musicians who started playing in the fall of 1971 with mandolinist John Duffey, Dobro player Mike Auldridge, bassist Tom Gray and guitar and lead singer John Starling. They would ultimately be known as The Seldom Scene. Duffey had quit playing professionally a short while earlier, to resume his career as a luthier and stay at home, so the conditions under which the band played were that they would not make a run for commercial success, and everybody kept their day jobs. By early 1972 they had a weekly gig at Bethesda, Maryland's Red Fox Inn that stretched for six years. Later they moved the weekly performance to Thursdays at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, just across the Potomac River. Starling finished his medical residency and moved to Alabama to practice medicine, but The Seldom Scene continued with a series of other accomplished guitar players. Gray eventually left to continue his career in cartography, and Auldridge later left the band. Duffey died unexpectedly in 1996, after which Ben Eldridge was the only original member left, where he continues as of March 2014.

Eldridge plays on all Seldom Scene albums, and his discography includes 55 albums. Eldridge contributed to solo albums by Mike Auldridge and Phil Rosenthal (who had succeeded John Starling), and he and other members of The Seldom Scene famously backed Linda Ronstadt in a few numbers on her early, more country-flavored albums.

Ben's son, Chris, currently plays with Chris Thile's project, Punch Brothers, and, occasionally, with the Seldom Scene.

References[edit]

  • Tony Trischka, Pete Wernick, Masters of the 5-string Banjo, Oak Publications, (1988)