John Duffey

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John Duffey
Birth nameJohn Humbird Duffey Jr.
Born(1934-03-04)March 4, 1934
Washington, D.C.
United States
DiedDecember 10, 1996(1996-12-10) (aged 62)
Arlington, Virginia
United States
Instrument(s)Vocals, mandolin, dobro, guitar
Years active1957–1996
LabelsStarday, Sugar Hill Records, Rebel Records, Folkways, Mercury

John Humbird Duffey Jr. (March 4, 1934 – December 10, 1996) was a Washington D.C. based bluegrass musician.[1]

Duffey was born in Washington, D.C., and lived nearly all his life in the Washington D.C. area. He graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in suburban Maryland.[2] Duffey learned to play the mandolin, dobro, and guitar, in addition to his tenor singing voice. He founded two of the most influential groups in bluegrass, The Country Gentlemen and The Seldom Scene.[3][4][5] His tastes and sources were eclectic, often raiding folk song books and Protestant hymnals for material. He embraced the music of Bob Dylan and his style of playing was rock and jazz-inflected. In the late 1950s and the 1960s, he also increasingly began working as a session musician to supplement his income.[2]

The son of a singer at the Metropolitan Opera, Duffey's singing ranged from tenor to falsetto, and was in contrast to the voice of baritone singer Charlie Waller.[6]

Duffey started playing guitar at age 17 after a neighbor convinced him to pick up the instrument.[7] In 1957 he worked at radio station WFMD in Frederick, Maryland partnered with Charlie Waller to fill in for other musicians.[7] That duo eventually became the Country Gentlemen. As a member of the Country Gentlemen, Duffey was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor in 1996.[2]

Two months after his induction to the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor, Duffey was hospitalized in Arlington, Virginia after complaining of chest pains. The next morning, he died after suffering a heart attack.[3]

A biography, "John Duffey's Bluegrass Life: Featuring The Country Gentlemen, Seldom Scene, and Washington, DC" by Stephen Moore and G.T. Keplinger, Foreword by Tom Gray, was published in 2019 (Booklocker).


  1. ^ "John Duffey". International Bluegrass Music Museum. Archived from the original on March 24, 2012. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "John Humbird Duffey, Jr". International Bluegrass Music Museum. 2012. Archived from the original on March 24, 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Boyd, David L. (June 4, 2009). "John Duffey". Retrieved August 5, 2012.
  4. ^ "Oral History of the Seldom Scene". Archived from the original on December 13, 2021.
  5. ^ "Seldom Scene, Often Heard: A Bluegrass Band Returns to its Roots With a New Album". Smithsonian Magazine.
  6. ^ "The Country Gentlemen: One of the first progressive bluegrass bands". All Music.
  7. ^ a b Stambler, Irwin (2000). Country Music: The Encyclopedia. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 109. ISBN 978-0312264871.