The Seldom Scene

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The Seldom Scene
2007 different.jpg
Original lineup of The Seldom Scene in 1973: John Duffey, Mike Auldridge, Tom Gray, Ben Eldridge, John Starling
Background information
Origin Bethesda, Maryland, United States
Genres Bluegrass, country, Progressive bluegrass
Years active 1971–present
Labels Rebel, Sugar Hill
Associated acts Chesapeake, Country Gentlemen, Jonathan Edwards
Website seldomscene.com
Members Lou Reid
Dudley Connell
Rickie Simpkins
Ronnie Simpkins
Fred Travers
Past members John Duffey
Mike Auldridge
Ben Eldridge
Tom Gray
John Starling
Phil Rosenthal
T. Michael Coleman
Moondi Klein

The Seldom Scene is an American bluegrass band formed in 1971 in Bethesda, Maryland.[1]

Early history[edit]

The band formed out of the weekly jam sessions in the basement of banjo player Ben Eldridge. These sessions included John Starling on guitar and lead vocals, Mike Auldridge on Dobro and baritone vocals, and former Country Gentlemen member Tom Gray on bass. Then mandolinist John Duffey, who had also performed with the Country Gentlemen,[2] was invited to the jam sessions at the time when Auldridge arranged for the group to play as a performing band.[3] Another member of the Country Gentlemen, Charlie Waller, is responsible for the band’s name. Expressing his doubt that this new band could succeed, Waller reportedly asked Duffey, “What are you going to call yourselves, the seldom seen?”[4]

Members' background[edit]

Each of the band members had a job during the week; Duffey repaired musical instruments, Eldridge was a mathematician, Starling a physician,[1] Auldridge a graphic artist, and Gray a cartographer with National Geographic.[2] They agreed to play one night a week at local clubs, perform occasionally at concerts and festivals on weekends, and make records. After playing for six weeks at a small Washington, D.C., club called the Rabbit’s Foot, the group found a home at the Red Fox Inn in Bethesda, Maryland.[4] They performed at that venue Friday nights from January 1972 through September 1977 before starting weekly performances at The Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Virginia.[5]

Rise to popularity[edit]

The progressive bluegrass style played by The Seldom Scene had become increasingly popular during the 1970s, especially Duffey's high tenor and the vocal blend of Duffey/Starling/Auldridge.[1] Their weekly shows included bluegrass versions of country music, rock, and even classical pop.[1] The band's popularity soon forced them to play more than once a week[1] —but they continued to maintain their image as being seldom seen, and on several of their early album covers were photographed with the stage lights on only their feet, or with their backs to the camera. Though the Scene remained a non-touring band, they were prolific recorders, producing seven albums in their first five years of existence, including one live album (among the first live bluegrass albums).[6]

Departure of John Starling[edit]

In 1978, John Starling left the group to focus on his medical career, and was replaced by singer and songwriter Phil Rosenthal, whose song "Muddy Water" had been recorded by the Scene on two earlier albums. Starling and Rosenthal shared their lead vocals on the group's sixth studio album, Baptizing (recorded in 1978). Around the same time, the group switched record labels from Rebel to Sugar Hill. Starling recorded a solo album for Sugar Hill in 1980 called "Long Time Gone" and another in 1982 called "Waitin' On A Southern Train," on both of which Mike Auldridge played.

Rosenthal as a lead singer[edit]

The band recorded several more albums in the 1980s and firmly established themselves as one of the most influential bluegrass bands. The lineup of Rosenthal-Duffey-Gray-Auldridge-Eldridge, might be called as "second classic",[by whom?] as they recorded five albums of a very comparable quality and popularity to the ones with the founding members, including John Starling. Rosenthal proved to be as good lead singer as Starling and his baritone voice contrasted well with Duffey's high tenor extravaganzas. He also wrote typically two to three songs on each of the albums and also added acoustic guitar solos to the group. [7]

More changes in lineup[edit]

In 1986, Phil Rosenthal and Tom Gray both left the band to focus on other pursuits, and were replaced by Lou Reid and T. Michael Coleman, respectively. Coleman proved to be very controversial, as many purists objected to his use of an electric bass in what is nominally an acoustic genre, but the albums produced by the band after Coleman's arrival maintained the traditional appeal of any of the Scene's earlier albums.

Reid left the band in 1993, and Duffey convinced former member John Starling to return to the band for the next year.[8] During that year the Scene recorded the album Like We Used to Be, but Starling did not wish to stay with the band long term. He was replaced in 1994 by lead singer Moondi Klein.[1]

Throughout these changes, band leader John Duffey's original plan of keeping a light touring schedule and staying close to home continued to prevail. During 1995 and 1996, Klein and Coleman, along with original member Mike Auldridge, wanting to be part of a full-time project, left the Seldom Scene to form a new band called Chesapeake.[8] For a time the Scene stopped recording.

Duffey and Eldridge, the two remaining original members, recruited resophonic guitar player Fred Travers, bassist Ronnie Simpkins, and guitarist and singer Dudley Connell to join the band, and the reconstituted group recorded an album in 1996 and continued live appearances.[8][9]

John Duffey's death[edit]

For 25 years The Seldom Scene remained popular in bluegrass circles even with the near-constant personnel changes. But the band was dealt what seemed a crushing blow in late 1996, when band leader and founder John Duffey suffered a fatal heart attack.[8]

Seldom Scene without Duffey[edit]

Seldom Scene playng at the Rivercity Bluegrass Festival in 2008.

Nonetheless, the band was simply too popular to disappear for good. Banjoist Ben Eldridge, the sole remaining original member and a significant force in banjo music in his own right,[citation needed] assumed leadership of the band. Former guitarist Lou Reid rejoined the band on mandolin.[8] Initially the new Scene concentrated on live performances, but in 2000 the group recorded a new album, Scene It All. The Seldom Scene continues to tour, and has recorded for the Sugar Hill Records and Smithsonian Folkways labels.

Seldom Scene today[edit]

Seldom Scene continues to excel in the bluegrass scene and recently received critical acclaim for their work. Their latest CD, Scenechronized, recorded in 2007, was nominated for a Grammy Award.[10]

In July 2008 Seldom Scene performed at a White House dinner honoring the 2008 U.S. Olympic team as well as previous U.S. Olympians.[11] Seldom Scene also played the National Folk Festival July 11–13, 2008 representing bluegrass music.

On April 22, 2014, the longtime pillars of the bluegrass world returned with Long Time... Seldom Scene, via Smithsonian Folkways. The collection features fresh interpretations of 16 oft-requested tunes and is the band’s first studio album since the GRAMMY-nominated album Scenechronized in 2007. In 2015, "Long Time...Seldom Scene" and "Mean Mother Blues" won awards in the "Bluegrass" Album and Song categories at The 14th Annual Independent Music Awards.

In 2017, Ron Stewart joined the Seldom Scene, replacing Rickie Simpkins.[12]

The band currently consists of Dudley Connell (guitar/lead vocals), Ron Stewart (banjo/fiddle/guitar), Lou Reid (mandolin/tenor vocals), Fred Travers (dobro/lead vocals), and Ronnie Simpkins (bass/baritone vocals). Ben Eldridge's son, Chris, also frequently performs with the group.

Personnel[edit]

Members[edit]

Lineups[edit]

1971-1977 1977-1978 1978-1986 1986-1993
  • Mike Auldridge - Dobro, vocals
  • John Duffey - mandolin, vocals
  • Ben Eldridge - banjo, guitar
  • Tom Gray - bass
  • John Starling - guitar, vocals
  • Phil Rosenthal - guitar, vocals
  • Mike Auldridge - Dobro, vocals
  • John Duffey - mandolin, vocals
  • Ben Eldridge - banjo, guitar
  • Tom Gray - bass
  • Phil Rosenthal - guitar, vocals
  • Mike Auldridge - Dobro, vocals
  • John Duffey - mandolin, vocals
  • Ben Eldridge - banjo, guitar
  • T. Michael Coleman - bass
  • Lou Reid - guitar, vocals
1993-1994 1994-1995 1995-1996 1996–2015
  • Mike Auldridge - Dobro, vocals
  • John Duffey - mandolin, vocals
  • Ben Eldridge - banjo, guitar
  • T. Michael Coleman - bass
  • John Starling - guitar, vocals
  • Mike Auldridge - Dobro, vocals
  • John Duffey - mandolin, vocals
  • Ben Eldridge - banjo, guitar
  • T. Michael Coleman - bass
  • Moondi Klein - guitar, vocals
  • John Duffey - mandolin, vocals
  • Ben Eldridge - banjo, guitar
  • Dudley Connell - guitar, vocals
  • Ronnie Simpkins - bass
  • Fred Travers - Dobro, vocals
  • Ben Eldridge - banjo, guitar
  • Dudley Connell - guitar, vocals
  • Ronnie Simpkins - bass
  • Fred Travers - Dobro, vocals
  • Lou Reid - mandolin, guitar, vocals

Timeline[edit]

Discography[edit]

Year Title Label Number Notes
1972 Act I Rebel REB-1511
1973 Act II Rebel REB-1520
1973 Act III Rebel REB-1528
1974 Old Train Rebel REB-1536
1975 Live at The Cellar Door Rebel REB-1547/8 live double album
1976 The New Seldom Scene Album Rebel REB-1561
1978 Baptizing Rebel REB-1573
1979 Act Four Sugar Hill SH-3709
1981 After Midnight Sugar Hill SH-3721
1983 At the Scene Sugar Hill SH-3736
1985 Blue Ridge Sugar Hill SH-3747 with Jonathan Edwards
1987 The Best of The Seldom Scene, Vol. 1 Rebel REB-1101 compilation from 1972-74
1988 15th Anniversary Celebration Sugar Hill SH-2202 live double album
1988 A Change of Scenery Sugar Hill SH-3763
1990 Scenic Roots Sugar Hill SH-3785
1992 Scene 20: 20th Anniversary Concert Sugar Hill SH-2501/02 live double album
1994 Like We Used to Be Sugar Hill SH-3822
1996 Dream Scene Sugar Hill SH-3858
2000 Scene It All Sugar Hill SUG-3899
2007 Scenechronized Sugar Hill SUG-4003
2007 Different Roads Rebel REB-7516 compilation from 1973-76
2014 Long Time... Seldom Scene Smithsonian Folkways SFW40199 [13]

[14] [15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Paul Kingsbury (5 November 1998). The Encyclopedia of Country Music: The Ultimate Guide to the Music. Oxford University Press. pp. 475–. ISBN 978-0-19-984044-1. 
  2. ^ a b Rosenberg, Neil V., Bluegrass: A History. University of Illinois Press, p. 329.
  3. ^ Biography at www.allmusic.com
  4. ^ a b Stambler, Irwin; Landon, Grelen (14 Jul 2000). "Seldom Scene". Country Music: The Encyclopedia. St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 432–433. ISBN 978-0312264871. 
  5. ^ Barrett, Randy (2013-10-20). "Seldom Scene Returns to the Red Fox Inn" (PDF). International Bluegrass Music Association. Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  6. ^ "The Seldom Scene - Discography". AllMusic - The Seldom Scene discography. Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  7. ^ Album info Act Four, Phil Rosenthal's debut as a lead singer, from www.allmusic.com
  8. ^ a b c d e All music guide to country: the definitive guide to country music, Backbeat Books, Page 679.
  9. ^ Carlin, Richard, Folk. Infobase Publishing, 2005, p. 185.
  10. ^ Category 43, best Bluegrass Album - http://www.grammy.com/GRAMMY_Awards/50th_Show/list.aspx Archived December 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Bluegrass Unlimited Volume 42. 2008
  12. ^ David Morris (November 13, 2017). "Ron Stewart lands with Seldom Scene". Bluegrass Today. Retrieved November 14, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Long Time... Seldom Scene". Smithsonian Folkways. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  14. ^ "Chronological". Discography. Rebel Records. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Seldom Scene". Discography of Bluegrass Sound Recordings, 1942 -. ibiblio. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 

External links[edit]