|2012 award of the National|
Endowment for the Art’s
highest honor, the
National Heritage Fellowship
Born in Washington, D.C.,Auldridge started playing guitar at the age of 13. His main influence through his early years was Josh Graves who also sold him his first Dobro. A 1967 graduate of The University of Maryland, Auldridge worked as a graphic artist for a commercial art firm in Bethesda, Maryland and then for the now defunct Washington Star-News. He did not start playing music full-time until the Washington Star-News folded in 1976.
Auldridge last played with Darren Beachley and The Legends of the Potomac bluegrass band. Past bands include Emerson and Waldron, Cliff Waldron and the New Shades of Grass, Seldom Scene (of which he was a founding member), Chesapeake, The Good Deale Bluegrass Band, and John Starling and Carolina Star (which featured three original members of The Seldom Scene). Mike was also a member of the touring bands of Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris.
Auldridge worked with Paul Beard (Beard Guitars) to produce the Beard Mike Auldridge Models of square-neck resophonic guitars, including an 8-string version. Just one day prior to his 74th birthday, he died on December 29, 2012 in hospice care in Silver Spring, Maryland after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Mike Auldridge, founding member of D.C.’s Seldom Scene bluegrass group, dies at 73
Mike Auldridge, a bluegrass musician whose broad knowledge of many musical forms helped redefine and modernize the steel guitar known as the Dobro, died Dec. 29 at his home in Silver Spring. He died a day before his 74th birthday.
He had prostate cancer, said a daughter, Michele Auldridge.
Mr. Auldridge was a founding member of the Washington-based bluegrass group the Seldom Scene and, in a career spanning six decades, he recorded with Linda Ronstadt, Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris, among others.
He was renowned for his mastery of the Dobro, a guitar with a metal resonator instead of a sound hole. The Dobro, a trademarked name for a resophonic guitar, is held flat and played with a slide over the strings. Unlike other types of steel guitars, it does not rely on electric amplification. The resonator functions as an amplifier and gives the instrument a distinctively warm tone.
Although the instrument was popular in bluegrass music — Dobro player Josh Graves was a featured soloist in the group Flatt and Scruggs — Nashville musicians regarded its sound as clunky and archaic.
Mr. Auldridge’s work in bluegrass helped change that perception as he borrowed ideas from other musical idioms, including blues, jazz and rock, and helped design and pioneer a model of the instrument with eight strings instead of the usual six.
“He phrased differently,” Jerry Douglas, a Dobro player with Alison Krauss & Union Station, said of Mr. Auldridge in a 2011 Washington Post interview. “He was the first guy to use the Dobro in a more modern way, to phrase it more like a saxophone or some other instrument.”
In 1971, Mr. Auldridge formed the Seldom Scene with banjoist Ben Eldridge, guitarist John Starling and two former members of the Country Gentlemen, mandolin player John Duffey and bassist Tom Gray.
The name Seldom Scene was an inside joke, reflecting the fact that all the members were working day jobs. Mr. Auldridge was a graphic artist for the old Washington Star newspaper.
“We initially had three restrictions on what we would do with the Seldom Scene,” recalled Gray, the bass player. “We would only play one night a week, festivals on the weekends and would only record when we were ready. We would not tour, we would not have a band vehicle. It worked well for those of us who had to keep our day jobs.”
Attribution: Terence McArdle, Published: December 30, washingtonpost.com