Local Missouri band The Dillards are featured as part of the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Los Angeles Country Rock “Western Edge” celebration, which opened Sept. 30 for nearly three years. Rodney Dillard is the last surviving member of the original Dillards lineup and he will be featured in special reunion concerts, panel discussions and exhibits throughout opening weekend.
The Dillards, originally from Salem, are known for introducing two new musical genres to the American mainstream (bluegrass and country rock). Rodney, his late brother Doug, and the late John Hartford grew up together and spent their formative years playing together at clubs all over St. Louis. Later, in 1962, a newly formed group known as “The Dillards” (Rodney Dillard, late Doug Dillard, late Dean Webb and late Mitch Jayne) played their first professional show at Washington University in St. Louis, a performance that was captured on an album called “The Dillards: A Long Time Ago – The First Time Live”. Soon after, The Dillards moved from Missouri to California and within weeks they were signed to Elektra Records, William Morris’ agency, and were cast on “The Andy Griffith Show” as “The Darlings”. . The Dillards quickly elevated bluegrass to national fame through their appearances as The Darlings and their episodes continue to be among the highest rated on the show. Due to reruns of this show, The Dillards have become the most-watched bluegrass band in history, and many of their bluegrass songs, such as Dooley, Old Home Place, and There is a Time, are industry standards. American music. The Dillards’ pioneering contributions to bluegrass helped them inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Later, they became famous pioneers of the brand new “Country Rock” genre, due to their groundbreaking albums such as “Wheatstraw Suite” and “Roots and Branches”, their breakthrough cross-genre innovations (as being one of first bluegrass bands to incorporate drums, being one of the first bluegrass bands to cover popular songs by artists such as the Beatles and Bob Dylan, being one of the first music bands to layer vocals in the studio and to use orchestral arrangements on their albums), their cross-country tour opening for Elton John (as a newcomer to the United States), their many starring nights at the Troubadour club in West Hollywood, and their reportedly immeasurable impact on artists such as the Eagles, Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Linda Ronstadt, John Paul Jones, John McEuen and Steve Martin.
As the last surviving member of the original Dillards lineup, Rodney will reunite with last band member Herb Pedersen at a reunion concert and special “Bluegrass to Country Rock” panel discussion. “Herb brought a unique flavor to the band after my brother Doug left to do his own projects,” Rodney said. “Of course Herb is so talented that every band in the country wanted him, but I’m so glad The Dillards had him on many of our most acclaimed albums. I can’t wait to be together on stage, where we’ll sing some songs from ‘Wheatstraw Suite’,” he said.
Reflecting on his deep Missouri roots (he’s been based in Branson for over 30 years), Rodney said, “Missouri has always been my home and I always look forward to coming back here with my family and friends. Even when we were touring around the world, I thought about how people in our hometown of Salem and throughout the Ozarks region supported us and inspired us to create authentic music that I hope will stand the test of time. He continued, “I look back to where it all started on a century-old little farm in Salem, performing in clubs all over St. Louis with my brother Doug and John Hartford, forming The Dillards with Doug, Mitch and Dean, performing our very first official show at Washington University in St. Louis, then towing a one-wheel trailer to California, with a few stops along the way, and I’m just grateful. Grateful for this recognition and honor in Nashville, grateful to continue recording and releasing new music, and grateful to be able to actively tour and perform to this day,” Rodney said.
Many other legendary artists will be attending and performing at these special events and a full list can be found at www.countrymusichalloffame.org. Concert dates, historic photos and videos, and other facts about The Dillards can be found through their active Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thedillards.