bluegrass singer, Nashville
National Heritage Fellowship (2010)
Del McCoury (1939- ) is a Pennsylvania native who was drawn to bluegrass music at an early age and was most active for years in the Mid-Atlantic region. In 1963 he came to Nashville for a stint with Bill Monroe & his Blue Grass Boys. That experience led McCoury to convert from banjo to guitar as his primary instrument, and to realize the potential of his powerful tenor voice, which was ideally suited to Monroe’s “High Lonesome Sound.” McCoury returned to Pennsylvania and worked as a logger while continuing to pursue music. For a time he was known for tight harmony singing with his brother Jerry. As bluegrass festivals spread across the country into the 1970s, Del fronted his own band –The Dixie Pals–and gained prominence as a staunch traditionalist among up-and-coming figures in the field. During the 1980s, his sons joined the band, first Ronnie on mandolin and later Rob on banjo. In 1992 the group relocated to Nashville and initiated a more ambitious national career as The Del McCoury Band.
The McCourys have distinguished themselves by developing new musical material from many sources while preserving the intensity and acoustic drive of first-generation bluegrass. The band has been especially successful in reaching new, youthful audiences identified with the “Americana” music movement, but it’s also maintained a strong presence in the conventional country music industry, joining the Grand Ole Opry in 2003. An active schedule of recording and touring has brought a host of Grammys and other national awards in recent years. Now one of the style’s most distinguished and successful veterans, Del McCoury has made a profound impact on his traditional music form and on public appreciation for it.