Sunday Bluegrass: Vassar Clements

Words By J-man

To many he was known as the "Father of Hillbilly Jazz" for his ability to blend and mesh many styles of music. There is no denying, he was a legend. Playing with Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys, he quickly became one of the most innovative and interesting fiddle players in all of bluegrass music. Even given the circumstances, Vassar maintained blue-collar jobs including plumbing at The Kennedy Space Center, working at a paper mill and working as a switchman for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.

As the fifties turned into the sixties, Vassar was playing with Jim and Jesse & the Virginia Boys and became one of the most sought after studio musicians on the scene. He was picked up by John Hartford and then innovator Earl Scruggs before things began to shift. He began to step outside of his normal sit-ins, to play with bands like the Grateful Dead. In 1974 that experience helped to spawn Old and in The Way with Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Peter Rowan and John Kahn. Old and in The Way has become a story of legends that features the crossover from the traditional bluegrass realm into the jam world.

The rest was history. Vassar went on to touch the lives of countless musicians and listeners from around the world. Vassar will always be remembered as not only one of the greats, but one of the nicest folks as well. Check out all that was Vassar Clements and allow him to pull at your heartstrings!


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