The Los Angeles Times is reporting that banjoist and Bluegrass Hall of Fame member Doug Dillard died yesterday following a long illness. He was 75 years old.
As the lead banjo player for The Dillards, Doug brought bluegrass to a wider audience through the band’s performances as “The Darlings” on The Andy Griffith Show. Outside of their flirtation with TV stardom (their Griffith work led to appearances on variety shows), the Dillards had a large impact on popular music in the 60’s: their location in California put them in the center of the burgeoning country-rock movement of the 60’s and early 70’s. Dillard himself got involved in that scene when he began playing with former Byrd Gene Clark as Dillard & Clark. The band that played with them on the two records they released in 1968 was a who’s-who of country rock greats including Bernie Leadon, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke.
Dillard began playing guitar at age 5, but switched to banjo at age 15. He and his brother Rodney formed the Ozark Mountain Boys before joining Joel Noel and the Dixie Ramblers. As a member of the Dillards and as a solo artist, he performed with the likes of Elton John, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Linda Ronstadt. The music world is much poorer without his presence.