In 1964, The Dillard's debut album "Back Porch Bluegrass" (Elektra-EKS 723-) stunned the national bluegrass audience. The Dillards brought a new vitality and freshness to bluegrass music, which at the time was just beginning to appeal to college students. Traditional
bluegrass fans were equally impressed with this exciting new sound.
Douglas Flint Dillard the banjo player in the group, brought a new sound to bluegrass banjo with his hard- driving, yet melodically original playing. Doug's banjo sound, with his endless flourishes and innovative ideas, was definitive and unforgettable.
Rodney Dillard, Doug's brother and lead singer in the group, also contributed much to the overall ''Dillard Sound'' with his distinctive interpretation of bluegrass singing that I would describe ' as folksy, sincere and very much rooted in his country upbringing in Salem Missouri. It is obvious that these musicians have a devotion and love for each other as well as their music.
No discussion of the Dillard sound should neglect the important contributions of bassist Mitchell Jayne and mandolinist Dean Webb. I've been informed that a book on the history of the Dillards is now available. It's long overdue.
Banjo in the Hollow is Douglas Dillard 's interpretation of Cripple Creek. It was first released as a 45-rpm single in 1960, credited to the DiIlard Brothers. This song is fun and not too difficult to play. It was rumored that many of Doug's songs were speeded up electronically - not so. He simply capoed on the 5th fret in the key of C and often the 7th fret in the Key of D, tuned the banjo to the normal G tuning, and raised the 5th string accordingly. Doug keeps his pinky anchored close to, if not on, the bridge. I believe this is what gives the trebly, crisp sound to Doug Dillard's banjo playing. Oh! I almost forgot to mention his unbelievable right hand picking speed.
A quick technical note: The banjo used on "Back Porch Bluegrass" was a 1950's Gibson RB250 arch top (square head stock, bow tie inlays). My thanks to Buddy Woodward for giving me info on recording and instruments, as well as a great film about the Dillards - more on that later. Anyway, here is Banjo in the Hollow. Hope you enjoy it.
Banjo Newsletter, April 1996
Jack R. Baker