The Dillards were an American bluegrass band from Salem, Missouri, consisting of Douglas Dillard (banjo), Rodney Dillard (guitar, dobro),
Dean Webb (mandolin), and Mitch Jayne (double bass).
Other members of the band have included Dewey Martin (drums), Herb Pedersen (banjo, guitar), Billy Ray Latham (banjo, guitar, electric guitar),
Ray Parks (fiddle), Paul York (drums), Jeff Gilkinson (bass, cello, harmonica, banjo), Douglas Bounsall (electric guitar, banjo, mandolin,
fiddle), Byron Berline (fiddle), Irv Dugan (bass), Bill Bryson (bass), Glen D. Hardin (keyboards), Seth Papas (drums), Buddy Blackmon (banjo),
Rick McEwen (bass), Ric Williams (drums), Joe Villegas (bass), Eddie Ponder (drums), Pete Grand (banjo, steel guitar), Steve Cooley (banjo,
guitar, upright bass),and Richard Godfrey (drums).
One of the leading lights of progressive bluegrass in the '60s, the Dillards played a major part in modernizing and popularizing the sound of
bluegrass, and were also an underappreciated influence on country rock. The group was founded by brothers Douglas and Rodney Dillard, who grew
up in Salem, Missouri, playing music together. During the late 1950s, they appeared often on local radio and performed with several different
area bands, including the Hawthorn Brothers, the Lewis Brothers, and the Dixie Ramblers; they also recorded a couple of singles for the St. Louis
-based K-Ark label as the Dillard Brothers in 1958. In 1960, they decided to form their own group, recruiting DJ pal Mitch Jayne, whom Rodney
taught to play bass, and mandolin player Dean Webb. Christening themselves the Dillards, the quartet decided to move to Los Angeles in 1962,
and were quickly signed to Elektra Records after being discovered at a gig with the Greenbriar Boys. Not long after, the group landed a recurring
role on The Andy Griffith Show, appearing in several episodes over the next few years as a musically inclined hillbilly family called the
Darlings. Meanwhile, the Dillards released their debut album, Back Porch Bluegrass, in 1963, and also teamed up with Glen Campbell and
Tut Taylor for the side project the Folkswingers, who went on to release two albums.
Critics reacted harshly to Back Porch Bluegrass; no one in the industry, outside of a few flabbergasted executives at Elektra Records,
had ever heard a banjo player pick as ferociously as Douglas Dillard, and reviewers of the day launched scathing attacks on the band, falsely
accusing the Dillards and Elektra of speeding up the recordings. Their innovative style, coupled with their commercial success, had also
offended the old guard purists. "Their attitude seemed to be that if a group was commercially successful, then you couldn't be a purist,"
said Rodney. "It was like they wanted to squirrel away the music and keep it to themselves like a groundhog." Critics also bemoaned the use
of echo, saying it detracted from the purity of the music. "Since when," one critic charged, "does a back porch have an echo chamber?"
"Well, if you've ever played on the back porch of a house located in a hollow, one thing you'll hear is a natural echo," Rodney explained,
still rankled by the statement. "The problem with those critics was that they were from New York, and their idea of a rural experience was
seeing a dead squirrel in a parking lot."
The Dillards' second album, 1964's concert set Live...Almost!!!, was followed by their controversial move into amplified electric
instruments, which was considered further heresy by many bluegrass purists. They also began to tour with rock groups, most notably the Byrds.
In response to purist criticism, the group recorded the more traditional Pickin' & Fiddlin', which featured co-billing for fiddler
Byron Berline. Dissatisfied with the way Elektra was marketing them, the Dillards switched labels to Capitol, but found a similar lack of
kindred spirits in the producers they worked with there, and wound up returning to Elektra without releasing an album. Meanwhile, Doug and
Rodney were increasingly at odds over the group's creative direction, with Rodney pursuing a more radical break with tradition. Doug
moonlighted in the backing band for ex-Byrd Gene Clark's groundbreaking collaboration with the Gosdin Brothers, and after he and Rodney
recorded some material for the Bonnie and Clyde film soundtrack in 1967, he decided to leave the Dillards and strike out on his own.
Doug soon teamed up with Gene Clark and future Eagle Bernie Leadon as The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark and recorded some
highly regarded material before starting a solo career that remained productive through the 1980s. Rodney, meanwhile, replaced his brother with
banjoist Herb Pedersen, and the Dillards recorded what many critics regard as their masterwork, Wheatstraw Suite. Released in 1968, the
album displayed Rodney's progressive eclecticism in full cry, featuring fuller instrumentation and covers of the Beatles' "I've Just Seen a
Face" and Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe." Though it wasn't a hit, critics and musicians praised its unpredictable mix of bluegrass, country,
folk, rock, and pop. 1970's Copperfields took a similarly adventurous approach, and drummer Paul York became an official member of the
group. Unfortunately, Elektra was still somewhat mystified by their music, and they parted ways again.
Pedersen departed in 1972 to join Byron Berline's band, Country Gazette, and was replaced by Billy Ray Latham; by this time, the Dillards
had signed with the smaller Anthem label, where they landed their only charting pop hit, "It's About Time," in 1971. An opening slot on tour
with Elton John in 1972 helped Roots & Branches become their biggest-selling album to date, but the group subsequently switched
over to the Poppy label for their follow-up, 1973's country-rock effort Tribute to the American Duck.
Mitch Jayne left the group in 1974, partly due to hearing loss, and was replaced by new bassist Jeff Gilkinson. It took several years to
reconvene for their next album, 1977's The Dillards vs. the Incredible L.A. Time Machine, which was released on Flying Fish. Latham
subsequently departed and was replaced by Doug Bounsall, and Herb Pederson also returned for the group's next two albums, 1978's Mountain
Rock (after which Paul York retired) and 1979's Decade Waltz. Also in 1979, the group reunited with Doug Dillard and other past
members and relatives for a Salem, MO, live concert celebration released as Homecoming and Family Reunion. Following that performance,
most of the Dillards left the group. Rodney Dillard and Dean Webb briefly organized a new lineup that featured Joe Villegas, Eddie Ponder,
and Peter Grant, but it proved short-lived; Rodney subsequently formed the Rodney Dillard Band and settled in Branson, Missouri.
In 1988, the original Dillards lineup reunited for a series of performances, and interest in the group was rekindled thanks to the publicity
surrounding The Andy Griffith Show's 30th anniversary. With new member Steve Cooley later taking Doug Dillard's place, the group cut two new
albums for Vanguard, 1990's Let It Fly and 1992's Take Me Along for the Ride. The original group reunited several times
throughout the '90s for concert performances, the final one being at Carnegie Hall in 2002, after which Mitch and Dean retired. Doug and
Rodney continue to tour and perform together as the Dillards as of this writing (2006).
- Back Porch Bluegrass (1963) Elektra Records
- Live...Almost!!! (1964) Elektra Records
- Pickin' & Fiddlin' (1965) Elektra Records
- Wheatstraw Suite (1968) Elektra Records
- Copperfields (1970) Elektra Records
- Roots & Branches (1972) Anthem Records
- Tribute to the American Duck (1973) Poppy Records/United Artists<
- Country Tracks (1976) Elektra Records
- The Dillards Vs. The Incredible L.A. Time Machine (1978) Flying Fish
- Mountain Rock (1978) Crystal Clear Records
- Decade Waltz (1979) Flying Fish
- Homecoming & Family Reunion (1979) Flying Fish
- Silver Dollar Jubilee (1984) Silver Dollar City Records
- I'll Fly Away (1988) Edsel Records
- There Is a Time (1963-70) (1991) Vanguard
- Let It Fly (1991) Vanguard
- Take Me Along for the Ride (1992) Vanguard
- The Best Of The Darlin' Boys (1995) Vanguard
- A Long Time Ago: The First Time Live (1999) Varese Records
- Mountain Rock (2000) Delta Records
- Roots & Branches/Tribute to the American Duck (2001) BGO Records
- Wheatstraw Suite (2002) Collectors Choice
- Copperfields (2002) Collectors Choice
- Back Porch Bluegrass/Live...Almost!! (2003) WEA International
- Pickin' & Fiddlin'/Wheatstraw Suite/Copperfields-Original Recordings Remastered (2004) WEA International
- Let The Music Flow: The Best of the Dillards 1963-1979 (2005) Raven Records
- Doug, Rodney and Byron Berline can be seen in the movie The Rose starring Bette Middler. They played musicians in Harry Dean
Stanton's band and their faces can be seen on the screen for around ten minutes.
- Doug Dillard appears as "Farmer Clem" in Robert Altman's movie Popeye, which starred Robin Williams and features a musical score
by Harry Nilsson. A soundtrack album was released on Boardwalk records (SWAL 36880), the basic tracks were recorded on location in Malta
by "The Falcons" (Ray Cooper, Doug Dillard, Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks, Klaus Voormann, and The Mysterious Karsten). Nilsson wrote all
of the songs except for "I'm Popeye the Sailor Man".
- Rodney sings the Dillards song "There Is A Time" (written by Rodney and Mitch Jayne) on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album Will The
Circle Be Unbroken - Part 3.
- The band is notable for being among the first bluegrass groups to have electrified their instruments in the mid-1960s, are considered to
be one of the pioneers of the burgeoning southern California folk rock and country rock, and so-called progressive bluegrass, genres,
and are known to have directly or indirectly influenced artists such as The Eagles, The Byrds, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Dan Fogelberg,
Linda Ronstadt, Iain Matthews, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Elton John, Fairport Convention, The New Grass Revival, J.D. Crowe and the
New South, Ricky Skaggs, The Seldom Scene, and countless others.
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