May 21, 2012, 2:37 pm
Tim White here, your bluegrass buddy. I was very sad to hear that my friend Doug Dillard passed away on Wednesday, May 16th. Doug was a great gentleman and terrific banjo picker. I grew up in Roanoke, Virginia in the 1960s and watched the Andy Griffith Show every week. One of the best memories I had over the years in watching the show was the Darling Boys! I loved the sound of the banjo and the music of the Darling Boys. Actually, the band's name was the Dillards and they were discovered by Andy Griffith and offered a spot on the show. I am a big Earl Scruggs, Don Reno and J.D. Crow fan myself but always on that same list for me was Doug Dillard. I grew up...well maybe I didn't actually grow up...my wife says I have not grown up yet...anyway I got older and started picking the banjo myself. I listened to the before mentioned group of banjo pickers to learn to play my banjo. Some of the first tunes I learned were of course "Cripple Creek", "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and "Old Joe Clark" but right on the heels of these tunes I learned "Doug's Tune" written by Doug Dillard. I play it on stage quite regular to this day with the VW Boys Band. I even recorded it on a solo project I did years ago. I eventually got to meet Doug Dillard and got him to autograph the first banjo I owned. It is hanging on the wall in my living room now.
Over the years I was able to perform with the VW Boys and many "Andy Griffith Show Reunion" gatherings. Doug and his brother Rodney became my friends. I always felt truly blessed to get to rub elbows with my heroes...most of which were on the Andy Griffith Show. My band has performed at Mayberry Days in Mount Airy, NC for over a decade now. The event is always the last weekend in September each year. It was always a treat to get with Doug Dillard then and talk and compare stories. <<Radio Interview>> He was always willing to talk and was in a great mood. Ginger Boatwright was in his band "The Doug Dillard Band" and she was always a hoot at these events as well. Anyway, last September my wife and I were pulling into the parking lot at the Mayberry Motor Inn in Mount Airy about midnight on Thursday. As we pulled up to the office to check into our room there stood Doug Dillard in his buckskin coat and big cowboy hat. He smiled and we greeted one another. It had been a year since I had seen him. He looked older. I heard he had been sick. He was the same Doug Dillard but I felt that he did not feel well even though he tried not to show it. He invited me over to his room to visit a while with him, Roger Rasnake and Ginger Boatwright. We hung out there for an hour or so and caught up a bit on "new" war stories. Doug and Roger picked a few tunes and it was once again a true blessing.
The Doug Dillard Band did their two sold out shows on Friday at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. The VW Boys did our show Friday night at 9:30 pm at the Earl Theatre across the street from the famous "Snappy Lunch" diner. The big Mayberry Days Parade went off without a hitch on Saturday morning and all was good in Mayberry (Mount Airy). I would see Doug across the way occasionally throughout the weekend talking with his fans or eating an ice cream and just soaking it all up. On Sunday morning the parking lot at the Mayberry Motor Inn was pretty empty except for a few cars. One of the cars was mine and another was Doug's and Ginger's. We stood at these cars and shared stories about this wonderful Mayberry Days experience. Doug gave me a CD or two to use on my radio shows and we discussed the possibility of having him on my PBS show "Song of the Mountains" in Marion, Virginia soon. He was all for it. Just like in Mayberry no one was in a hurry. It seemed that none of us really wanted to say goodbye. Being there is always special and all of us hate to see Mayberry Days end. Eventually we all agreed it was time to go. I hugged Ginger and shook Doug's hand. I asked him to stay in touch and take care of himself. He smiled and in that deep voice of his said, "I'll sure do that".
I did not know that would be my final moments with one of my heroes. I'll miss him.
Nice Blog post Tim!!
Mayberry Days just won't be the same without Doug there!! He was one of the characters from the show that you could talk to and know he enjoyed being there! I remember him at the Mayor's proclamation, donating his T-shirt from the very first Mayberry Days, and how proud he was when he said he'd been to every one!!
I remember one of our first years at Mayberry Days, Steve hung around after Doug's show to see if he would sign a CD. Doug graciously did so, and then took a little time to chat. Heard a lot of "Doug's Tune" when Steve practiced his banjo after that!!
Steve also has a banjo head hanging on the wall in his music room, signed by Earl Scruggs, and Doug and Rodney Dillard from a trip we made to Victorville, California, for the "Huck Finn" festival when all 3 of them were there.
I know Steve enjoyed Doug's playing. So much so, he made him a figurine.
He will surely be missed!