In 2007, Mike Auldridge received the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award. The presentation of this award, made by Rob Ickes, summarized Mike’s enormous contributions to music and to the dobro. Here is the text of that presentation.
Mike Auldridge has described his life’s course as follows: “Josh Graves basically defined what I was going to do with my life when I was 14 years old. That first encounter sealed my fate.”
Today, we pay tribute to the lifetime achievements that 14-year-old went on to attain, and to a man who has himself inspired and sealed the fate of so many others, myself included.
Listen to these opening notes of “Tennessee Stud” from Mike’s first solo album, Dobro, released in 1972. From those first few bars, it was clear: Mike Auldridge had set a new standard for tone on the Dobro. To this day, that tone is the holy grail of contemporary resophonic guitar players.
This seminal album, along with his performances and other recordings in the ’60s and ’70s, provided early evidence of the significant innovations that would form his rich legacy not only to the world of the Dobro, but also to bluegrass music and to music in general.
He stretched the boundaries of the instrument in terms of technique, musical vision and elegant taste firmly rooted in a “less is more” ethic.
He stretched the reach of the instrument by performing with such varied musicians as Linda Ronstadt, Lowell George, Emmylou Harris, Vassar Clements and Tony Rice.
He embraced nontraditional instrumentation such as drums along with nontraditional repertoire. As Jerry Douglas has observed, “His gift to us has been the grace and effortless adaptation to all forms of music, always keeping his bluegrass roots showing.”
His musical collaborations have included such notable bands as Emerson & Waldron; Cliff Waldron and New Shades of Grass; The Seldom Scene, of which Mike was a founding member; Chesapeake; Auldridge, Bennett & Gaudreau; and his current bands, John Starling & Carolina Star and the Good Deale Bluegrass Band.
In addition to his legacy on the 6-string Dobro, his passions have also led him to create a strong body of work on the 8-string resophonic guitar and pedal steel, including collaborations with Jeff Newman, Hal Rugg & Jim Heffernan. This clip from “Little Rock Getaway” is from his highly influential 1988 album, Eight-String Swing. (Music: Little Rock Getaway, 00:00 to 00:20 )
It is also worth noting that his love of the instrument gave rise to a collaboration with Paul Beard to produce a signature resophonic guitar, in both 6- and 8-string versions, that incorporates Mike’s aesthetic and sonic values.
Today Mike carries within him, in full force, the passion he developed for the Dobro in his early years. His active schedule guarantees many additions to a substantial body of work in times to come. But it is fitting to pause today, with the international bluegrass community gathered together, to recognize the distinguished achievements of one of the foremost musical masters of our times: Mike Auldridge.