The Dillards Biography

Brothers Rodney Dillard (18 May 1942, East St. Louis, Illinois, USA; guitar/vocals) and Doug Dillard (b. 6 March 1937, East St. Louis, Illinois, USA; banjo/vocals) formed this seminal bluegrass group in Salem, Missouri, USA. Roy Dean Webb (b. 28 March 1937, Independence, Missouri, USA; mandolin, vocals) and former radio announcer Mitch Jayne (b. 7 May 1930, Hammond, Indiana, USA; bass) completed the original line-up which, having enjoyed popularity throughout their home state, travelled to Los Angeles in 1962 where they secured a recording contract with the renowned Elektra Records label. Back Porch Bluegrass and Live! Almost! established the unit as one of America’s leading traditional acts, although purists denigrated the band’s sometimes irreverent attitude. Pickin’ & Fiddlin’, a collaboration with violinist Byron Berline, was recorded to placate such critics. The Dillards shared management with the Byrds and, whereas their distinctive harmonies proved influential to the latter band’s development, the former act then began embracing a pop-based perspective. Dewey Martin (b. 30 September 1942, Chesterville, Ontario, Canada), later of Buffalo Springfield, added drums on a folk rock demo that in turn led to a brace of singles recorded for the Capitol Records label.

Doug Dillard was unhappy with this new direction and left to form a duo with ex-Byrd Gene Clark. Herb Peterson joined the Dillards in 1968 and, having resigned from Elektra, the reshaped quartet completed two exceptional country rock sets, Wheatstraw Suite and Copperfields. The newcomer was in turn replaced by Billy Ray Latham for Roots And Branches, on which the unit’s transformation to full-scale electric instruments was complete. A full-time drummer, Paul York, was now featured in the line-up, but further changes were wrought when founder member Jayne dropped out following Tribute To The American Duck. Rodney Dillard has since remained at the helm of a capricious act, which by the end of the 70s, returned to the traditional music circuit through the auspices of the respected Flying Fish Records label. He was also reunited with his prodigal brother in Dillard-Hartford-Dillard, an occasional sideline, which also featured the wonderfully talented multi-instrumentalist John Hartford.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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