The Kentucky Colonels Biography

Fêted as one of the finest ever bluegrass groups, the Kentucky Colonels evolved out of a family-based ensemble, the Three Little Country Boys. The White brothers (born Le Blanc), Roland (mandolin/vocals), Clarence White (Clarence LeBlanc, 7 June 1944, Lewiston, Maine, USA, d. 14 July 1973, Palmdale, California, USA; guitar/vocals) and Eric (bass/vocals), began performing during the mid-50s, but Billy Ray Latham (banjo) and LeRoy Mack (dobro) later joined the founding trio. The unit was then renamed the Country Boys. Roger Bush replaced Eric White in 1961, after which the quintet became known as the Kentucky Colonels. Their progress was undermined following Roland White’s induction into the army, although the group completed its debut album, The New Sounds Of Bluegrass America, in his absence.

The Colonels enjoyed their most prolific spell on his return. Fiddler Bobby Slone replaced LeRoy Mack and the revitalized quintet recorded the classic Appalachian Swing! (1964). However, Clarence White grew increasingly unhappy with the music’s confines and harboured ambitions towards a more electric style. The group attempted an awkward compromise, offering sets both traditional and contemporary, but this forlorn balance failed to satisfy either party. A new fiddler, Scotty Stoneman, joined, but by April 1966, the Kentucky Colonels had all but collapsed. Roland and Eric White did attempt to revive the group the following year, adding Dennis Morris (guitar) and Bob Warford (banjo), but although this proved short-term, numerous other reunions have taken place. Latham and Bush, meanwhile, joined Dillard And Clark, while Clarence White was drafted into the Byrds.

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

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