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In Kentucky Traveler, Ricky Skaggs, the music legend who revived modern bluegrass music, gives a warm, honest, one-of-a-kind memoir of forty years in music—along with the Ten Commandments of Bluegrass, as handed down by Ricky’s mentor Bill Monroe; the Essential Guide to Bedrock Country Songs, a lovingly compiled walk through the songs that have moved Skaggs the most throug In Kentucky Traveler, Ricky Skaggs, the music legend who revived modern bluegrass music, gives a warm, honest, one-of-a-kind memoir of forty years in music—along with the Ten Commandments of Bluegrass, as handed down by Ricky’s mentor Bill Monroe; the Essential Guide to Bedrock Country Songs, a lovingly compiled walk through the songs that have moved Skaggs the most throughout his life; Songs the Lord Taught Us, a primer on Skaggs’s most essential gospel songs; and a bevy of personal snapshots of his musical heroes. For readers of Johnny Cash’s autobiography, lovers of O Brother Where Art Thou, and fans of country music and bluegrass, Kentucky Traveler is a priceless look at America’s most cherished and vibrant musical tradition through the eyes of someone who has lived it.


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In Kentucky Traveler, Ricky Skaggs, the music legend who revived modern bluegrass music, gives a warm, honest, one-of-a-kind memoir of forty years in music—along with the Ten Commandments of Bluegrass, as handed down by Ricky’s mentor Bill Monroe; the Essential Guide to Bedrock Country Songs, a lovingly compiled walk through the songs that have moved Skaggs the most throug In Kentucky Traveler, Ricky Skaggs, the music legend who revived modern bluegrass music, gives a warm, honest, one-of-a-kind memoir of forty years in music—along with the Ten Commandments of Bluegrass, as handed down by Ricky’s mentor Bill Monroe; the Essential Guide to Bedrock Country Songs, a lovingly compiled walk through the songs that have moved Skaggs the most throughout his life; Songs the Lord Taught Us, a primer on Skaggs’s most essential gospel songs; and a bevy of personal snapshots of his musical heroes. For readers of Johnny Cash’s autobiography, lovers of O Brother Where Art Thou, and fans of country music and bluegrass, Kentucky Traveler is a priceless look at America’s most cherished and vibrant musical tradition through the eyes of someone who has lived it.

30 review for Kentucky Traveler: My Life in Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Brantley

    I have to be honest, I've heard bluegrass and been to a show or two, but to know the history of it or the intricate details, I know nothing. I know a little more now. My little monkey absolutely loves bluegrass. I listen to music all the time and she just loves music. But, unexplainably, she adores bluegrass. So it was pretty neat to learn some things about the music she loves. I liked this book. It explained a little more how historic and life changing the Opry is. I got to know some of the for I have to be honest, I've heard bluegrass and been to a show or two, but to know the history of it or the intricate details, I know nothing. I know a little more now. My little monkey absolutely loves bluegrass. I listen to music all the time and she just loves music. But, unexplainably, she adores bluegrass. So it was pretty neat to learn some things about the music she loves. I liked this book. It explained a little more how historic and life changing the Opry is. I got to know some of the forefathers (and mothers) of country and bluegrass music. But here's what stood out to me the most. Skaggs attributes most of his success on the support of his parent's. It was very important for me to read this now. He says that everything he learned about God and religion he learned from his mother, just by doing what she did. He said his love of music and commitment came from his father in the quite way that he encouraged him and was always patient. I took out of this book what I want for my daughter. I saw how this things can change and form a person. Being a positive, praying influence on my baby is what I want. That is what I learned from this book. From sabersspursandapinkstetson.com

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hogan

    Very folksy aw shucks auto-bio, with fascinating stories about working with Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, and Emmylou Harris -- among other greats. This book is about his music, but also very much about his Christian faith -- lots of religious content. Players and gearheads will enjoy the detailed talk about particular guitars and mandolins and other instruments throughout.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    Skaggs talks about his early life (born in 1954) in rural Kentucky, his musical parents, and his development as a mandolin,violin,and guitar player. His earliest influence after his parents was Bill Monroe, famous bluegrass musician. The book was a good combination of his family, musical development, musical groups he was a part of, his great love for bluegrass, and his love for the Lord. The book qualified as a Christian autobiography. Lots of wisdom: "God calls us to be faithful, not famous." Skaggs talks about his early life (born in 1954) in rural Kentucky, his musical parents, and his development as a mandolin,violin,and guitar player. His earliest influence after his parents was Bill Monroe, famous bluegrass musician. The book was a good combination of his family, musical development, musical groups he was a part of, his great love for bluegrass, and his love for the Lord. The book qualified as a Christian autobiography. Lots of wisdom: "God calls us to be faithful, not famous." "You can always tell a Texan. You just can't tell him much." "If you look back over your shoulder, you'll plow a crooked row." Summary: "The greatest success I've had is family success, knowing my kids love the Lord just as I do."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chuck

    Just about anyone interested in bluegrass and/or country music would be predisposed to welcome Ricky Skaggs' new autobiography. A musical prodigy who at age 6 played on stage with Bill Monroe (Monroe handed over his famous Lloyd Loar mandolin for the performance), Skaggs was featured on a show the next year with Flatt & Scruggs. Later on as a teenager, he joined Ralph Stanley's bluegrass band along with his friend (and future country music star) Keith Whitley; this led to stints with the Country Just about anyone interested in bluegrass and/or country music would be predisposed to welcome Ricky Skaggs' new autobiography. A musical prodigy who at age 6 played on stage with Bill Monroe (Monroe handed over his famous Lloyd Loar mandolin for the performance), Skaggs was featured on a show the next year with Flatt & Scruggs. Later on as a teenager, he joined Ralph Stanley's bluegrass band along with his friend (and future country music star) Keith Whitley; this led to stints with the Country Gentlemen and J. D. Crowe and the New South. Thereafter, following a brief period with his own influential group Boone Creek, Skaggs was hired by Emmylou Harris. Perhaps that experience whetted his appetite for a type of commercial country music that contained echoes of traditional bluegrass; in any case, after leaving Harris, Skaggs fronted his own country band that reeled in a number of Grammys. Eventually, however, with his commercial popularity on the wane and his personal life under strain, Skaggs decided to return to his roots as a bluegrass musician, and for the last fifteen years or so he and his celebrated band Kentucky Thunder have been at the forefront of contemporary bluegrass music. Clearly, Ricky Skaggs is an essential part of the history of bluegrass and country music, and Kentucky Traveler tells his story in detail, adding many interesting nuggets that could only come from an insider. Co-author Eddie Dean (who also co-authored Ralph Stanley's excellent autobiography Man of Constant Sorrow) does a workmanlike job here, usually capturing Skaggs' down-home modes of expression ("ain't", "gonna", etc.), but occasionally lapsing unpredictably into his own voice, which makes for a jarring contrast to the idiolect favored by his subject. Overall, there's a lot to like about Kentucky Traveler. Unfortunately, there's also a lot to dislike. Despite Skaggs' obvious desire to represent himself as a humble man, he seems to harbor an underlying arrogance that often seeps through the pages. For example, some of the later chapters begin with epigraphs from other writers, extolling Skaggs' musical talents -- an unnecessary form of self-promotion that I don't recall encountering in anyone else's autobiographical writing. Far more objectionable is Skaggs' irrepressible Scripture-quoting that in the worst cases goes on for pages at a time, and it's all the more irritating in light of the simplistic theological glosses that accompany it. Granted, Skaggs is a man of religious faith, but there's a big difference between trying to live a Christian life, and thrusting Biblical messages in the face of everyone you meet (in defending the latter approach, Skaggs categorizes himself with the apostles Peter and John). Perhaps the height of Skaggs' evangelical temerity is displayed in his description of a conversation he had with Bill Monroe who at the time was virtually on his deathbed. Skaggs apparently wanted to satisfy himself that Monroe had "gotten right" with Jesus. One might suppose that the great Bill Monroe, whose legacy includes legendary recordings of bluegrass gospel music, wouldn't have needed that sort of intrusion. Why did Skaggs think otherwise? Well, earlier in the book, he suggested that Monroe and many other first-generation bluegrass musicians were hypocrites, since they "sang gospel music. But they didn't talk about the faith -- most of 'em weren't living it, and they didn't pretend to. For them, 'Hymn Time' was great music but just part of the show." However, in the deathbed conversation, Skaggs learned that Bill Monroe "got saved" as a little boy, on an occasion when hearing a hymn from the churchyard "drove him into the church house to commit himself to Christ" -- a "precious moment", which assured Skaggs that "Mr. Monroe was all right" after all. This episode might be taken to show that embracing a faith doesn't require one to advertise it, but any such interpretation seems to lie beyond Skaggs' grasp. There's a brief moment in the book when Skaggs seems to recognize that his evangelizing may have been over the top: "[W]hen I was twenty-six, having country hits and talking about Jesus in front of twenty thousand people, I hadn't learned the lessons that actions speak louder than words. I was too sure of myself in my own conviction." But that insight appears to have evaporated quickly, for the remaining hundred pages of Kentucky Traveler remain full of relentless Bible-thumping, capped by a multi-page homage to Billy Graham in Chapter 20. In addition to his preachiness, Skaggs' interpretation of "clean living" seems hypocritical in some instances, and downright silly in others. He didn't have much to lose by asking the editor of Country Music magazine to eliminate its "lewd" advertising, but he saw no problem in joining a national tour sponsored by a cigarette company ("I tried to explain that I wasn't encouraging anybody to light up or take a chew or dip snuff"). And to keep his song lyrics "clean and decent", he insisted on changing the "curse word" "bitch" to "rich" in his cover of one of Guy Clark's songs. On another occasion, he altered a line by Larry Cordle from "sure could use a good cold beer" to "Lord, I ain't been home in years". Hallelujah! For the most part, the production quality of Kentucky Traveler is very good, enhanced by sixteen pages of photos printed on high-quality glossy paper. Unfortunately, no index is included -- a significant omission in view of the large number of useful entries that one might have contained. Still, its various disappointments notwithstanding, bluegrass and country music enthusiasts will find Ricky Skaggs' autobiography worthwhile. It contains plenty of substantive material, and even with its more pompous elements factored out, it convincingly establishes the high value of Skaggs' musical legacy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jack R. Baker

    Quite an interesting look into the life and career of this marvelously talented musician. Some reviewers cut Ricky down for including so much commentary on religion and the part it's played in his life and while it might seem a bit excessive at times, the bottom line is that I am actually proud to see Ricky unashamed to profess his faith and y for including his religion in his narrative. While it at times might seem excessive, I personally admire that he unashamedly talks about his beliefs and th Quite an interesting look into the life and career of this marvelously talented musician. Some reviewers cut Ricky down for including so much commentary on religion and the part it's played in his life and while it might seem a bit excessive at times, the bottom line is that I am actually proud to see Ricky unashamed to profess his faith and y for including his religion in his narrative. While it at times might seem excessive, I personally admire that he unashamedly talks about his beliefs and their importance in his life; perhaps if we had more people involved with kindness, understanding and following God's word, there would be a whole lot less suffering and a lot more happiness in this world today, which seems to be going to hell in a hand basket. This is a good read-even more so if you're a fan of Country and/or Bluegrass music.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David Braly

    In Kentucky Traveler, Ricky Skaggs, the music legend who revived modern bluegrass music, gives a warm, honest, one-of-a-kind memoir of forty years in music—along with the Ten Commandments of Bluegrass, as handed down by Ricky’s mentor Bill Monroe; the Essential Guide to Bedrock Country Songs, a lovingly compiled walk through the songs that have moved Skaggs the most throughout his life; Songs the Lord Taught Us, a primer on Skaggs’s most essential gospel songs; and a bevy of personal snapshots o In Kentucky Traveler, Ricky Skaggs, the music legend who revived modern bluegrass music, gives a warm, honest, one-of-a-kind memoir of forty years in music—along with the Ten Commandments of Bluegrass, as handed down by Ricky’s mentor Bill Monroe; the Essential Guide to Bedrock Country Songs, a lovingly compiled walk through the songs that have moved Skaggs the most throughout his life; Songs the Lord Taught Us, a primer on Skaggs’s most essential gospel songs; and a bevy of personal snapshots of his musical heroes. For readers of Johnny Cash’s autobiography, lovers of O Brother Where Art Thou, and fans of country music and bluegrass, Kentucky Traveler is a priceless look at America’s most cherished and vibrant musical tradition through the eyes of someone who has lived it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Porter

    Non Fiction autobiography by Ricky Skaggs If you are into Blue grass music this is the book for you. After seeing the Ken Burns special on County Music I thought this autobiography would be interesting. And it was, but I think that if you are a blue grass aficionado this would be great reading, as it is a who's who of Blue Grass. For me I think a lot of the nuances of people and music where lost on me. I did like that Ricky Skaggs is a loud and proud Christian and he tells his journey to that pla Non Fiction autobiography by Ricky Skaggs If you are into Blue grass music this is the book for you. After seeing the Ken Burns special on County Music I thought this autobiography would be interesting. And it was, but I think that if you are a blue grass aficionado this would be great reading, as it is a who's who of Blue Grass. For me I think a lot of the nuances of people and music where lost on me. I did like that Ricky Skaggs is a loud and proud Christian and he tells his journey to that place in his life. Nothing wrong with this book, good retrospective of his life.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lynna

    A must read fir Ricky Skaggs fans.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    Informative book on the life & career of Ricky Skaggs as well as history of Bluegrass music.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Terrie Moseder

    Fascinating history of Bluegrass music and how to stay real in the music world.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Eric Pulsifer

    **Picking? Oh, yes. Preaching? Your call ...** If you're into it for the music, you'll probably be a bit disappointed. I mean, this is a good lively account about the origins and evolution of bluegrass, with lots of stories about the greats. Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, the Grand Old Opry all the way to the moderns, they're all there. But here's the thing. Skaggs touches extensively on his Christian world view. Understand, this is an autobiography and his faith is a big part of who he is, so **Picking? Oh, yes. Preaching? Your call ...** If you're into it for the music, you'll probably be a bit disappointed. I mean, this is a good lively account about the origins and evolution of bluegrass, with lots of stories about the greats. Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, the Grand Old Opry all the way to the moderns, they're all there. But here's the thing. Skaggs touches extensively on his Christian world view. Understand, this is an autobiography and his faith is a big part of who he is, so it really belongs. Besides, good luck trying to separate bluegrass from its Gospel roots. You just can't. Still, for the secular reader, this will get in the way. Even though I am a Christian, I found the music taking a back seat to his faith. But again, I get it. This is an autobiography. It's part of Skaggs, so get used to it. As a bluegrass musician, I picked up a lot of info on what the Nashville and indie music worlds are like, a bit on the recording process, living on the road, hanging out with the Opry folks. Skaggs made the transition from bluegrass to mainstream country back to bluegrass, so this was a fairly well-rounded view. Skaggs has the musical chops and can write with authority on his music. Anyone who ever heard him and Kentucky Thunder tear it up on Pig In A Pen will realize he knows his stuff. As a musician he evolved from six-year-old singer and mandolin picker to multi-instrumentalist, producer and keeper of the musical flame. If you're a musician, I'll recommend this work but prepare for a little preachin' to go with the pickin'. I give this one a 4. If I didn't generally agree with his Christian worldview I'd kick it down to about 3.5.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sam Sattler

    When the book is about Ricky's musical history, etc., it is interesting and informative. Unfortunately, there are way too many pages filled with sermonizing, witnessing, and quoting Bible scripture. I realize that Ricky is a devout Christian and I admire that about him, but it makes for rather mind-numbing reading when it goes on for successive chapters (especially near the end of the book) that are each a dozen or so pages long. I might very well be in the minority feeling this way, but for me When the book is about Ricky's musical history, etc., it is interesting and informative. Unfortunately, there are way too many pages filled with sermonizing, witnessing, and quoting Bible scripture. I realize that Ricky is a devout Christian and I admire that about him, but it makes for rather mind-numbing reading when it goes on for successive chapters (especially near the end of the book) that are each a dozen or so pages long. I might very well be in the minority feeling this way, but for me it easily took a 4-star book right down to a 3-star book. Best part of this one is Ricky's explanation of his switch from bluegrass to country music and back to bluegrass. The man has matured into one of the most respected artists in bluegrass music and seems devoted to protecting and promoting the legacies of those bluegrass music pioneers who preceded him. For that, I wholeheartedly applaud him.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Barry Hammond

    Ricky Skaggs takes us on a tour of the Bluegrass world, which he entered playing when he was six years old. You get intimate glimpses of the greats like Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Ernest Tubb, and Earl Scruggs as only Skaggs knew them as well as his memories of other country greats like Minnie Pearl, Grandpa Jones, Dolly Parton and other mainstays of The Grand Old Opry. There's surprising influences like Stephane Grappelli and lesser known people like old-time Kentucky fiddlers who never got pu Ricky Skaggs takes us on a tour of the Bluegrass world, which he entered playing when he was six years old. You get intimate glimpses of the greats like Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Ernest Tubb, and Earl Scruggs as only Skaggs knew them as well as his memories of other country greats like Minnie Pearl, Grandpa Jones, Dolly Parton and other mainstays of The Grand Old Opry. There's surprising influences like Stephane Grappelli and lesser known people like old-time Kentucky fiddlers who never got public recognition but were just as influential. He also covers his more contemporary friends and colleagues like The Whites, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, J.D. Crowe, Keith Whitley, Dave Grisman and many others. It's a lifetime's journey which he tells in a personal style and explains what it meant to him musically and spiritually - a quest to stay true to his upbringing and explore both past and future and pass on the torch as it was passed to him. A repository of great stories. - BH.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Smith

    The thoughts, history and first-hand interaction Skaggs brings to his musings on bluegrass in this book are second to none. He explores ideas I've never conceived of. He also details his days through the '70s with some amazing bluegrass groups, as well as Emmylou Harris and his time in her Hot Band. It's fun to read about. Readers should know, however, that his co-author really strived to capture his folksy way of talking. The book is written dialectically, which may be distracting for some. In t The thoughts, history and first-hand interaction Skaggs brings to his musings on bluegrass in this book are second to none. He explores ideas I've never conceived of. He also details his days through the '70s with some amazing bluegrass groups, as well as Emmylou Harris and his time in her Hot Band. It's fun to read about. Readers should know, however, that his co-author really strived to capture his folksy way of talking. The book is written dialectically, which may be distracting for some. In the tradition of Johnny Cash's memoirs, Skaggs also puts his thoughts on religion front and center and very often.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David Ward

    Kentucky Traveler: My Life in Music by Ricky Skaggs (itbooks 2013) (780.92) is a retrospective look at life to this point by this generation's Jedi Master of bluegrass. This book contains lots of info that was new to me. For instance, he credits Emmylou Harris with providing him his major break into popular music (as opposed to bluegrass and country, where he was already a rising star). He learned from the legends Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley, and he played with Linda Ronstadt and the legendary Kentucky Traveler: My Life in Music by Ricky Skaggs (itbooks 2013) (780.92) is a retrospective look at life to this point by this generation's Jedi Master of bluegrass. This book contains lots of info that was new to me. For instance, he credits Emmylou Harris with providing him his major break into popular music (as opposed to bluegrass and country, where he was already a rising star). He learned from the legends Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley, and he played with Linda Ronstadt and the legendary Lowell George. Play on! My rating: 7/10, finished 8/21/13.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Steve Peifer

    If you read a bio of a famous musician, it's probably because you like their hit songs, right? So maybe, just maybe, you kind of discuss the songs at some point? Very little mention of the hits, LOTS of big time sucking up to his musical elders because that is what you do in country music, and the last 50 pages felt like pure pad. At the end, this read more like a political biography. Careful not to offend and certain not to reveal. If you read a bio of a famous musician, it's probably because you like their hit songs, right? So maybe, just maybe, you kind of discuss the songs at some point? Very little mention of the hits, LOTS of big time sucking up to his musical elders because that is what you do in country music, and the last 50 pages felt like pure pad. At the end, this read more like a political biography. Careful not to offend and certain not to reveal.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hummingbird

    It was a very enjoyable read. I found it educational as well. I was inspired to purchase a Ricky Skaggs album. So, I have been hunting for them at thrift stores. Found one about two weeks after completing the autobiography. It was his first live album. Will continue looking for more.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Basil Lefter

    A wonderful insight into the career of one of bluegrass and country music's most endearing performers. Purchased the book and had it autographed at one of his concerts. Found him to be a gentle soul when I met him. Rading the book was like having a conversation about his life, A wonderful insight into the career of one of bluegrass and country music's most endearing performers. Purchased the book and had it autographed at one of his concerts. Found him to be a gentle soul when I met him. Rading the book was like having a conversation about his life,

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jon D

    Fine work by Ricky, in a predictable vein, but no less enjoyable and satisfying for that. I would have liked a little more about more recent years, and a little more discussion of music.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Garrett Cash

    Ricky's voice is as clear as mountain air in this excellent autobiography that spills over with his passion for music, family, and God. Ricky's voice is as clear as mountain air in this excellent autobiography that spills over with his passion for music, family, and God.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patsy Crawford

  22. 5 out of 5

    James

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nichole Bolin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ralph

  25. 5 out of 5

    Luke Napier

  26. 4 out of 5

    Christine Ann Roberts

  27. 4 out of 5

    The G

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Carrie Sprys

  30. 4 out of 5

    Della-Reese Bantan

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