Josh Graves

Uncle Josh Graves revolutionized the role of the Dobro in country and bluegrass. An extraordinarily gifted musician renowned for his rolling syncopated technique and astonishing speed, his seminal recordings as a member of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs' Foggy Mountain Boys established the resonator guitar as an essential component of postwar roots music. Born Burkett Graves in Tellico Plains, TN, on September 27, 1927, he first adopted the Dobro in emulation of boyhood hero Cliff Carlisle, a fixture of Jimmie Rodgers' landmark RCA sessions. Graves invented the "Uncle Josh" persona as a teen while working as an announcer for Knoxville radio station WROL, and upon joining the Pierce Brothers in 1942 he served as both a guitarist and comedian. Stints in support of Esco Hankins, Molly O'Day, and Mac Wiseman followed before Graves attracted broad attention backing Stoney Cooper and Wilma Lee on WWVA's weekly Wheeling Jamboree. While a member of Lexington-based WLEX's Kentucky Mountain Barn Dance in 1949, Graves apprenticed under banjo innovator Scruggs, eventually adapting Scruggs' syncopated, three-finger picking style to the Dobro. With his elegant yet bluesy approach, Graves was an invaluable addition to ballads, but it was the uptempo breakdowns where his lyricism and energy shone most brilliantly.