National Press Club

Skaggs serenades luncheon crowd, promotes support of wounded veterans

December 19, 2013 | By Audrey Hoffer |

Ricky Skaggs (r) and Andy Leftwich, a member of the band Kentucky Thunder that plays with Skaggs, perform at a Dec. 20  National Press Club luncheon.

Ricky Skaggs (r) and Andy Leftwich, a member of the band Kentucky Thunder that plays with Skaggs, perform at a Dec. 20 National Press Club luncheon.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Grammy-winning country music and bluegrass singer Ricky Skaggs warmed up for a benefit concert later in the week by performing at a National Press Club luncheon on Dec. 19.

The Club erupted with the sounds of Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder fiddler Andy Leftwich, a guest of Skaggs' at the head table and a member of the band that plays with Skaggs.

It was a rich interlude for a few minutes, as the native Kentuckian and often-honored singer, songwriter, producer and author entertained an enthusiastic audience.

Skaggs is in Washington to perform with the Medical Musical Chorale and Symphony on at 8 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Music Center at Strathmore in a gala to benefit wounded veterans.

“It’s a good thing to serve those who serve us,” Skaggs said. “They’ve given us life and limb. It’s the least, not the most, the least, we can do for them.”

Speaking with a soft southern accent, Skaggs reminisced about his 50-year music career that began at age five, when he played on stage for the first time.

Skaggs credits bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe, with whom he had a lifelong friendship, for literally pulling him into the music scene.

“When I was six, I was at a music event in Martha, Kentucky, where he was playing," Skaggs said. "I was seeing the passion he had for his music. Someone yelled out ‘let little Ricky Skaggs play.’ He didn’t know me but he pulled me up on stage by my arm. He took five minutes out of his show to step out of the spotlight and let some little unknown kid play.”

Born in Cordell, Ky., Skaggs credits Appalachia with imbuing him with insight for a good life.

“There’s a lot to be learned from the mountains; an honest day’s work; truth, faith, family and love, which are relevant in every generation,” he said. “I’m 59 and I’ve found that truth just doesn’t change. Sometimes it’s hard to swallow or to face but truth is truth.”

Today he enjoys playing with young musicians.

“One of the greatest things one can do is find someone young with talent and teach them,” Skaggs said. “It has always been in my heart to learn from elders, and now that I’m an elder, I like to teach the younger generation."

He downplayed the many accolades he's won over his career.

"Awards are really nice to have but aren’t necessary," Skaggs said. "I’m more excited about playing music now as I’ve ever been.”

Growing up in the 1950s and '60s, Skaggs heard blue grass and country on the same radio stations, he recalled. Today there’s a distinct differentiation of music genres in broadcast and online. But he is happy to find bluegrass across many platforms.

“I only wish people would pay for it,” Skaggs said.

It's a problem to which journalists are accustomed.

“People today are conditioned to expect things for free” in the fields of music and journalism, said Club President Angela Greiling Keane, who moderated the Q&A at the luncheon.

Attendees of the VIP reception can find their photos here.