By Frank Overstreet
SPBGMA established the Preservation Hall of Greats in 1984 to recognize individuals for their contributions to bluegrass music. We are pleased to announce the legendary banjo player, Bill Emerson, will become the forty-ninth member of that elite group. Mr. Emerson's induction ceremony will be held on Sunday, February 6, 2000 during the SPBGMA Awards Show at the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.
Originally from Bethesda, Maryland, Bill Emerson's first musical job was working with Buzz Busby when a vehicle accident injured some members of the band. Bill Emerson called two friends, John Duffey and Charlie Waller and asked them to play a job the Busby band had scheduled. That event led to the formation of the original Country Gentlemen on July 4, 1957, a group Charlie Waller leads today. Bill Emerson became the banjo player with Jimmy Martin and his Sunny Mountain Boys in the 1960s.
The legendary band, Bill Emerson, Cliff Waldron and the New Shades of Grass first album, New Shades of Grass, (Rebel SLP 1485),
was released in 1968. Bluegrass Country, (Rebel SLP 1489)
and Emerson and Waldron Invite You To A Bluegrass Session
(Rebel SLP 1493) were released in 1970. They were the first bluegrass
band to record the song, "Fox On the Run" That song is
included on The Best Of Emerson & Waldron, (Rebel-CD-1123),
released in 1997.
Bill then returned to the Country Gentlemen, and along with Charlie
Waller, guitar, Doyle Lawson, mandolin and Bill Yates, bass, toured
in Japan in 1972. A double LP, (Seven Seas GXF 27/28), The Country
Gentlemen Live In Japan, was released in Japan. That recording
was later released on Rebel-CD-1104 in the USA. Bill joined the
US Navy in 1973 where he founded the group "Country Current."
Bill retired from the US Navy in 1993.
Two dynamic albums, Tennessee 1949, (Webco WLPS 0123), released
in 1987 and Dixie In My Eye, (Webco WLPS 0128), released
in 1989, were recorded by Bill Emerson and his long time friend
and songwriter, Pete Goble. Emerson & Goble, Webco Classics
Volume One, (WEB-CD-6001) released in 1995, contains fourteen
songs from those albums. "Tennessee 1949" was the Song
Of The Year at the International Bluegrass Music Association
(IBMA) Awards Show in 1989. Bill was the original owner of Webco
Records. His son, John, operated the company until it was sold to
Pinecastle Records in Orlando, Florida in 1994.
Bill Emerson recorded several critically acclaimed solo albums:
Banjo Pickin' And Hot Fiddlin' Volume One, (Kim-Pat ST7558),
released in 1963, Banjo Pickin' And Hot Fiddlin' Volume Two
(Cornet CX 200), released in 1964, Home Of the Red Fox, (Rebel
1651), released in 1987, Gold Plated Banjo, (Rebel CD 1671),
released in 1990 and Reunion (Webco CD 0140), released in
1992. Acutab Publications of Roanoke, Virginia published the Bill
Emerson Acutab Transcriptions, Volume One, in 1996.
Awards previously earned by Bill Emerson include National Banjo
Champion in 1959, and Muleskinner News Banjo Player Of the
Year in 1972 and 1973. Bill was elected to the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980.
Throughout his career that spanned five decades, Bill Emerson's
banjo playing has been recognized for the distinctive tone, proper
volume and perfectly spaced notes. He is also an excellent harmony
singer. Bill was active in bluegrass music until his retirement
in June 1999.