View Full Version : Column: How the Seldom Scene Remains a Renewable Resource

Ted Lehmann
Feb-07-2018, 3:08pm
My column this week in No Depression explores how, during two generations of performing, the Seldom Scene has maintained and, indeed, extended its quality and reach to bluegrass fans. The addition of Ron Steward on banjo and fiddle simply adds to there reputation and musical versatility. Enjoy the videos and text. I look forward to your comments. - Ted



Feb-07-2018, 3:35pm
I really apreciate your posts, reports and columns.

I have never seen the (original) Seldom Scene. I have been on stage with Tom Gray and a you will find him an incredibly nice man. Ive also seen Mike Auldridge and he also was very nice. I have seen Lou Reed as a member of the extended Berline, Crary, Hickmann band "Carolina".

What I see in the current Seldom Scene is that the musicians are all very much aware of the tradition they chose to hold up. My hat is off to them. It takes a heck of musicianship to play your heroes music the way they played it while keeping back a certain amount of your own abilities.

Keem your posts alive.

Feb-10-2018, 7:55pm
Saw the SS original band in Grass Valley many years ago, and the most recent one when Ben Eldridge was with them a few years ago at Grass Valley (California Bluegrass Association's Father's Day Festivals). IMHO Ron Stewart will give the SS a "jump start," even if they don't need it! Thinking about it, it's not the strongest and smartest who survive, it's those who can adapt and adjust. Seems like that is what has kept the "Seldom Scene" alive and well.

Ivan Kelsall
Feb-13-2018, 2:49am
I saw the SS when i was over in the US back in 1992,the evening before i flew back to the UK. As John Duffey explained,they'd been at the Birchmere for 13 years & did it ever show. They sounded tired & somewhat bored,& maybe i'd be the same after 13 years playing the same place !. It was only Tony Rice who was headlining, that saved the evening from being a flop !. It was nice to see the guys & to talk with them,but as they were that evening - i've heard far better on their recordings.

With regards to the 'new version' of the SS - why ?. I'm sure that they could have come up with another name for this line up,so why use the old name,when essentially,that's all it is ?.

Purely my opinion,

Andy B
Feb-14-2018, 11:25pm
Thanks for posting your essay with that video link to "Wait A Minute." I agree with Howard Parker's assessment of Mike Auldridge's dobro kick-off on that song. I loved the band and saw them quite often in the early and mid 1980s when I lived in Washington. Mike was my dobro teacher. When he left the band in the mid nineties I was very pleased that Fred Travers was picked for the dobro spot. He's a wonderful dobroist and honors Mike's musical legacy while adding his own style to the band's sound. Dudley Connell has similarly carried on the Scene's traditions while infusing the band's sound with his own impressive musical personality. The current lineup is a great band, and their links to the founders justify their carrying on as the Seldom Scene, rather than under a new name.

Ivan Kelsall
Feb-15-2018, 4:22am
Hi Andy - I understand 100% your comment re.their 'links to the founders' - but !!. That's all they have - 'links'. They've totally replaced the original members. There's no harm whatsoever in them using the 'old name',but why ?. If it's legitimate (musically speaking) to do that,then why don't we have bands called ''The Bluegrass Boys'' or ''The Tennessee Cut-Ups'' or ''The Foggy Mt.Boys'' or ''The Beatles'' ???.

Mainly it's because they simply wouldn't have any credence under those names,because the names are already associated with the 'original bands' - that's how i personally see the current 'Seldom Scene',a good band,but not the ''Seldom Scene''.

Purely my opinion,

Andy B
Feb-15-2018, 11:57pm
Hi Ivan--I understand your comment too, and my view is likely heavily influenced by the fact that I have been a big fan of both Dudley Connell and Fred Travers for decades (Dudley since the early 80s when I first saw the Johnson Mountain Boys and Fred since his days with Paul Adkins in the early 90s). To me they are now part of the Seldom Scene, just like Phil Rosenthal was when he joined after John Starling left in the late 70s. Scene members have come and gone over the nearly five decades of the band's existence, and it's fair to say that there have been a number of different Seldom Scenes, but my purely subjective judgment is that the group's distinctive identity has persisted.

Ivan Kelsall
Feb-16-2018, 4:53am
Andy - Both our thoughts are totally 'legit.' - it's the reasoning behind holding on to an 'old' name that doesn't register with me. I was also a great fan ( i hate that word - it's sounds like something flapping around in the breeze !), an 'admirer' of the Johnson Mt Boys. I thought that they were the best thing on the Bluegrass scene at that time,a step back in time to the ''good ol' days''.

Any band playing what i'd term 'trad.' style Bluegrass is 100% ok with me - regardless of name !,

Feb-16-2018, 6:20am
Quicksilver is a new band almost every time I see them except for Lawson, as is most "professal" bands. The Scene has never been promoted as a " name " plus as in Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver so as any member changes it is still The Seldom Scene as long as it stays with it's roots.

William Smith
Feb-16-2018, 6:27am
Great band but for me without the Duffey that = no Scene!

Feb-16-2018, 8:16am
Version 1 of The Seldom Scene was awesome, and lasted up through the Rebel LP Act III, after which Starling left and Rosenthal came on the (ahem) scene. The band then sported the added feature of lead guitar, deftly played by Phil. Vocally, it was of a similar hue, as John and Phil both had voices within the same sonic register. Act IV is a terrific album, with great songs and arranging. I caught that band at a high school auditorium in Tenafly, NJ in 1980 and at the Waterloo Village Music festival in Stanhope, NJ the following summer. When the remaining original members parted ways is when I lost keen interest in the band. It was a great band with many great records.

Willie Poole
Feb-16-2018, 12:01pm
I have seen the Scene for many years as I live in about the same area as most of them do, I have watched them "change" from time to time with different pickers and there is no comparison to the original band...As Ivan said they seemed like it was boring to show up nd play and after Duffey`s death the only original member was ben Eldridge and then he retired and although all of these fellows are great pickers they can`t hold a candle to the original Seldom Scene...I agree with Ivan that using a different name would be the "gentleman' way to do it but since Dudley did join the band when Duffy and Eldridge were still with the band then maybe he has the right to use the name, I am sure it helps them get booking etc...


Ivan Kelsall
Feb-17-2018, 3:08am
I agree with Mandoplumb re. 'Quicksilver' - but,at least the founding member is still there, as was Bill Monroe with 'The Bluegrass Boys'. For me,if none of the original band is there,it shouldn't claim to be something it's not.

Willie made a good point - having the 'name' helps get them bookings,which has to be a very important factor - i'll touch on one point though that was raided in another Cafe thread - do any of the current members of SS have 'day jobs' ?,

doc holiday
Feb-18-2018, 2:47pm
I saw the Seldom Scene, a couple of years ago at Wintergrass. Ben Eldridge was still with them. They put on a fine show. Dudley Connell has been a strong Bluegrass voice since the Johnson Mtn Boys, & his duet CD projects with Don Rigsby. Chris Eldridge joined them on stage and was a very restrained side-man.

Feb-19-2018, 7:53pm
Willie made a good point - having the 'name' helps get them bookings,which has to be a very important factor - i'll touch on one point though that was raided in another Cafe thread - do any of the current members of SS have 'day jobs' ?,

Don't know about the others but I remember reading that Dudley Connell worked for the Smithsonian IIRC.

Ivan Kelsall
Feb-20-2018, 2:53am
I only asked because i know that at least one of the original band Ben Eldridge did have a day job - as a mathemtician !. I was wondering if the ongoing popularity of the new band enabled them to play Bluegrass full time . Being a banjo player myself,it was Ben Eldridge that i spoke to back in 1992 when i saw them at The Birchmere,

Feb-20-2018, 8:53am
John Duffey was one of my favorite singers. Without him, I just ain't the same scene.

Willie Poole
Feb-20-2018, 11:49am
I believe you could Google the members of the Scene and find out if they do in fact have day jobs...Two of them play in other bands regularly.....I know that the original members ALL had day jobs...That's what helped them select the name "Seldom Scene"


Feb-23-2018, 8:03pm
I have no comment on the use of the bands name. I will say that the link led me into a 2 hour Youtube vortex while at work...

Feb-28-2018, 3:52pm
With regards to the 'new version' of the SS - why ?. I'm sure that they could have come up with another name for this line up,so why use the old name,when essentially,that's all it is ?.

I don't know these guys personally...so just BS/internet speculation on my part...but maybe it just sort of happened? that they stayed with the name.
After all, at what point should they have turned to each other and said "wait-a-minute, where's the Seldom Scene?" (clever, did that on purpose). After Starling left? After Rosenthal left? After Auldridge left?...and so on.
What is the tipping point where it is no longer The Seldom Scene? Probably depends on who you ask...
With the ebb and flow of members over the years it may never have occurred to them.

For what it's worth, I just saw them several times at Wintergrass over the weekend and they were great. Vocally, I think that this is the best version of the Seldom Scene - Starling and Rosenthal both sounded too weak/folky for my tastes.
(although the mid 90's with Connell and Duffey was pretty awesome)


Bill McCall
Feb-28-2018, 4:03pm
Band members change in many, if not all bands. Bill Monroe and a bunch of Guys? Nobody cared, even if the lead singer changed. Nobody objects if the Philharmonic changes members. Lou Reid, Fred Travers and Dudley all played with founding members, so to continue the name seems perfectly fine to me. Saw them at Wintergrass over the weekend, still great, even if the sounds are slightly different. For many things, their harmonies are even better to me.


Ivan Kelsall
Mar-01-2018, 3:44am
Hi Bill - With Bill Monroe,it was slightly different. BM had a 'band' named the Bluegrass boys,so it could be argued that BM 'himself' wasn't actually a ''Bluegrass Boy'' !!. As it was,he was the 'constant' in his setup. With respect to 'The Seldom Scene' - ALL the members have changed,not one is an 'original' - so why keep the name ?.

All this is purely academic - they've kept the name & IMHO,are still playing some good music,

Mar-01-2018, 10:37am
This kinda reminds me of the guy that was chopping wood with what he said was a historical ax. When asked what was historical about it he replied it was the very ax George Washington used to chop down the cherry tree. " man that ax sure looks good to be that old" someone said. The guy answered well it has had 8 new handles and 4 new heads, but it is the very ax Washington used.