Leftover Salmon: Celebrating 20 Years Part 3

Ronnie McCoury - Del McCoury Band & The Travelin' McCourys

JamBase: You've collaborated with Leftover Salmon many times over the years. Can you share some memories?

Ronnie McCoury & Drew Emmitt
Ronnie McCoury: It's funny, last night the Emmitt-Nershi Band came to Nashville and I played a gig and they came to the show and I jammed with Drew last night! We're just really good friends.

I don't know exactly the first time that I played [with them], probably some place like Telluride. But the first time we did a co-bill would've been at a place called The NorVa in Norfolk, Virginia. I'm really bad with the timeline here, but I'm thinking it was about 2001. We got up and played some stuff together, basically the two bands, my dad's [Del McCoury] band and their [Leftover Salmon] band. And from that, it led to booking a string of shows and doing a tour called "Under The Influence." Basically, it was kind of a play on "under the influence of my dad" a little bit. You know what I mean? And we went out for about a month, bouncing around the country together, and just had a great time.

And I'll tell you what, besides the collaborating and the singing and all that stuff, one thing that we got from that is that was the first time that we all really plugged in. It was kind of funny, "under the influence," it turned us into that, too. And my dad, too. I've been playing with dad since 1981, and that was the first time that I remembered him getting a guitar plugged in. There wasn't any kind of distortion, it was still acoustic, but still...Coming from our world, all acoustic, that was a big deal.

JamBase: Was that Salmon's idea, or just a spontaneous thing?

Ronnie McCoury: Well, they were playing all plugged in, and we were playing like we do normally with two or three mics. We play with microphones that pick up from all directions called omnidirectional, that's how we play, and it picks up from two or three feet. So, we were out with those guys and we couldn't get onstage and do the same thing. We actually tried to, the first night or two, playing around our mic, and you just can't compete. The crowd can't hear you; you can't hear yourself. So, one night, Vince just gave Dad a guitar and plugged it in. And I knew by that time, we figured we'd better try and get some pickups at least and see what we can do because I knew we were going to be doing stuff together in the show, not like just jumping up and playing at a festival or whatever. So we kinda had it arranged that we would do that, but I wasn't sure what my dad was going to do. Well, he took that guitar from Vince, strummed across it and heard that volume and it was good! And that really is the beginning of us doing that.

JamBase: Was it like Dylan at Newport? Was there any kind of resistance among the traditional bluegrass crowd, or was it a natural absorption into the modern idea?

Del McCoury Band by Dave Vann
Ronnie McCoury: Exactly what you said. I couldn't have put it any better. Sometimes you don't hear bad news or if somebody doesn't like it, but I never heard anything. My dad is someone who is very open-minded and goes with the flow, as opposed to a lot of guys who would never even do that. To me, that was a turning point for us in the band, knowing that we could do that if we needed to do it.

So, we had some really good times, and on some nights off we'd just go hang out and really bonded with all the guys [in Salmon]. I can't say enough about the friendship we have. And we did some recording, The Nashville Sessions [Hollywood Records, 1999], with them, and dad sang with Drew on a song called "Midnight Blues." A really good recording, I think, really a classic.

JamBase: Looking back on the past 20 years, what do you think that Salmon has brought to the music world in general?

Ronnie McCoury: There have been bands somewhat like that, say New Grass Revival, which is their roots. But what they did is they took it another step and really blended even more different music together. There was really nothing else like it, and there still isn't. I don't think there's any other band that puts that combination together quite like that. Really, with the keyboards and the different sounds with the bluegrass, the blending of the music, it's something that I hadn't heard before and haven't heard since.

Ronnie McCoury was interviewed by Cal Roach

Continue reading for the David Lowery interview...

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