Doyle Lawson grew up surrounded by music in Ford Town, a rural community near Kingsport, in eastern Tennessee. “My father, mother, and sister all sang gospel music when I was young,” he wrote on his Web site. “They were members of trios and quartets that sang a cappella music in churches and at revivals and such. No doubt, that was where I acquired my love of quartet music.”
Radio was another source of music. “If we got a good, strong signal, why, we’d listen to the [Grand Ole] Opry,” Lawson told Blue Ridge Country magazine in 2005. “Also up in Bristol [a community that straddles the Tennessee-Virginia line] there was a program in the late ’40s and throughout the ’50s called Farm and Fun Time on WCYB, and it was there that I heard Ralph and Carter Stanley and Mac Wiseman and the Lonesome Parent Fiddlers….”
But one group in particular caught Lawson’s ear. “Though I listened to all the stars on the Opry, the group that impressed me most was Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys,” Lawson wrote on his Web site. “His music was different, more intense. ‘High lonesome’ is the term we used for it. I could hardly wait for Saturday nights to arrive so I could listen. I decided early on that I wanted to play that kind of music.”
When he was 11 or 12, Lawson began teaching himself to play a mandolin borrowed from a neighbor. He later learned guitar, banjo, bass and fiddle to enhance his job prospects, but mandolin and voice remain his primary instruments. In 1954, the Lawsons moved to Sneedville, Tennessee, hometown of bandleader Jimmy Martin. In 1963, Lawson took a job playing banjo with Martin and his band, the Sunny Mountain Boys. Over the next several years, Lawson alternated playing with Martin and with J.D. Crowe’s band. In 1979, seeking the freedom to play his own music, Lawson formed the band that became Quicksilver. They host the annual Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Festival in Denton, North Carolina. Several times, they have received the International Bluegrass Music Association's Vocal Group of the Year award.
Lawson’s band has made many recordings of classic bluegrass tunes, but Quicksilver is best known for its beautiful gospel harmonies, inspired by Lawson’s Christian faith and love of quartet singing. “The gospel music that we record and perform on stage has always been important to me,” Lawson says on his Web site. “Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver have made many more gospel recordings than secular ones. It is apparent to me that the folks who buy our music and come to our concerts feel, as I do, that there is no better message than the message of Jesus Christ. On the first Sunday of May, in 1985, I rededicated my life to our Lord Jesus. It is my fervent hope that my ‘musical mission’ will lead others to Him.”
Modisett, Cara Ellen. “Doyle Lawson: Blue Ridge Exclusive Interview” (March 31, 2005).
Lawson, Doyle. Gospel Radio Gems. Sugar Hill SHCD-3879.
_____. Heaven’s Joy Awaits. Sugar Hill SHCE-3760.
_____. Hymn Time in the Country. Sugar Hill SHCD-3765.
_____. Treasure Money Can’t Buy. Music Mill Entertainment MME-71011-2.
_____. He Lives in Me. Horizon HR10752.
_____. Winding Through Life. Sugar Hill SUG-Cd-3886.
_____. Just Over in Heaven. Sugar Hill SUG-CD-3911.
_____. Hallelujah in my Heart. Brentwood CD-5398J.
Lawson. Doyle. www.doylelawson.com.
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver performing 'I Am Glad,' 2006 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Strathmore Music Center, Bethesda, Maryland, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver performing 'Blue Train,' 2006 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Strathmore Music Center, Bethesda, Maryland, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Doyle Lawson, 'I'm Riding High On Wings Of Love,' Gospel Radio Gems, 1998 Sugar Hill Records, Inc., SHCD-3879
Doyle Lawson, 'Lord I've Been A Hard Working Pilgrim,' Heaven's Joy Awaits, 1988 Sugar Hill Records, Inc., SH-CD-3760
Doyle Lawson, 'Sail On Toward Home,' Hymn Time In The Country, 1990 Sugar Hill Records, Inc., SH-CD-3765
Doyle Lawson, 'John The Revelator,' Hymn Time In The Country, 1990 Sugar Hill Records, Inc., SH-CD-3765
Doyle Lawson, 'You've Been An Inspiration To Me,' Treasures Money Can't Buy, 2003 Music Mill Entertainment, LLC, MME-71011-2
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, 'I Am On My Journey Home,' He Lives In Me, 2006 Horizon Records, HR 10752
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, 'Highway To Heaven,' Hallelujah In My Heart, 1994 Brentwood Music, Inc., CD-5398J
Doyle Lawson answers the question 'Who was your biggest influence?' Bethesda, Maryland, 2006, interview by Alan Govenar
Doyle Lawson explains how he learned to play banjo, Bethesda, Maryland, 2006, interview by Alan Govenar
Doyle Lawson performs 'Bile Them Cabbage Down' the first song he learned on the mandolin, Bethesda, Maryland, 2006, interview by Alan Govenar
Doyle Lawson explains why education should come first, Bethesda, Maryland, 2006, interview by Alan Govenar
Doyle Lawson recalls advice his mother gave him, Bethesda, Maryland, 2006, interview by Alan Govenar
Doyle Lawson explains why musicians were once looked down upon, Bethesda, Maryland, 2006, interview by Alan Govenar
Doyle Lawson performs a traditional tune on the mandolin, Bethesda, Maryland, 2006, interview by Alan Govenar