With more than 40 albums to their credit, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver have multiple Grammy, Dove, ICM, IBMA and SPBGMA Award nominations, and are 7-time winners of IBMA’s Vocal Group of the Year. Lawson was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame at the Ryman Auditorium in 2012.
Doyle was born on April 20, 1944 in Ford Town, a part of Sullivan County, near Kingsport, TN, to Leonard and Minnie Lawson. As far back as he can remember, he loved the sound of music. Just about everyone listened to The Grand Ole Opry, and his family was no exception. Though he listened to all the stars on the Opry, the group that impressed him most was Bill Monroe and His Blue Grass Boys. Monroe’s music was different, more intense. High lonesome is the term they used for it. Doyle could hardly wait for Saturday nights to arrive so he could listen, and he decided early on that he wanted to play that kind of music.
Doyle’s father, mother, and sister all sang gospel music when he was young. They were members of trios and quartets that sang a cappella music in churches and at revivals, and such. No doubt, that was where he acquired his love of quartet music. When he was 11 or 12 years old he expressed an interest in learning to play the mandolin, so his Father borrowed one from one of the members of their quartet, Willis Byrd so Doyle could try. He mostly taught myself to play by listening to the radio, a few records, and watching the occasional TV show, and eventually returned that mandolin to Mr. Byrd. Years later, he gave it back to Doyle at one of the first concerts Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver played in Sneedville, TN. He still has it.
Doyle met Jimmy Martin when he was 14 years old. He was from Sneedville, TN where Doyle’s family had moved to in 1954. Around that time, Doyle had made up his mind that he wanted to play music for a living, and realized that only playing one instrument was somewhat limiting, so he made it a point to learn how to play the banjo and guitar, too. Four years later, in February 1963, Doyle went to Nashville and got a job playing banjo with Jimmy Martin. In 1966, he started working with JD Crowe in Lexington, KY, but was soon back with Jimmy Martin for about six months playing mandolin and singing tenor. He returned to JD Crowe’s band until August of 1971, and then joined the Country Gentlemen and stayed with them until March 1979. By this time, Doyle had played in bands that had their “sound” before he joined them, and he wanted to put together a group that would have “his sound”.
To that end, in April 1979, Doyle formed Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and laid the foundation for what has become the Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver sound. The makeup of the band has changed many times in the last 40+ years, and Doyle jokingly tell folks that Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver is the “farm team” for bluegrass. He integrates each member’s special talents into the group, while not sacrificing the Quicksilver sound. While the sound changes a bit with the introduction of a new band member, it is important that people hear what they expect to hear when they take the stage, no matter who is in the group.