Charlie Cline

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Charlie Cline was one of the premiere backup musicians in bluegrass. He was born and raised in the Gilbert Creek region of West Virginia, and as a youth, he occasionally sat in with the Lonesome Pine…
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Charlie Cline was one of the premiere backup musicians in bluegrass. He was born and raised in the Gilbert Creek region of West Virginia, and as a youth, he occasionally sat in with the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, who were made up of his two older brothers, Ireland and Curly Ray, and his cousin Ezra. The Fiddlers had been appearing daily on a local radio station since around 1938, and when Ireland was killed during World War II, Cline, by then an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, became a regular in the band. In early 1950, he and Curly Ray joined the Sunny Mountain Boys; the next summer, they made their debut recordings.

After a brief return to the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, Cline went on to join Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys in 1952. He recorded 38 songs with Monroe's band for Decca through 1955, trying his hand at every instrument except the mandolin. He returned to his family group in 1953, which began playing on the radio in Detroit and also recorded a series of singles. In 1954, he played lead guitar for the Stanley Brothers, recorded another album with the Fiddlers, and was also a sideman with the Osborne Brothers during their live performances. In the late '50s, Cline and his wife Lee brought electric guitars and bass to the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, encouraging them to adopt a more modern sound. The following year, the couple became evangelical Christians and left music to move to Alabama and preach.

In the mid-'70s, he re-formed the Fiddlers and recorded an independent gospel album titled One of His Own. The new band was comprised of Cline on fiddle and mandolin, wife Lee on electric bass, banjo player Chuck Carpenter, and guitarist Ed Wilson. The group subsequently recorded a number of albums; one, Why Ray, Ralph? featured parodies of his brother Curly Ray's works with Ralph Stanley. During the early '80s, Cline rejoined the Sunny Mountain Boys and toured the bluegrass festival circuit. In 1986, he moved to the Warrior River Boys as a fiddler and mandolin player, and also recorded a solo fiddle album. Cline continued working and occasionally recording with the Fiddlers.