Cliff Waldron

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Progressive bluegrass multi-instrumentalist and founder of the New Shades Of Grass.
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b. 4 April 1941, Jolo, West Virginia, USA. Playing guitar and mandolin and singing, Waldron joined the Southern Ramblers, playing bluegrass at local venues and on radio. In the early 60s, Waldron settled in Virginia and there and elsewhere found a larger audience for bluegrass. He played mandolin with the Page Valley Boys until the more popular Buzz Busby’s Bayou Boys ran into difficulties. That band’s banjo player, Bill Emerson, took over from Busby and brought in Waldron on guitar. At first, the band was named the Lee Highway Boys, then became known as Emerson And Waldron. Their repertoire centred upon traditional bluegrass but Emerson and Waldron were open to change. An early example of this was their rendition of ‘Fox On The Run’, with which they had considerable success (although Charlie Waller’s Country Gentlemen would do even better). This song, which had been a hit for Manfred Mann in the UK, became a bluegrass standard. Among other songs in the band’s repertoire were ‘If I Were A Carpenter’, ‘Early Morning Rain’ and ‘Spanish Grass’. Sidemen in the Waldron and Emerson line-up included Mike Auldridge and Bill Poffinberger.

In 1970, Emerson joined Waller, replacing Eddie Adcock, and Waldron played for a while with the Shenandoah Cut-Ups. He then formed a new band, the New Shades Of Grass, which included in its ranks over the following years Auldridge, Poffinberger, Dave Auldridge (brother of Mike), Ben Eldridge, Jimmy Arnold, Ed Ferris, Akira Otsuka and Gene Johnson. The band made several well-received albums into the mid-70s, which is when Waldron quit music. For the next two decades he worked for the National Park Service, playing a little in church and also making some private recordings of gospel music.

In 1996, Waldron retired from the Park Service and soon afterwards returned to music, forming a new edition of the New Shades Of Grass. He also met mandolin player Paul Williams with he played and recorded. Back on the road again, at a more leisurely pace, Waldron’s music in the early 00s vividly displays his joint commitment to the traditions of bluegrass and alertness to new trends. In 2004, Waldron was elected to the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America’s Hall of Greats.