Throwback To Ricky Skaggs Full-Circle Moment Playing Bill Monroe’s Mandolin

Ricky Skaggs country music

Bluegrass walked so that country music could run.

And you can’t discuss either genre without the great Ricky Skaggs.

A true musical phenomena and inspiration, Skaggs is known for his slick playing abilities not just on the mandolin, but on guitar, banjo, mandocaster, and fiddle. This man is absolutely unrivaled in pickin’ skills.

You can dig through old Skaggs tracks and Grand Ole Opry appearances and easily identify the bluegrass-roots talent of the singer, but what many people don’t know about Ricky Skaggs, is that his professional playing skill began at the age of 5.

Yes, at the mere age of a kindergartener, Skaggs was playing the strings of a mandolin better than most who have practiced 20-30 years.

And the innate skill would later award him the opportunity to pick with bluegrass trailblazer, Bill Monroe, who would become a lifelong friend and mentor to young Skaggs. In a rare 1961 film clip from the Flatt & Scruggs TV feature, a 7-year-old Ricky Skaggs famously walks up to Lester Flatt and says he wants a turn to “pick,” before lighting into the Flatt and Scruggs classic, “Foggy Mountain Special.”

No easy tune to handle, young Skaggs absolutely stuns on his mandolin, and it’s something to see. But the story doesn’t end there.

When Ricky Skaggs was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2018 after a big push by Garth Brooks, Skaggs performed on the stage for the induction, and was handed the preserved F-5 Mandolin of the late Bill Monroe.

Skaggs shared the emotions of the moment in an interview with Mike Huckabee.

“They’ve never done that for anyone… taken one of the precious jewels [out]…”

He then led the audience in singing “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”

But many in the audience probably didn’t realize the full-circle impact of this moment, (hinted at by the selection of song). As it turns out, young six-year-old Skaggs had played Bill Monroe’s famous mandolin once already.

Skaggs shared in his book, Kentucky Traveler, that his family went to see Bill Monroe play in Martha, Kentucky when he was just a boy. After Bill Monroe sang for about a half hour or so, Skaggs shares:

“Some of the neighbors in the hood started shouting out, ‘let little Ricky Skaggs get up and sing a song…’ After three or four of those, I think Bill was ready to get me up and get it over with.

But that mandolin is what I played, that’s what he put on me.”

Skaggs shared how large the mandolin felt on his small body at the time, because he had been playing a smaller “pint-sized” instrument.

“[Bill’s mandolin] was like the size of a full guitar size. That mandolin has always meant so much to me because that instrument really was his musical partner.”

For the second time in his life, Ricky Skaggs played the hell out of Bill Monroe’s mandolin, and boy what a treat for us all.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock