Vassar Clements, the acclaimed fiddle virtuoso, died August 16th near Nashville following a battle with lung cancer. He was 77.
During his lengthy and varied career, Clements performed with Bill Monroe, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Faron Young, Dickey Betts, the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers Band, Linda Ronstadt, David Grisman and Paul McCartney, among others.
He recorded 27 albums ranging from country to swing and although he was usually considered a bluegrass musician, his only pure bluegrass solo album was 1992’s Grass Routes (Rounder Records). In addition to fiddle, he also played viola, cello, bass, mandolin, guitar and tenor banjo.
Clements began performing with Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys when he was 14 and became a regular member of the legendary group in 1949. In 1956, he started a four-year stint with Jim and Jesse McReynolds and later performed with Earl Scruggs.
Clements’ work on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s groundbreaking 1972 multi-artist album Will The Circle Be Unbroken was a milestone in a career that spanned more than five decades. He was also a member of the short-lived Old & in the Way, an early-’70s bluegrass group that included Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and mandolin virtuoso David Grisman.