Don Rigsby and the fly by Knights
From his home in remote Isonville, KY, to an international following of bluegrass music fans, Don Rigsby has remained true to his mountain roots and made his own mark as a powerful tenor and distinctive mandolin player.
Born February 18, 1968, Don Rigsby grew up listening to early Ralph Stanley records and to the high lonesome sounds of his cousin Ricky Skaggs and the late Keith Whitley, another Elliott County native. His roots in music began as early as he can remember, singing with his family before he started playing guitar at age 12, later adding the mandolin, fiddle, and dulcimer. For his sixth birthday, Don was taken to the Paramount Arts Center in nearby Ashland, KY, to hear his hero Ralph Stanley perform “Little Maggie” and got an unforgettable bonus when Keith Whitley came out to the audience, hoisted young Don onto his shoulders, and carried him backstage to meet Ralph for the first time.
Don worked his way through Morehead State University playing music with Charlie Sizemore, emerged onto the national scene as a member of The Bluegrass Cardinals, then solidified his reputation playing with JD Crowe and The New South and the award-winning Lonesome River Band. Amongst his long list of accolades are two Grammy nominations, two SPBGMA Traditional Male Vocalist of the Year awards, and multiple IBMA Awards. Rigsby also contributed vocals to a Grammy-winning album by rocker John Fogerty.
Rigsby has released eight solo albums. His first, A Vision, won the Association of Independent Music’s “Gospel Album of the Year” award and was nominated for an IBMA Award. He received the 1999 Bluegrass Now Magazine Fans’ Choice Award for Vocal Tenor of the Year and the 2001 Governor’s Kentucky Star Award. “Empty Old Mailbox,” the title track from his third album, won the 2001 Song of the Year Award from SPBGMA. This project was followed up with The Midnight Call, Hillbilly Heartache, and The Voice Of God.
In 2005, Rigsby was awarded the IBMA awards for Recorded Event of the Year and Album of the Year for his role as producer of the Larry Sparks project 40. In 2006, he received yet another award for Recorded Event of the Year for participating in the Celebration of Life project for Saint Jude’s. He has also recorded two albums with Dudley Connell and continues to record with Midnight Call and Longview. Rigsby also recorded a tribute to his hero Ralph Stanley in 2013 titled Doctor’s Orders and featuring special guests Larry Sparks, Charlie Sizemore, Ricky Skaggs and Doctor Ralph himself!
In 2001, Rigsby became the first full-time director of Morehead State University’s Kentucky Center for Traditional Music. Through his role at MSU, Don taught vocal harmony classes for the Traditional Music minor, and coordinated classes, workshops, concerts, and school tours by new and old stars of traditional music. He continues to provide instruction both privately and in various camps across the U.S. and even abroad.
Recently, Rigsby has taken on the role of Director of the Mountain Movers Music Company, part of ARC (Addiction Recovery Care)and is tasked with developing a comprehensive program that helps those in recovery move forward and gain skills that can help them in potential career paths through an ambitious, innovative initiative called Crisis To Career. To learn more about ARC and the many resources and other news, log onto arccenters.com and see what is happening in the battle against addiction.
Don has a rich heritage and lifelong experience in traditional music and continues to propel it into the next generation through his love and dedication to preserving and performing the sounds of old.