Born as Richard Lee Skaggs on 18 July 1954 in Blaine, Kentucky, he is a musical child prodigy who learned to play the mandolin before he started to walk, so to speak. At the age of 5, he played on stage with Bill Monroe, the renowned Father of bluegrass music and appeared on a famous TV country music variety show at the age of 6 playing the mandolin with the legendary bluegrass musicians Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt. By the time he was 17, Ricky Skaggs was already a highly accomplished mandolin player and singer. Teaming up with another young musician, guitarist Keith Whitley, they performed professionally in 1969 playing on local radio stations until famed bluegrass musician, Ralph Stanley, invited them the following year to join his Clinch Mountain Boys band.
Through his exciting live appearances and performances with The New South and J.D. Crowe and later, with his own band Boone Creek, Ricky Skaggs began to build his reputation as a modern bluegrass musician that yielded further recording and performing opportunities. Then, towards the end of the 70s, he crossed over to country music as a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band before he went solo.
In 1981, he broke into the top of the country charts with the release of his song “Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine,” and remained there for the most part of the decade as 24 of his singles garnered a spot in the Top 20, twelve of which are on the top spot. As a result, he earned a place in Billboard’s Top 20 Artists of the Decade and in the Top 100 of the Past 50 Years and won 6 Grammy Awards, 8 awards from the Country Music Association and several other honors. Because of his achievements, he is widely recognized as having brought country music back into the mainstream of America’s cultural consciousness.
Feeling that the time was ripe, he returned to his first love—bluegrass, a genre of country music that awakened his creativity and talent during his young, formative years way back in the backwoods of Kentucky. From the 1990s onwards, Ricky Skaggs has become one of the most dynamic and talented performers of bluegrass, as well as the music’s most personable ambassador. “Bluegrass Rules!” which he released under his own label as well as his hit single “A Simple Life,” each won a Grammy Award.
Patriotic as he is talented, Ricky Skaggs traveled extensively from 1989 up to the 1990s with the USO to entertain and help boost the morale American troops stationed in Asia and Middle East. He is a Republican who campaigned for Rep. Zach Wamp during his run for the governor’s seat of Tennessee.