from Newton, North Carolina, who started out on the mandolin but switched
to fiddle when his brother expelled him from his band. He was all of nine. By the time he was eleven, he already
had the North Carolina State Championship under his belt.
In the early
1950s, he spent some time with Jim Eanes’
outfit, but he would gain acclaim as a member of Bill Monroe’s
Bluegrass Boys, whom he joined in 1953. At first, he was the bassist, but
when Uncle Sam called Gordon Terry into duty, Bobby became the band’s
fiddler. In time, Vassar
Clements would take over the fiddle spot, and Bobby gravitated to the
banjo. He even played mandolin
in Bill Monroe’s stead when the bandleader injured his collar
In 1956, he
was drafted into the U.S. army.
After his tour of duty ended in 1958, he re-united with his
band-mates and recorded with them until the end of the decade. He then spent three to four years as
a member of Porter Wagoner’s group. In 1963, he became a bandleader
himself, embarking on a seven-year run with Judy Lynn in Las Vegas,
moved back to his home state and became acquainted with Ricky Skaggs, which
turned out to be a lucrative arrangement. After releasing a solo album
entitled Texas Crapshooter, Bobby
proceeded to engage in a 24-year artistic collaboration with Skaggs, whose
career was just taking off. In
1979, he appeared on Skaggs’ Sweet
Temptation album, although he continued to record with other artists,
such as Kenny Baker and The Bluegrass Album Band.
It was with
the Ricky Skaggs band, which evolved into Kentucky Thunder, that Bobby
would enjoy most of his financial and musical success for the next two
decades. Highways & Heartaches was released in 1981 and spawned the
#1 hits, “Heartbroke”
and “Highway 40 Blues”.
In 1985, they performed Live
moonlighted with David Grisman and Seldom Scene
in 1988. He also continued to
perform and record with Bill Monroe, on albums such as Southern Flavor, which won a Grammy award. In 2002, he was enshrined in the
Fiddler’s Hall of Fame.
He and Tony Rice released The
Bluegrass Guitar Collection in 2003, a year that saw Bobby band-hop to
Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys, before winding up with Hazel
to perform and record, in addition to teaching at workshops such as The
Bobby Hicks Fiddle Camp, The Montana Fiddle Camp, and Steve
Kaufmann’s Acoustic Music Camp.
If you would like to catch him in the act, he has a standing date on
Thursday nights at Zuma Coffee in Marshall, North