Curly Seckler, one of the final surviving practitioners of early bluegrass, now rests high on that mountain. The multi-instrumentalist and tenor singer died on Wed., Dec. 27, just two days after his 98th birthday.
Seckler, a China Grove, North Carolina native, found a creative alternative to the cotton mill by performing on the radio with his brothers, George and Duard. Brother acts the Yodeling Rangers and the Trail Rangers thrived regionally in the 1930s, catching the attention of Charlie Monroe. He tabbed 19-year-old Seckler as his touring banjo player for his post-Monroe Brothers band.
From 1949 to 1962, Seckler sang tenor harmonies and played mandolin for Flat & Scruggs‘s legendary Foggy Mountain Boys. Seckler was more than a backing musician to the stars back then. His developing “chop” rhythm technique helped pioneer a sound that still defines old-time bluegrass to the masses.
Following Lester Flatt’s 1979 death, Seckler stepped in as leader of the Nashville Grass, positioning him as a mentor to fellow mandolin great Marty Stuart. Seckler remained with the Nashville Grass until 1994.
Seckler played with other innovators, as well. His musical resume includes collaborations with the likes of Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Doyle Lawson and Mac Wiseman.
With Seckler’s passing, modern popular music loses a bluegrass original. His career began when such innovations as regional radio and fragile 78 RPM records introduced an exciting new take on rural music to the masses. Seckler and his peers adapted and survived the advent of television and an ever-shifting social climate, keeping bluegrass relevant for generations to come.