George Shuffler

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George Shuffler
George Shuffler
Birthday/Birthplace (1925-04-15)April 15, 1925
Valdese, North Carolina, United States
Deceased April 7, 2014(2014-04-07)
Valdese, North Carolina
Genre(s) Bluegrass
Profession(s) Musician
Instruments Guitar, bass
Active Years 1946–2014
Worked with The Bailey Brothers, The Stanley Brothers, Clinch Mountain Boys

George Shuffler (April 15, 1925 – April 7, 2014) was an innovative American bluegrass guitarist and an early crosspicking practitioner. During his career he played with The Bailey Brothers, The Stanley Brothers and Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys. He won the 2007 North Carolina Heritage Award and in 2011 was elected to the Bluegrass Music International Hall of Fame.

George Shuffler’s Biography

First years

George Shuffler was born in Valdese, North Carolina, United States, on April 11, 1925. As was the case with many southern musicians, Shuffler’s first experience with music was when he attended singing schools in Valdese His affinity for music grew and at the age of twelve his father negotiated an old car damaged by a Kalamazoo guitar. There were very few guitars in North Carolina at the time, and Shuffler had only been interested in them through radio programs broadcasting from distant cities such as Cincinnati. Shuffler found out that one of his neighbors, Jack Smith, knew some guitar chords, and that’s why he located it. Smith taught him three chords, G, C, and D. Shuffler went home that night, and kept practicing the three chords over and over again, afraid he would forget. When she got home, her mother sang an old song called “Birmingham Jail”, and Shuffler started her as a companion, encouraging her to sing until it got hoarse.

In the next few months he practiced his three chords, and composed others whenever he needed them. Another of his neighbors had a guitar and invited him to play with him. At first, Shuffler was afraid, thinking that his homemade strings would make it seem silly, but he soon discovered that they were the same shapes that his more experienced neighbor was doing. Encouraged by this experience, Shuffler practiced in his free time, and soon learned to play the bass as well. When his father negotiated the guitar for a new gun, Shuffler went out and bought a new one with his carefully saved money.

Race

Over time he began to develop a reputation as a good guitar and bass player. He played the guitar in the style of Merle Travis and Mother Maybelle Carter, the two most popular country music guitarists. He participated in local talent shows, and played in the local churches. One night, just after the end of World War II, he went to Granite Falls to see the Bailey brothers, and when his accompanying band did not show up, he offered to play bass for them. Danny and Charlie Bailey were so impressed by his playing that when his bass player appeared, they left him for Shuffler. They offered him sixty dollars a week to go with them to Nashville to play on the Grand Ole Opry radio show. As it was twice the compensation he received working in a factory, he accepted immediately.

In the next few years he played with different groups throughout North Carolina and Tennessee, then in 1950 he was contacted by Carter Stanley to be part of a group with him and his brother Ralph. In the next eighteen years he played in and out as a member of the Stanley Brothers, and the other Stanley band, the Clinch Mountain Boys. Now considered one of the first and most important bluegrass bands, times were not always easy for young musicians. One year, the money was so strong that Ralph Stanley sold his entire herd of cattle to keep the band going, and Shuffler left the band several times, only to be lured back by the fifteen or twenty dollar raises. During the good times the band had a lot of instruments, including a guitar and a banjo played by Carter and Ralph, Shuffler played the guitar and bass occasionally, he was a full-time bass player, he also played the mandolin and the violin. During many of the difficult times of the band, it was only composed by Ralph Stanley, Carter Stanley and George Shuffler. This arrangement of low intonation led to the development of George Shuffler’s now famous crosspicking style.

Later years and death

He finally left the music business “forever”, and when his wife Sue expressed her disbelief at the idea, she sold all her instruments to show that she was really done. A few years later he learned that his daughters sang an evangelical song in the church, and since he had become increasingly religious since he left the bluegrass, he decided to form a family Christian band. He released some evangelical albums, and had a great hit “WhenReceive My Robe and Crown”, which he kept on Christian song lists for eleven months. Shuffler died on April 7, 2014 at the age of 88.

More Facts about George Shuffler

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