Del McCoury is still going strong — and so is his festival

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When Del McCoury was a preteen, his older brother played him a record that featured Earl Scruggs on the banjo. Particularly fascinated by Scruggs’s inventive three-finger roll technique, McCoury picked up the instrument at age 11 and started a lifelong pursuit of bluegrass music that has never waned.

 

“All the kids in my high school were listening to Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis,” McCoury said during a phone interview from his home in Nashville. “But I had already heard Earl Scruggs, so I was off and running.”

Now 83, McCoury is one of the most popular figures in bluegrass, a veteran musician who still performs regularly at a mix of theaters and festivals. Best known for his powerful singing voice, he’s become a link between the genre’s foundational years and the current crop of fleet-fingered acoustic acts.