Vassar Clements, a self-taught musician whose skills were impressive enough to attract the attention of Bill Monroe, first appeared alongside the bluegrass giant on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in 1949, recording his first session with Monroe the following year. Initially establishing his reputation as a member of Monroe's 1950s band, Vassar Clements soon became one of the most distinctive, inventive, and popular fiddlers in bluegrass music.
Over the next four decades, Clements distinguished himself by incorporating a number of different genres into his style, never limiting himself to traditional bluegrass. Big band and swing music were strong influences and this diversity and virtuosity led to him becoming a highly sought-after session musician, playing with artists as diverse as Hank Williams, Paul McCartney, Gordon Lightfoot, Vince Gill, and Bonnie Raitt. In 1972 Clements was featured on The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's hit album Will the Circle Be Unbroken, which helped establish him as a country and bluegrass star. The following year, he teamed up with Peter Rowan, David Grisman, and Jerry Garcia in the massively popular Old & In The Way. The popularity of these recordings led to his first solo album, Crossing the Catskills, on Rounder Records and Clements began touring the festival and college circuits with his own band shortly thereafter, taking his listeners on an exploratory journey through his past, present, and future.
Vassar Clements Band blended jazz with country, rock with bluegrass, and little of everything else in between. The diversity of the group's repertoire is highly impressive and the musicianship nothing less than stellar. The man many called the "Father of Hillbilly Jazz" passed away on August 16, 2005. He was 77 years old.