Hometown friends say music was always right path for Ricky Skaggs

Ricky Skaggs celebrates Christmas in Appalachia with a ride of the Santa Train last November. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. (Josh Little/Appalachian News Express via Kentucky Today)
Ricky Skaggs celebrates Christmas in Appalachia with a ride of the Santa Train last November. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. (Josh Little/Appalachian News Express via Kentucky Today)

CORDELL, Ky. (KT) – A lifelong friend of Ricky Skaggs says his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday was long overdue but came as no surprise.

Now if it had been Cooperstown calling, that may have been a different story, said Roger Jordan, who grew up with the renowned musician and pastors the little country church where Skaggs’ parents attended.

Jordan said his best friend was never into playing sports “because his dad thought he’d break his fingers” and damage a promising career in music.

It turns out, his father was right about the skills that were honed at a tender age for playing stringed instruments instead of gripping baseballs or basketballs.

“I think he was three or four years old when his dad bought him a guitar or mandolin,” Jordan said. “He showed him three or four chords and was gone for a week (for work as a pipefitter).
When he came home, Ricky was playing those chords and and his father said he knew he was gifted.”

Jordan, 69, said Skaggs belongs in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and has for years.

“I figured he’d have got in that a long time ago,” Jordan said. “Now, that’s just me.”

Jordan wouldn’t have to go far to get an amen, maybe just poke his head out the front door of the little country church in Lawrence County.

Skaggs, who excelled at bluegrass, gospel and country music, was being hailed by friends from his hometown following his induction. His music is legendary in these parts even if his athletic prowess is not.

Jordan said they tried to entice Skaggs to play ball on many occasions, but he knew better than to even attempt it.

“He’d say, ‘Boys, I better not. If I got hurt, my dad would whip me!’ He loved his dad and his dad always had the best interest for him,” Jordan said. “When he got a break, he loved to fish and ‘coon hunt.”

Young Ricky would travel with his parents to small country churches much like Cordell Freewill Baptist Church, where his parents attended, and play and sing. Jordan is now the pastor at Cordell.

Jordan’s wife, Wilma, said Skaggs has “never gone above his raisin’” and remains close friends to her and Roger to this day.

“He’s one of the best,” she said. “It’s such a well-deserved and past due honor.”

Roger Jordan, who is five years older than the 64-year-old Skaggs, graduated from Blaine High School. Skaggs attended Blaine but graduated from Louisa High School after Blaine had closed.

Skaggs was a star at a young age, wowing audiences as a child on a syndicated television show hosted by bluegrass legends Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.

He learned under the tutelage of bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley and reached star status in the 1980s with several No. 1 hits that mixed his bluegrass influences with Telecasters and steel guitars, including “Heartbroke,” “Country Boy” and “Highway 40 Blues.”

“I could have been born anywhere in the world, but God has a purpose for me to be born in eastern Kentucky to hear the sounds of the mountains and the Stanley Brothers and Flatt and Scruggs and Bill Monroe,” Skaggs said in a 2016 interview when he was selected for the CMA Founders Award.

Skaggs was selected entertainer of the year at the CMA Awards in 1985 and he dove back into bluegrass music in the 1990s through his band, Kentucky Thunder, to collect more than a dozen Grammy Awards.

Skaggs is proud and in awe of the bluegrass legacy that came before him in artists like Monroe, Flat and Scruggs and Stanley.

On Sunday night, Skaggs was reunited with Monroe’s mandolin, a 90-year-old instrument kept under glass at the museum. He kissed it and played “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”

Roger Jordan, who calls “Highway 40 Blues” his favorite song from his friend’s hit list, said they keep in touch with Skaggs and have stayed weeks with him at his home in Nashville.

“Ricky always told us we’re as welcome as can be,” Jordan said. “If we were ever down that way, he’d want us to come and see him. We’ve done it a couple of times. We got to see Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. He was the same ’ol Ricky, just like always. He’s not changed.”


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