Don Reno burned with creative intensity. From his youngest years through a distinguished career in music, he was always “on” as a showman, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist of prodigious talent, songwriter and composer. He generously devoted time and attention to fans and fellow artists. Never content with the status quo, he pushed edges, cross-fertilized musical genres, and invented styles to fit the times – picture a “bluegrass Chuck Berry.”
What stands out in remembering Don Reno was his energy. He was capable of writing 10 or 15 songs at a stretch. He could hold an audience’s attention for every moment of his live performances. He worked marathon recording sessions and traveled hundreds of miles between shows. Coming of age in the Depression and World War II, Don never achieved great economic success. Rock and roll arose just as his career began to blossom. Although he earned fame, the attention he received from the recording and broadcast industries and the size of his audiences suffered accordingly.
Don Reno’s legacy in bluegrass was under-appreciated in earlier days. His approach to music was more innovative than traditional, so he received less attention from folk scholars than some of his peers. He wasn’t based in Nashville, and recorded for labels that had regional or limited distribution. But new generations continue to discover and treasure Don Reno’s huge recording catalog and a few surviving live show tapes and videos. More about Don Reno...
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February 21, 1926 - October 16, 1984 • nytimes.com