country gentlemen

The Country Gentlemen

The Country Gentlemen are a bluegrass band originating in the area of Washington, DC, United States. The band started on July 4 1957 as a replacement group for Buzz Busby’s Bayou Boys when several members of that band were injured in a car accident. The band’s original members were Charlie Waller on guitar and lead vocals, John Duffey on mandolin and tenor vocals, Bill Emerson on banjo and baritone vocals, and Larry Lahey on bass. After a few early changes, the band settled into a somewhat permanent lineup consisting of Waller, Duffey, Eddie Adcock on banjo, and Tom Gray on bass. This lineup eventually became known as the "classic" Country Gentlemen.


Several things set The Country Gentlemen apart from other bluegrass bands of the time. Charlie Waller possessed an exceptionally rich, resonant baritone voice, considered by many to be among the best in the history of the genre. John Duffey had a startling vocal range, and was a truly innovative mandolin player. Eddie Adcock’s banjo playing style was completely different from his peers, combining traditional Earl Scruggs style playing with a unique single-string technique. He was also a strong baritone singer. Tom Gray evolved into one of the most influential bass players in bluegrass, playing in a style that has been imitated by many since. The band toured both the Bluegrass and Folk circuits thru the 1950's and 1960's, until Duffey abruptly quit, citing his fear of flying, just as the band was scheduled to tour Japan. Jimmy Gaudreau was brought in on mandolin. Adcock and Gray both departed the band in the next two years.

Charlie Waller assembled the "second generation" of the Country Gentlemen soon after, with Bill Emerson returning on banjo, Doyle Lawson on mandolin, Bill Yates on bass and Ricky Skaggs on fiddle. The band also switched labels from Rebel to Vanguard. Emerson left again to join the Navy after one album, and was replaced by James Bailey. Jerry Douglas joined the band during the summer of 1973 and in 1974, after graduating from high school in May, 1974, stayed with the band playing the Dobro at that time. He continued with the band until June, 1975. He rejoined the band in May, 1978 and was with the band until Dec., 1978.

Charlie Waller remained the sole original member until his death in August, 2004. After his death, Charlie's son Randy Waller continued with a reconstituted version of the band; Randy's voice is similar in timbre and range to his father's.


The Country Gentlemen since the band's inception have been known for their unique choice of material, ranging from traditional bluegrass to the popular music of the time. One of the Gentlemen's strengths is adapting music from many different genres to their bluegrass style. Several of the band’s songs ("Two Little Boys," "Bringing Mary Home," "New Freedom Bell," "Matterhorn," "Fox on the Run," "Legend of the Rebel Soldier," and many others) have become bluegrass standards. They also borrowed from the folk genre with songs such as Gordon Lightfoot's "Redwood Hill" and Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans."


The Country Gentlemen are considered by many to be the first "progressive" bluegrass band, and were the flagship band for the DC bluegrass scene for many years. Some of the immediate offshoots of the band were Emerson & Waldron, the Seldom Scene, II Generation, and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. Their influence can be seen in almost every bluegrass band playing today. In 1996 they were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor.


  • Country Songs, Old and New (Folkways, 1960)
  • Folk Songs & Bluegrass (Folkways, 1961)
  • Bluegrass at Carnegie Hall (Starday, 1962)
  • Blue Grass Hootenanny (Design, 1963)
  • On The Road (Folkways, 1963)
  • Folk Session Inside (Mercury, 1963)
  • Bringing Mary Home (Rebel, 1966)
  • The Traveler (Rebel, 1968)
  • Play It Like It Is (Rebel, 1969)
  • New Look, New Sound (Rebel, 1970)
  • One Wide River To Cross (Rebel, 1971)
  • Sound Off (Rebel, 1971)
  • The Award Winning Country Gentlemen (Rebel, 1972)
  • Going Back To The Blue Ridge Mountains (Folkways, 1973)
  • Yesterday & Today Volume 1 (Rebel, 1973)
  • Yesterday & Today Volume 2 (Rebel, 1973)
  • The Country Gentlemen feat. Ricky Skaggs (Vanguard, 1973)
  • Yesterday & Today Volume 3 (Rebel, 1974)
  • Remembrances & Forecasts (Vanguard, 1974)
  • Live In Japan (Seven Seas, 1975)
  • Joe's Last Train (Rebel, 1976)
  • Calling My Children Home (Rebel, 1978)
  • 25 Years (Rebel, 1980)
  • Sit Down, Young Stranger (Sugar Hill, 1980)
  • River Bottom (Sugar Hill, 1981)
  • Good As Gold (Sugar Hill, 1983)
  • Return Engagement (Rebel, 1988)
  • Classic Country Gents Reunion (Sugar Hill, 1989)
  • Nashville Jail (Copper Creek, 1990)
  • Let The Light Shine Down (Rebel, 1991)
  • New Horizon (Rebel, 1992)
  • Sugar Hill Collection (Sugar Hill, 1995)
  • Souvenirs (Rebel, 1995)
  • Early Rebel Recordings: 1962-1971 {Box Set} (Rebel, 1998)
  • High Lonesome (Starday, 1998)
  • Crying In The Chapel (Freeland, 2001)
  • Complete Vanguard Recordings (Vanguard, 2002)
  • On The Road...And More (Smithsonian-Folkways, 2002)
  • 45 Years Of Memories (Pinecastle, 2002)
  • Songs Of The American Spirit (Pinecastle, 2004)


In the 1960s and 1970s, guitarist Nick Nastos (a.k.a. Nick Masters), best known for his work with Bill Haley & His Comets, ran a group called the Country Showmen, which often included members of The Comets who worked with the band when not touring with Bill Haley. Numerous reference books, however, erroneously refer to this band by the name the Country Gentlemen.

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