Doyle Lawson of Bristol named National Heritage Fellow06.19.2006
Washington, D.C. — The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has announced the 2006 recipients of the NEA National Heritage Fellowships, the country's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Eleven fellowships, which include a one-time award of $20,000 each, are presented to honorees from nine states. The awardees were chosen for their artistic excellence, cultural authenticity, and contributions to their field. They represent a cross-section of ethnic cultures including Hispanic, Hawaiian, Alaskan, and African American artistic traditions expressed through art forms ranging from hula dancing and cedar bark weaving to blues piano and gospel singing.
Among the awardees is DOYLE LAWSON of Bristol, Tennessee, a gospel singer, arranger and bandleader. Lawson grew up in Ford Town, a rural community near Kingsport, Tennessee. His mother, father, and sister all sang gospel music and the family listened faithfully to the radio broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry. Inspired by the radio performances of Bill Monroe, Lawson took up the mandolin at the age of 11. By the time he was 19, he began playing with the incomparable Jimmy Martin, launching a career that included performing with J.D. Crowe and the Country Gentlemen. In 1979 Lawson decided that he wanted to develop his own sound, so he formed Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Although the band has numerous recordings of the classic bluegrass repertoire, the group is best known for Lawson's stunning gospel vocal arrangements. In fact, it might be said that Doyle Lawson's efforts resulted in a renaissance of tight harmony bluegrass singing. For the past five years, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver have received annually the International Bluegrass Music Association's Vocal Group of the Year award.
In 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts established the NEA National Heritage Awards as a way of honoring American folk artists for their contributions to our national cultural mosaic. Modelled after the Japanese "National Living Treasures" concept, the idea began with Bess Lomax Hawes, then director of the Folk Arts Program. Since its inception, over 200 artists have received the Heritage Award. As a group, these folk and traditional artists reflect the diverse heritage and cultural traditions that transcend their beginnings to become part of our national character. Americans all, they bring age-old customs, crafts and ways of living to the flux of American life, a pluralism that makes us strong and defines us, in the words of Walt Whitman, as "not merely a nation but a teeming nation of nations."
National Heritage Fellowships begin with nominations from ordinary citizens who put forward local folk and traditional artists whom they feel are deserving of national recognition and who embody artistic excellence, authenticity, and significance within their tradition. Each year, a select group of these artists come to Washington to receive their award in a public ceremony and perform in a concert celebrating our nation of nations during late September.
To read about all the 2006 recipients, go to: