Bluegrass Great Curly Seckler Passes

Curly Seckler

On New Year’s Day, funeral services were held for Curly Seckler and he was buried in Goodlettsville — the Bluegrass Hall of Fame member died on Dec. 27, two days after his 98th birthday.

In addition to having a solo recording career, Seckler served in the bands of six major bluegrass and/or country acts — Mac Wiseman, The Stanley Brothers, Charlie Monore, Jim & Jesse, The Nashville Grass and, most importantly Flatt & Scruggs.

Born John Ray Sechler on Dec. 25, 1919, he was raised on a farm in North Carolina. His childhood nickname was “Curly.” When he was 15, he and his brothers formed a group called The Yodeling Rangers that earned a show on WSTP radio in Salisbury, NC in 1935.

He joined Charlie Monroe’s Kentucky Pardners band as a banjo player and tenor singer in 1939. This took him to The Wheeling Jamboree in Wheeling, WV at age 19. Stints with Tommy Scott and Leonard Stokes ensued. This is when he switched from banjo to mandolin as his primary instrument.

He rejoined Monroe in 1945, recording “Mother’s Not Dead She’s Only Sleeping,” “Who’s Calling You Sweetheart Tonight” and other classics while the group played on WNOX in Knoxville.

In 1941-48, he worked with Mac Wiseman in Bristol, TN/VA. Next came his first stint with Jim & Jesse. He joined Flatt & Scruggs in their Foggy Mountain Boys band in 1949. This was to be his longest-lasting and most prominent gig.

When the group began recording, Seckler was there, playing mandolin and/or singing his distinctive tenor harmony on such bluegrass standards as “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” “Salty Dog Blues,” “I’ll Go Stepping Too” and the Grammy Award winning “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”

In 1951-52, he left Flatt & Scruggs for stints with The Sauceman Brothers, Jim & Jesse and The Stanley Brothers. He rejoined Flatt & Scruggs toward the end of 1952, in time for the group’s move to Music City and its own show on WSM radio.

In 1954, the band joined the Old Dominion Barn Dance on WRVA in Richmond, VA. Just after Seckler, The Foggy Mountain Boys and Flatt & Scruggs arrived, the barn dance cast went to Broadway as the short-lived musical “Hayride.”

The following year, Seckler and the band returned to Nashville, this time with its own television series and, in 1956, cast membership on the Grand Ole Opry. Seckler remained a member of The Foggy Mountain Boys until 1962. During his long tenure with Flatt & Scruggs, he wrote or co-wrote such band favorites as “No Mother or Dad” and “I’ll Never Shed Another Tear.” Flatt & Scruggs broke up in 1969.

Curly Seckler released his debut solo LP in 1971. At this point, he officially changed the spelling of his last name from “Sechler” to “Seckler,” to make its pronunciation clearer.

Two years later, he joined Lester Flatt’s group The Nashville Grass. When 13-year- old Marty Stuart joined the band, Seckler took him under his wing and became his mentor.

After Flatt’s death in 1979, Seckler assumed leadership of The Nashville Grass. He retired the band in 1994.

Curly Seckler issued further albums in 1980, 1995 and 2005. Well after his 70th birthday, he continued to appear at major bluegrass festivals and to record new material. He released his last solo album in 2007.

He was inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2004 and into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2010. He made his last TV appearance in 2011 as a guest star on The Marty Stuart Show.

Curly Seckler is survived by his wife Eloise, sons Ronnie Seckler and Monnie Sechler, brothers Floyd and Hugh Sechler, by six grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were handled by Spring Hill Funeral Home at 5110 Gallatin Pike. He was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens at 1150 Dickerson Road in Goodlettsville, TN.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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