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January 1, 2013

Mike Auldridge, Founding Member of Seldom Scene Bluegrass Group, Dies at 73

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The name Seldom Scene was an inside joke, reflecting the fact that all the members were working day jobs. Auldridge was a graphic artist for the old Washington Star newspaper.

"We initially had three restrictions on what we would do with the Seldom Scene," recalled Gray, the bass player. "We would only play one night a week, festivals on the weekends and would only record when we were ready. We would not tour, we would not have a band vehicle. It worked well for those of us who had to keep our day jobs."

With a style often described as "newgrass," the group broadened the standard bluegrass repertoire with selections from contemporary folk singer-songwriters Bob Dylan and Steve Goodman, rockers such as Eric Clapton and the group's songwriter, Starling.

"We liked James Taylor as much as we liked Ralph Stanley," Auldridge once said. "And we attracted an audience of like-minded people. We were contemporary and urban. We weren't singing about mother and log cabins because that's not where we came from."

The group first held a Tuesday night residence at the Red Fox Inn, a rowdy neighborhood bar in Bethesda, Md. As their following increased, they started work at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., a restaurant with a sound system and posted signs that discouraged talking during performances.

"Any artist who came through town came by to see them," said Birchmere owner Gary Oelze. "John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill — they would all stop by and sit in."

Harris in particular was taken with the group's musicianship and their blend of voices.

"You had two incredibly distinct voices that you'd never think would go together," she told The Post in 2006. "Duffey, one the great classic bluegrass tenors and John [Starling], who is one of the most subtle, soulful, almost like a pop voice. But their voices are so different, but then you've got that cement of Mike's voice, which has a beautiful tone to it but a certain invisible quality that ties it all together with just enough texture — it's just like no other sound.

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