Black Music Matters Festival

Bluegrass guitarist Shuffler dies

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 – George Shuffler, a bluegrass guitarist and early practitioner of the crosspicking style, died on Monday at 88. Shuffler played with The Bailey Brothers, The Stanley Brothers and Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys.

In 2011, Shuffler was elected to the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

Shuffler was born on April 15 in Valdese, N.C. He first gained exposure to music by attending a shape note singing school in his hometown. By 12, his father secured Shuffler a guitar, which he became interested in after hearing them on radio show broadcasts. Shuffler honed his skills on the guitar, playing in local talent shows and singing in area churches.

Shuffler gained his break after the end of World War II when he went to see the Bailey Brothers play in Granite Falls, N.C. Their back-up band was a no show, and Shuffler volunteered to play bass. The next thing Shuffler knew, he was offered $60 per week - double his mill pay - for a job playing for them in Nashville on the Grand Ole Opry radio show.

In 1950, Carter Stanley contacted Shuffler to play with he and his brother Ralph. For 18 years, Shuffler played on and off with the Stanleys and the Clinch Mountain Boys.

Shuffler reportedly quit the band several times, but came back after being given raises. Shuffler eventually quit the music business, selling his instruments. But when he heard his daughters singing a gospel song at church, he formed a family gospel band and recorded several albums.

Shuffler developed the crosspicking style. The player used a flat pick to play three or more strings in sequence, mixing a basic melody with fill notes to provide rhythm.

CD reviews for George Shuffler

Aged To Perfection
Although not widely known outside the world of bluegrass, it can be said with some authority that North Carolina native George Shuffler ranks among the more influential guitarists in American music. As a bassist and guitar player for the legendary Stanley Brothers during the 1950's and 60's, he developed his distinctive "crosspicking" style that (and this is a somewhat oversimplified description) combines flatpicking with fingerstyle picking. You almost have to see him do it to really understand »»»