Bob founded and led one of America’s premier traditional bluegrass bands, Bob Paisley and The Southern Grass, which became known around the world for their musicianship and dedication to the traditional style. For over 25 years the band maintained their distinctive brand of hard-driving bluegrass music combining soulful and powerful harmony singing with exciting instrumental work.Friends and fans mourn the passing of James R. “Bob” Paisley, a singer and guitarist of the highest calibre, whose bluegrass music entertained audiences for more than 50 years.
The band performed at countless music festivals, colleges, clubs, and special events, including President Carter’s inauguration and the Royal visit of Princess Anne of Great Britain, and regularly toured in Europe, Japan, and Canada.<br />Bob was born March 14, 1931 in North Carolina to J. Herchel and Jessie L. Williams Paisley, who relocated to Landenberg, Chester County, Pennsylvania in search of work when Bob was only three. He learned to thumb-pick a guitar from his mother, and his father played old-time tunes on the banjo.
In 1951 Bob married Vivian O’Connor and worked as a chemist to support his family, playing music on weekends. After a stint in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, during which time he played music in local clubs, Bob became widely known when he teamed with revered banjo player Ted Lundy in the late 1960s. Together they formed the Southern Mountain Boys and soon became one of the most respected and sought-after outfits on the folk and bluegrass festival circuits.
Bob’s powerful lead and tenor singing and sturdy rhythm guitar playing were the rock-solid foundation of the Southern Grass sound. He was always the consummate professional, and his congeneality, reliability and modesty made him a favorite of promoters and announcers.<br />Bob’s son Dan, a similarly gifted guitarist and brilliant vocalist, joined the band in 1974 at age 15, and has developed into one of the most distinctive and expressive vocal stylists in bluegrass music today. He plans to carry on in his father’s tradition with the help of his brother, bassist Michael Paisley, and bandmates Bob Lundy (banjo), T.J. Lundy (fiddle), and Don Eldreth Jr. (mandolin) — all excellent musicians with rich family histories in bluegrass and old-time music.
The ensemble has become known for its unwavering sense of timing, its relaxed, often self-depricating joviality on stage, and its dynamic repertoire. From lilting ballad to fiery hoedown, Paisley’s music encompassed the entire spectrum within the definitive bluegrass tradition. Strong vocal duos and trios also became a hallmark of the band’s sound. Bob and Dan achieved the type of tight harmony only heard from the greatest brother teams in country music, and Bob Lundy’s baritone added a rarely heard richness to the trios.
Over the years Bob Paisley employed some of finest players and singers in bluegrass music, including Joe Allison (mandolin), Mike Bub (banjo), Don Eldreth Sr. (mandolin), Jon Glik (fiddle), Bill Graybeal (bass), Steve Huber (banjo), Jack Leiderman (fiddle), Jerry Lundy (fiddle), Sonny Miller (fiddle), Leroy Mumma (fiddle), Jack Paisley (mandolin), Wes Rineer (bass), Paul Silvius (banjo), Randy Stewart (banjo), Ward Stout (fiddle), and Richard Underwood (banjo), in addition to those mentioned earlier.
Bob last performed with the band on October 15, 2004. Courageous until the end, he lost his two-year battle with cancer November 29, 2004, resting peacefully at home. He was 73.
Bob is survived by his wife Vivian, sons Dan, Michael, and Jim, daughters Kay and Donna, sisters Lillian and Margaret, brothers Raymond and Vernon, 10 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. He also leaves behind a large circle of friends and fans who delighted in his talent and his friendship.