A super pair and a freaky song

Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby to perform in Shippensburg, Pa.

Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby to perform in Shippensburg, Pa.

October 25, 2007|By JULIE E. GREENE

You can't say Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby don't have a sense of humor.

Though when the duo were recording tracks for their self-titled album and Hornsby said "Come on boys. Let's cut the 'Freak' today," Skaggs said he thought Hornsby was joking.

He wasn't.

The result is a bluegrass version of Rick James' "Super Freak," complete with twangy vocals and banjo that patrons at Shippensburg University's H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center will get to hear Saturday night, Skaggs said.

Fortunately or unfortunately, "Super Freak" is one of the most talked about songs on the album, Skaggs, 53, said during a recent phone interview from Hendersonville, Tenn., where he lives and has a studio.


Both Skaggs and Hornsby wrote songs featured on "Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby," Skaggs said. They also recut a few of Hornsby's songs, including "Mandolin Rain."

Between them they have won 14 Grammys. Skaggs has 11 of them. Skaggs is known as the "ambassador of bluegrass" and, according to Billboard's Web site, helped spark a new traditionalist movement among country music during the 1980s.

Hornsby is a singer/songwriter/pianist who frequently played with the Grateful Dead and whose music has been influenced by a variety of genres, including bluegrass.

The two first met in the late 1980s when both were doing well professionally and were performing a show in upstate New York.

"I stayed around to watch (Hornsby's) show," Skaggs said. "He asked me to sit in and jam if I felt the urge." Skaggs said he did.

In the mid-1990s, Hornsby was a guest on Skaggs' CMT TV show. When Skaggs decided to put together an all-star tribute album to honor Bill Monroe, the "father of bluegrass," after Monroe's death in 1996, Hornsby was the first artist to say yes and show up to record, Skaggs said.

Skaggs said the pair had "something more in common than just abilities to play. We had some sort of deep love for roots music and we wanted to try to do something to promote that a little bit more."

Two years ago they began recording "Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby," which was released in March this year.

The response to their tours - they're on their second joint tour this year - has been really good. People have come out to see the pairing of two top artists who have had lots of success in their respective genres, Skaggs said.

On Saturday night the pair will perform songs from their joint album, including "The Dreaded Spoon" and "Across the Rocky Mountains," a bluegrass version of Horns-by's "The Valley Road," and, of course, "Super Freak."

Hornsby got the idea for a bluegrass version of the 1980s song when visiting a fellow musician, who was humming and singing a bluegrass version of "Super Freak," while cooking, Skaggs said.

After that Hornsby would go into his "Prince voice - really high singing - and do this little skit of 'Super Freak,'" Skaggs said. "I thought he was teasing."

The fans have loved the song. "It's just a hoot, especially if we end the show with it," he said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby with Kentucky Thunder

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27

WHERE: H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center, Shippensburg University, 1871 Old Main Drive, Shippensburg, Pa.

COST: Tickets cost $28 to $48

MORE: For tickets, call 717-477-SHOW (7469) or go to

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