Ricky Skaggs Talks Memoir, Keith Whitley and His Hall of Fame Prospects

Ricky Skaggs

Country music legend Ricky Skaggs has been doing quite a bit of reminiscing as of late – especially with the recent release of his autobiography, "Kentucky Traveler: My Life In Music." The singer tells Billboard that he's happy to have the book available to the public.

"It feels like having a baby," Skaggs said "It was quite a chore – one of the hardest things I think I've ever done, sitting down and disciplining myself to stay on path. So many things in my life are going on. It feels really good to have it out where people can read it."

A book is something that the artist admits was never on his radar until recently. "I never thought I would write a book. About ten years ago, I got an offer from a local publisher here in Nashville who offered to do a book on me. At the time, I was so busy – not that I'm not now, but I had so much going on with the Skaggs Family Records label. It was just a timing issue. Harper Collins came to me about five years ago, and made an offer. I ended up doing it, and I'm glad I did. For an artist, being able to tell the story of my life the way I want to tell it, and not have any restrictions allowed me to tell my story well."

"Kentucky Traveler" takes readers on a trip throughout Skaggs' life, beginning in his native Eastern Kentucky. He writes fondly of being introduced to so much classic music by his father, Hobert.

"My dad played such a huge role in my life – of course, personally, but also musically. He loved music so much," the singer recalled. "He introduced me to new music all the time. He turned me into the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, but also the Delmore Brothers, the Bailes Brothers, and the Louvin Brothers. He loved the harmonies, and the great old-time fiddlers."

Another section of the book deals with Ricky's friendship and professional relationship with the late Keith Whitley. Skaggs still remembers his first encounter with the future star – more than four decades ago.

"He was playing with his brother, Dwight. They had a little band. Dad and I were playing together, and we all ended up at this high school in Ezel, KY for some kind of fall event they were having. I really enjoyed hearing Keith sing. We started talking about the music that we loved, and the things that we had in common. We started singing together, and we felt comfortable around each other from day one. We both started playing with Ralph Stanley around the time we were fifteen. That relationship lasted until the day he died." 

Skaggs continues to hit the road with a vengeance, both on his own and alongside of Bruce Hornsby to promote their recent Cluck Ol' Hen disc. The singer is also thrilled to be serving as the Artist-In-Residence at the Country Music Hall of Fame with performances at the brand-new CMA Theater on November 18 and 19.

"I was so honored that they chose me to be the artist-in-residence this year at the Hall Of Fame, especially being the first artist in the new room that they've built for performances," he says."I'm very honored and excited. I've got a lot of guests coming -- Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Peter Frampton, Brad Paisley, the Whites, and several others."

And, if he were to follow the path of former Artists-In-Residence as Connie Smith, Tom T. Hall, Cowboy Jack Clement, and Kenny Rogers and be inducted into the Hall as a member? "That would be a very nice thing," he says. "I don't think any of us set out for that to happen because there are so many people whose shoulders we have stood on that deserve to be in there. But, it is certainly something that has entered into my mind about possibly happening someday. If it does, I'll be very honored and thankful for it."