Friday, October 15, 2021
– Dobro master Phil Leadbetter died on Oct. 15 of COVID-19.
Leadbetter was a member of J. D. Crowe and the New South and a founding member of Wildfire and Grasstowne.
Leadbetter was born on March 31, 1962 in Knoxville, Tenn. and started playing the resonator guitar at age 12. In 1975, he became a founding member of the Knoxville Newgrass Boys, who at the time were one of the youngest bluegrass bands in the U.S. In 1976, this band was invited to the White House to perform for U.S President Gerald R. Ford during the Nation's Bicentennial.
After eight years working full-time as a head injury rehabilitation nurse, Leadbetter decided it was time to make his move and try to get into the music on a full-time basis. He played with the The Grandpa Jones Show in 1988. The following year, he joined The Vern Gosdin Band.
Leadbetter was a member of J. D. Crowe and the New South from 1990-2001.
The following year, he started Wildfire, which he was with until 2006. Grasstowne found Leadbetter in the band with Steve Gulley and Alan Bibey until 2010. At that point, he joined The Whites for two years before taking a two-year break from music after being disagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
He returned by joining The Dale Ann Bradley Band from 2013-16. He also founded Flashback in 2016, a short-lived band lasting only in 2017.
That same year, he formed Phil Leadbetter And The All-Stars Of Bluegrass with whom he played through this year.
During his career, Leadbetter released three solo albums.
In 2005, 2014 and 2019, he was voted International Bluegrass Music Association "Dobro Player Of The Year". He also won the 2005 "Instrumental Album Of The Year" for his CD "Slide Effects."