With his skill and his broad definition of the meaning of bluegrass music, Mike Auldridge became known over his multi-decade career as a master of the Dobro, or resonator guitar. Raised in Kensington, Maryland, he began playing guitar at 12, adding banjo when he was 16 and settling on Dobro at 17. In 1954, he made his first radio appearance on a local show, playing in a band with his brother, Dave. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 1967 and became a commercial artist, while continuing to play at local clubs. In 1969, he joined the New Shade of Green. That group soon gained a strong following and helped highlight Auldridge's unique expressive style on the Dobro. He joined the Seldom Scene in 1971, and remained with that group through multiple personnel changes up until the mid-'90s, then later rejoined them on a part-time basis in 2002. The group became pioneers of the newgrass sound that incorporated elements of jazz, folk, and rock into traditional bluegrass harmonies. Their eclectic material spanned original compositions as well as cover songs that ranged from J.J. Cale's "After Midnight" to Eric Clapton's "Lay Down Sally."
Such flexibility provided a good jumping off point for Auldridge's solo work, which was aided in the beginning by several members of the Seldom Scene. Auldridge's first two solo albums for Takoma, Dobro and Blues & Bluegrass, both feature a melding of unconventional cover songs, like Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly"; deep emotive playing; and the sometimes welcome, sometimes out-of-place contributions of high-profile guest stars like Ricky Skaggs and Linda Ronstadt. As he continued to record through the '70s for labels like Flying Fish, he also kept busy doing session work for Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Jonathan Edwards, and Jimmy Arnold. His work in the late '80s and early '90s for Sugar Hill, especially Eight String Swing, took his multi-genre experimentations a step further. In the mid-'90s, Auldridge transferred his energies from the Seldom Scene to Chesapeake, a more serious band with a smaller and more stable lineup. That band produced several recordings for Sugar Hill and also helped spawn a pair of trio recordings made by Auldridge, Jimmy Gaudreau, and Richard Bennett, 2000's This Old Town and 2001's Blue Lonesome Wind. After a decade-long battle with prostate cancer, Mike Auldridge died in late December of 2012, one day shy of his 74th birthday. ~ Stacia Proefrock