Since 1964, “The Colonel” David Dickey II has been a major part of Southern California Bluegrass music, forming and playing with several bands. Over the years, David has shared his knowledge, with helping anyone interested in bluegrass music, as a pay back to those that helped and encouraged him when he started. As a performer, songwriter and playing just about everything with strings, David has influenced Bluegrass music lovers and musicians in the southwestern United States for many years.
A few years ago, I got the chance to meet “The Colonel” on the phone, with this being my first interview, I was very nervous and really had no idea what to ask him. But, “The Colonel” quickly made my job easy as he talked about different things that had influenced him and his love for the music. The time passed very fast and soon it was time to say goodbye, the only problem was I had enjoyed the visit on the phone so much, I forgot about taking notes. I told him thank you and I hope to meet you in person soon, and he replied: ” if not I’ll meet you in the pasture.” Later that year I was honored to meet David and shake his hand. From what I could remember and with the help of “The Colonel” and his son David Dickey III, I was able to put this article together and pay back a good friend, who has helped and encouraged so many.
When he was young, David’s family listened to classical music and he sang in the choir in elementary, junior high school and church. At the age of 17 while at summer camp, some of the kids got together to play folk songs and they invited David to join in. This stuck in my mind and what if that person, didn’t invite him and would that have changed things. So I always invite others to join in. What if you or I let someone walk away feeling left out. Anyway, that one invite started a musical journey. David played the banjo, but after seeing Bill Monroe in the 60s at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Being influenced by Monroe’s mandolin playing, David decided to take up the mandolin.
David bought his first banjo in 1962 as a result of his interest in folk music. He listened to The Brothers Four and The Kingston Trio because they played banjos. In 1963 he bought an album by The Stanley Brothers. He had never heard of The Stanley Brothers but it said on the cover that it featured ‘5 String Banjo. “I knew my banjo had 5 strings so I thought it might be interesting to listen to.” David bought the record and took it home, and after playing it once, David discovered the music that he wanted to play from then on. “I had never heard of ‘Bluegrass’ music, but I was ‘bitten by the bug’.”
In 1964 David formed his first band with schoolmates Bob Gregory, Jon Seger, Dave West, and Jere Hudson. “We weren’t awfully good but we had lots of enthusiasm, camaraderie, and a real hunger to learn to play the music.” The band chose the name “Hickory Stump Marsh Marmots” because it sounded like typical group names of the time. With an occasional turnover in members, the band lasted until 1972. Band alumni included Jim and Roland Hawkins, Ed Neff, Chris Boutwell, Chris Gray, Bob Fraley, Forrest Markham, Dave Allen, and Morris Green. It was in this band that he was given the nickname “The Colonel” by one of the band members.
In 1973 he joined with Chris Gray, Bob Fraley, Dennis Fetchet, and Lauren Seapy to form “The Dry River Drifters.” This band was rather short-lived but lead directly to the formation of “Wild Hickory Nuts” and “Lost Highway,” two prominent southern California groups. Bob and Dennis got Craig Smith and Bill Carter to form The Wild Hickory Nuts. David and Lauren joined with Pat Brayer, Walden Dahl, and Rich Sullivan to form Lost Highway. From 1975-1980, David played in the original lost Highway. Where he was responsible for six songs on their first album, released in 1980.
David left Lost Highway in 1980. For the next 15 years, he devoted his time to raising his son, David III (perhaps you’ve heard of him…). During this period he was not in an organized group. “I wanted to spend my time with my son.” He kept his fingers limber by taking his son to an occasional SWBA jam.
In the mid 90’s he formed “David Dickey & The Slover Mt. Boys.” “By then, my son didn’t need constant supervision and I wanted to get more active in the music. I wanted to have a group that would be entertaining and also features the songs I have written. Over the years we had the services of Mark Eason, Bill Reid, Rob and Mike Stave, Tony Griffin, Dave Stough, Dave Wilson, Tim Wedenkeller, and my son, David III. This group lasted until I was able to launch David in The BladeRunners.”
After 55 years of involvement in the music, David still loves to play and entertain.Today David plays banjo in The Mill Creek Boys and mandolin with Pete Roehling, Kevin Chaffee, and Ted Swigert. In 2011, he was nominated by Sandy Rothman to be inducted into the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels. So now the nickname of over 40 years fits the title.