Saturday, January 8, 2011

Opry Spotlight: The Whites

A broadly charming act that epitomizes the phrase "family harmony."  The patriarch of the group, Buck White, cut his musician's teeth playing dance hall and radio gigs in Texas back in the fifties.  He developed fine musicianship on both piano and bluegrass mandolin, and he gained attention for his unique stylings of Texas country and blues.  

Buck married Pat Goza in 1951, and the couple then moved to Arkansas and began performing with another couple in an act known as the Down Home Folks.  When Pat and Buck had children of their own, their daughters Sharon and Cheryl also grew into the performing life.  In 1971, the family moved to Nashville, where they continued performing as the Down Home Folks.

In 1973, mother Pat bowed out of the group, and Buck continued performing with Sharon and Cheryl (Their sister Rosie has also performed with her family on occasion).  In 1975, the group played a gig with Emmylou Harris, who invited Sharon and Cheryl to sing background vocals on her 1978 album Blue Kentucky Girl, and later took the Whites on tour with her as an opening act.  It was on that tour that Sharon White met musician Ricky Skaggs, whom she married in 1982.

By the early eighties, the family had begun performing under the name The Whites.  They enjoyed a string of Top 10 and Top 20 country hits in the early half of the decade, starting with their first Top 10 single "You Put the Blue In Me."  Their streak continued with hits such as "Hangin' Around," "I Wonder Who's Holding My Baby Tonight," "Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling," "Forever You," "Pins and Needles," and "If It Ain't Love (Let's Leave It Alone)."  In 1984, they were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.

After the radio hits dried up, The Whites began recording more bluegrass and gospel-oriented material.  In 1989, they released the Christian album Doing It By the BookThe Whites were unexpectedly thrust back into the spotlight in 2001 with their appearance in the hit film and multi-platinum soundtrack O Brother, Where Art Thou?, in which they performed the Carter Family classic "Keep On the Sunny Side."  The success of the film caused a great surge in the popularity of acoustic music, and The Whites got to share in the glory when the O Brother soundtrack won the coveted Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

More recently, The Whites released the 2007 album Salt of the Earth, a collaboration with Ricky Skaggs.  In addition to re-entering the country charts for the first time in two decades, the project won a Grammy for Best Southern Country, Bluegrass, or Gospel Album.

In 2008, The Whites received the honor of being inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.  They have since continued touring across the country, and today they remain a regular attraction on the Grand Ole Opry stage.