“There’s nothing like playing music to bring a family together,” says Sharon White, but that’s not exactly right; over 40 years have shown that the music of The Whites – sisters Sharon and Cheryl and father Buck – has just as much power to bring audiences together in a feeling that resembles that of one giant, extended family.
Buck White began his musical journey in the Texas dance halls not long after the end of World War II. In the early 1960’s, he moved to Arkansas to raise a family with wife, Pat. In a matter of months, Buck and Pat were making music again, forming a band called The Down Home Folks. Oldest daughters Sharon and Cheryl soon joined in and the family began performing at bluegrass festivals around the country. The 1970’s brought the family’s move to Nashville and Pat White’s retirement to stay home with youngest daughters, Rosie and Melissa. Thus began their recording career, with five acclaimed bluegrass albums for various labels throughout the decade.
Changing their band name to reflect their family ties, The Whites turned their attention to country music in the 1980’s, enjoying a succession of Top 20 hits on Billboard’s country chart, culminating in their induction as members of the Grand Ole Opry in 1984. Their first all-gospel album, 1988’s Doing It by the Book, earned The Whites their first award, the fan voted Music City News award for ‘Best Gospel Album.’ The 90’s produced only one new album for the trio (Give A Little Back, 1996), but Buck and the girls were no less productive. They toured all over the world, maintained a steady stream of Opry appearances, and participated in multiple side projects, including 1999’s Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza, which brought renewed attention to Buck White’s signature mandolin style. Their first Skaggs Family Records release, A Lifetime in the Making (produced by one of their former sidemen, the legendary Jerry Douglas), received substantial critical acclaim, winning an INDIE Award for ‘Best Country Album’ (2001). Also in 2001, they were honored with ‘Album of the Year’ GRAMMY, CMA and IBMA awards for their participation in the soundtrack of the smash hit movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a film in which they also appeared. In 2006, they were awarded the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Distinguished Achievement Award for their contribution to the genre. In 2008, The Whites earned GRAMMY and Dove awards with Ricky Skaggs (married to Sharon White) for their collaborative gospel masterwork, Salt of the Earth. That same year, the proud Texans received the ultimate honor from their home state with their induction into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.
And they don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Since 2003, Ricky Skaggs, The Whites and their children (respectively) have taken “A Skaggs Family Christmas” across the US, bringing together the love of family and the beauty of song. A Skaggs Family Christmas Volume 1, the first full-length recording from the family, was released in 2005 to critical acclaim. Its follow-up, Volume 2, will be released in 2011, and will include a live concert DVD.
For over 4 decades, The Whites have exemplified true artistry and defied genre stereotypes. Their unique blend of bluegrass, country, folk, gospel and Texas swing paired with their top-notch instrumental work and striking family harmony (on and off stage) has set them apart, entertaining and inspiring millions of listeners worldwide. Beloved also among their peers, The Whites have remained some of the most in-demand guest artists to appear on countless recordings – from Emmylou Harris’ Blue Kentucky Girl album in 1979 to more recent works by Kenny Rogers, Charlie Daniels, Connie Smith and Paul Brandt, to name a few. Simply put – to know The Whites is to love them. They may not use the name anymore, but Buck, Sharon and Cheryl are still creating music that’s as good and as real as everything conjured up by the phrase “down home folks.”