A Skaggs Family Christmas, on stage and at home

Dec. 19, 2013 @ 10:10 AM

When Ricky Skaggs was growing up in Kentucky, hearing the bluegrass standard “Christmas Time’s A Comin’” on the radio meant that the holiday was indeed around the corner. Christmas didn’t come early like it does today, Skaggs said in a phone interview with The Herald-Sun from his home in Nashville, Tenn., last week.

“Christmas Time’s A Comin’” will be just one of the Christmas songs performed at the Skaggs Family Christmas concert Saturday at The Carolina Theatre in Durham. After a half-century career in bluegrass and country music, Ricky Skaggs’ 14-time Grammy winning music is well known, as is that of his family. Joining him on stage will be his wife Sharon White Skaggs’ family band, The Whites, which also includes her sister Cheryl White and their dad Buck White. Also on stage will be Ricky and Sharon’s children Molly Skaggs and Luke Skaggs and niece Rachel Leftwich, who is Cheryl’s daughter.
Ricky Skaggs said they’ll perform traditional bluegrass songs as well as songs the audience knows like “Little Drummer Boy” and “Silent Night.” Sharon White will sing “Mary Did You Know.” There will be more guests on stage, too, including Songs of Water, the Greensboro band Luke Skaggs plays in, he said. Ricky Skaggs’ band, Kentucky Thunder, will also be there.
“We do ‘Joy to the World’ as an encore. We love audience participation,” he said.
Skaggs has seen the soapy television show “Nashville” and said though he’s glad it brings attention to the city, he doesn’t think the plots reflect the heart and soul of Nashville.
“By and large, Nashville is the buckle of the Bible belt,” he said.
Before Skaggs’ family and band goes on stage, they get together and pray.
“That’s a strong part of our faith, for God to bless us and that he receive the glory for it,” he said. “It’s something we feel is important to do.” Skaggs said sometimes he’ll start, or maybe Sharon starts, sometimes the band will chime in, and if there’s time, it could go on for five to 10 minutes.
Skaggs enjoys the stage time with his family, and they’ll gather at his house on Christmas Day. “Sharon and I don’t have grandparents anymore; we are grandparents,” he said. “For us, being with family, celebrating the family we have, is what it’s all about.” Skaggs deep fries turkeys, and Sharon and Cheryl White set the rest of the menu, with Cheryl making their late mother’s cornbread dressing. The family keeps instruments around, too, and Ricky and Sharon have a piano in the living room. They are working on a duet project together for the coming year.
The Skaggs Family Christmas tour came out of those times at home when the family played music together. Skaggs was touring with the Chieftans in 2002 and went on ahead to a show in Atlanta with Sharon and the kids. The band’s bus caught fire on the way from Nashville – no one was hurt, but they were delayed. So the Skaggs family threw together 45 minutes of material and went on stage, he said. Thirty minutes into the show, the band arrived. Skaggs’ booking agent was there and said they should do their own family show, and the next year, Skaggs Family Christmas began its annual tradition.

WANT TO GO?

WHO: Skaggs Family Christmas concert

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: The Carolina Theatre
309 W. Morgan St., Durham
TICKETS: www.carolinatheatre.org