Randall Hylton: 1945 to 2001
On March 14, 56-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist Randall Hylton died in Nashville, Tennessee, after suffering an aneurysm.
“America’s Foremost Bluegrass Songwriter” is how he was described on a 1994 album cover, and it was a plausible billing. His songs were recorded by everyone from Ralph Stanley to Doyle Lawson to Rhonda Vincent to the Bluegrass Cardinals to the Country Gentlemen to the Virginia Squires. Many of them found their way into the common repertoire that binds not only such pros, but also the many amateur musicians of the bluegrass community. Hylton also pursued a modest career as a solo performer, singing his own songs and favorites by others, punctuated by Merle Travis-flavored instrumentals.
Hylton could write earthy comedy (“Miss Virginia Mayfield And The BC”), elegant country love songs (“Have I Loved You Too Late”), and timeless gospel (“Where Rainbows Touch Down”), but he also wrote songs such as “32 Acres” and “Country Poor, Country Proud”, reflecting both his own steadfast self-respect and that of the country people he knew and loved.
With the breadth of his vision, his direct, vivid lyrics, and his elegant melodies, Hylton played a key role in extending the bluegrass canon beyond the first-generation classics without bypassing the tradition. A genuinely humble man, he was as excited to learn that a song of his had been cut by an unknown band as by a headlining act.