Scotty Cline is the son of Ezra Cline, the founder of the Fiddlers. Scotty spoke to the Daily News about his father and the Fiddler’s history.
Ezra Cline started the group with his cousins, Curley Ray and Ireland Cline along with Zeke Stepp, in Baisden in 1936.
Although Ireland was killed in World War II, the group continued.
Following the war, the group, joined by Charles Cline, moved to Beckley, where they lived about five years, Scotty said. While living in Beckley they were featured on a television show there as well as programs in Huntington and Bristol, Va.
During the 1950s, the family moved to Detroit, Mich., where the members worked held factory jobs, playing music on weekends.
However, the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers returned to their roots. Ezra returned to the area, settling in Pikeville, Ky., to run a restaurant, Cousin Ezra’s, where their dinner guests included Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Grandpa Jones and other bluegrass musicians who traveled through the area. Ezra and his wife closed the restaurant in 1966, and returned to Gilbert Creek, where they lived out the rest of their lives.
Names of musicians who played in the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers over the years read like a who’s who in Bluegrass music, Scotty Cline recalls. Curley Ray Cline, who was given a Special Award of Merit by the IBHF, played with Bluegrass giant Ralph Stanley for 26 years. Charles Cline played with Bill Monroe for several years, and Bobby Osborne, who was a member of the Fiddlers in 1949, later teamed up with his brother Sonny to perform as the Osborne Brothers, who are members of the Grand Ole Opry and IBHF members. Hall of Fame member Jimmy Martin played with the Fiddlers, as well as Melvin and Ray Goins, all who went on to notable careers in music.
Scotty Cline recalled some of the stories his father told about the people he had met in the music business.
“The Fiddlers were the first bluegrass band signed by RCA Victor record label,” he told the Daily News. “Dad said they were playing at the studio in Nashville, and a young kid came up, talking to them. He was really excited to see them, told them how much he loved their music. The Fiddlers didn’t think that much about him, he just seemed to be a greasy-haired kid. They later realized that kid was Elvis Presley.”
The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers missed two opportunities to become television stars, Scotty Cline said. They passed up roles that eventually went to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, on The Beverly Hillbillies, and to portray the Darlings, a band that played on the Andy Griffith Show by the Dillards, who were also inducted into the IBHF this year.
Scotty Cline said his father and family all eventually returned to Mingo County. Ezra moved back to Baisden, he died in the 1980s. Zeke Stepp’s family still lives in Gilbert.
Bobby Osborne, who was married to Scotty Cline’s sister, still performs on the Grand Ole Opry, and teaches young musicians music as well as the music business at Hazard (Ky.) Community College.
Legendary band leader Doyle Lawson inducted the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. Bobby Osborne, already a member of the Hall of Fame with his brother, Sonny, in The Osborne Brothers, became the first person in the history of the Hall of Fame to be inducted twice.
“I never thought when I left home in 1949 with an old guitar my dad paid $30 dollars for—with no case—that I’d ever amount to a hill of beans,” Osborne said. “I never dreamed of nothing like this when I joined the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. It led to many, many things in bluegrass music…. Since that day I always had my sights set way down the road, and I still ain’t finished with it yet.”
Bob Osborne, Paul Williams, and Melvin Goins are planning on doing a Lonesome Pine Fiddlers Tribute Album. They already have a recording contract in place, but a release date has not been set.