Roland White, Nashville Bluegrass Band’s Legendary Mandolin Player, Dies at 83

by Lauren Boisvert

Roland White, legendary mandolin player and country musician, has died after suffering a major heart attack earlier in the week. He was 83. The multi-talented instrumentalist and singer died on Friday, April 1.

White was born in Madawaska, Maine, in 1938. As a teenager, he formed a band with his two brothers, Eric and Clarence, and his sister Joanne. They played locally in Maine before the family moved to California. A California radio station hired the band, now minus Joanne, as the Country Boys after they won a talent show.

Roland White’s Contribution to Country and Bluegrass

Roland White was in the Army for two years and re-joined the Country Boys after his service. The band now went by the Kentucky Colonels. In 1967, he joined Bill Monroe’s backup band, the Blue Grass Boys. In 1969, he joined Lester Flatt’s backup band the Nashville Grass, then reunited with his brothers Eric and Clarence in 1973 as the New Kentucky Colonels. Tragically, a car struck Roland and Clarence while they loaded equipment after a performance; Roland only had a dislocated shoulder, but Clarence was killed.

White then joined the bluegrass group Country Gazette and stayed for 13 years. He joined the Nashville Bluegrass Band in 1987 and then formed the Roland White Band in 2000. The Roland White Band was active until his death.

He was multi-talented and played many instruments, but played mandolin for the majority of his career. White released 4 solo albums, 2 collaborations, and many, many albums with the Kentucky Colonels, Country Gazette, and the Nashville Bluegrass Band. He was also a devoted mandolin teacher and taught workshops and private lessons. Roland White died at age 83, and his absence will be surely felt in the bluegrass community.

C.W. McCall Also Passed On April 1st; the ‘Convoy’ Singer Was 93

In other tragic country music news, C.W. McCall, best known for the 1975 song “Convoy,” passed away on April 1 after a battle with cancer. He was 93. McCall passed in his home in Ouray, Colorado.

McCall was born William Fries Jr. in Audubon, Iowa. He began as an advertising executive in the 1970s, where he wrote an award-winning ad for Old Home bread. He drew on long-haul trucker culture and the CB radio craze of the mid-70s. He took on the name C.W. McCall from the character in his first Old Home ad and began writing songs under the name.

Besides “Convoy,” which is arguably his most successful song, he also wrote “Old Home Filler-Up an’ Keep on a-Truckin’ Café,” “Wolf Creek Pass,” and “Black Bear Road.” Most of his music drew on the trucker lifestyle; it came at a time when truckers were connecting with each other through their CB radios.

McCall released 6 albums between 1975 and 1979, before retiring from music in the 1980s. He continued to live a private life in Colorado and served as mayor of Ouray from 1986 to 1992. He began receiving care in his home from February 2022 until his death on Friday.