Red Cravens, Legendary Bluegrass Musician, Dead at 88

by Katie Maloney
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Bluegrass pioneer, Robert “Red” Cravens, has died at age 88.

Bandmate, Harley Bray, confirmed that Cravens died around Jan. 11. He spent his last few years in Santee in San Diego County, California.

Born on July 4, 1932, Cravens grew up listening to country music. Although Cravens began his music career with the banjo, he quickly switched to the guitar and the rest is bluegrass history.

Cravens solidified his status as a bluegrass legend as a guitarist with the Bray Brothers band. He met the brothers at a square dance in the 1950s and helped expand the group’s bluegrass roots. Cravens and the Bray brothers formed a band in 1955 and not even a year later they were fan favorites at the WBLN Hillbilly Jamboree in Bloomington, Indiana.

Red Cravens and The Bray Brothers’ “Harbor of Love.”

Although the band disbanded in 1957 because two of the brothers enlisted in the Army, Cravens continued to play. The band eventually got back together and became regulars on the Cornbelt Country Style show, hosted by Uncle Johnny Barton.

There, the Bray Brothers began to rise in fame. The band even made an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry in 1961 after recording two sides for Jim Ludwig’s Five Strings Records, the most famous being “Harbor of Love.”

Red Cravens Only Recorded One Album

The group became one of the first bluegrass bands to capitalize on the capabilities of a recording studio. They eventually contracted with Liberty Records under the band name, The Bluegrass Gentleman. There they recorded their only studio albumThe Blue Grass Gentlemen.

Although the group disbanded in the 1960s after deciding that they didn’t want fame to compromise their sound, Cravens and the Bray brothers remained close. Harley Bray commented on Craven’s talents recently, “Red Cravens was the best rhythm guitarist I ever played with.”

Red Cravens and the Bray Brothers’ The Bluegrass Gentlemen.
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