Mandolin is one of the most popular instruments in American folk music and bluegrass. Learn more about the instrument by learning more about all the great artists who have played it through the years. Here, in alphabetical order, is a list of some of the greatest mandolin players of folk and bluegrass music.
Adam Steffey has earned the honor of being named the IBMA's Mandolin Player of the Year seven years in a row (2002-2008), and for good reason. Lending his mandolin mastery to Alison Krauss and Union Station, Mountain Heart, Dan Tyminski Band, and the Isaacs, Steffey has become known as one of the best mandolin players at work in the modern bluegrass scene.
Bill Monroe is one of the most seminal figures in the popularization of mandolin in bluegrass and folk music. Frequently considered the Godfather of Bluegrass, Monroe's mandolin picking has inspired pretty much everyone who's come since, and his songs are frequently covered to this day.
Chris Thile started his career as a young child playing with the prodigious contemporary bluegrass troupe Nickel Creek, all the while releasing the occasional solo record on the side. After 20 years together, though, the trio split and Thile spun off to form the genre-defying all-star band Punch Brothers, who have since become a darling of fans and critics alike.
David Grisman is perhaps one of bluegrass music's most inventive and innovative mandolin players—a distinction he could share with Thile. With a deep appreciation and command for jazz mandolin, Grisman has played with the Grateful Dead, Peter Rowan, Tony Rice, Mike Marshall, and a number of other notable musicians.
Doyle Lawson started his career in the '70s with the Country Gentlemen before forming Quicksilver at the end of that decade. Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver have become one of the most influential bands in modern bluegrass and gospel music, which is due as much to the exceptional rotating door of personnel as it is to Lawson's mandolin picking prowess.
Mike Marshall is one of the foremost mandolin players in the world, and he started his career playing alongside Grisman in the David Grisman Quintet. In addition to playing with Grisman, he's also collaborated with Joshua Bell, Bela Fleck, Darol Anger, and many other highly respected contemporary and progressive folk and bluegrass players.
Peter Ostroushko started his career performing on A Prairie Home Companion in the 1970s, but has since lent his incredible mandolin (and fiddle) skills to songs by Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and numerous others.
Ricky Skaggs started his career playing with Bill Monroe before joining Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys. He also played for Emmylou Harris and J.D. Crowe and the New South before starting his own band Kentucky Thunder. Since their debut in 1997, Kentucky Thunder have become one of the most respected bands in contemporary bluegrass.
Ronnie McCoury is probably best known for lending his tight mandolin picking skills to his father's Del McCoury Band, although he's also appeared on several other artists' recordings and has been known to play as a duo with his brother Rob (guitar). Ronnie was also named IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year for eight years in a row (1993-2000).
Sam Bush is another frequent recipient of the IBMA's Mandolin Player of the Year honor (1990-92, 2007). Founder of the highly respected band New Grass Revival, Bush has been one of the must successful and influential mandolin and fiddle players in modern bluegrass and what's become known as newgrass. In addition to the New Grass Revival, Bush also has played with Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Edgar Meyer, and a number of other great bluegrass and folk pickers.