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August 14, 2008

New Mitchell Report on Performance-Enhancing Drugs Names Mountain Heart, Kentucky Thunder

Van Cleve, Kilby, Leftwich to testify before Congress
Skaggs legacy, eligibility for Hall of Fame in jeopardy

Jim Van Cleve, among others, has been named in the new Mitchell report.

Jim Van Cleve, among others, has been named in the new Mitchell report. (Photo courtesy of Kim Davis and Mike Stangeland)

WASHINGTON — The world of bluegrass is reeling from revelations of rampant abuse of performance-enhancing drugs. A Congressional inquiry spearheaded by former Senator George J. Mitchell has yielded a 398-page report, whose allegations stem from a 20-month investigation of most major bluegrass bands.

Greg Cahill, Chairman of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), has stated that each accusation will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

As the pressure to play faster, cleaner, more energetic solos has increased over the years, IBMA drug testing has failed to keep pace, and a culture of permissiveness has evolved.

“I mean, when you go to a festival and you see Cody Kilby playing those guitar solos with Kentucky Thunder, you know that it’s not naturally possible, yet everyone just looks the other way,” said Thom Thoreau, bluegrass fan.

Indeed, the report has explicitly named more than half of Kentucky Thunder as well as the entire six-piece group Mountain Heart. Among others, fiddlers Andy Leftwich and Jim Van Cleve, as well as guitarist Cody Kilby have been subpoenaed to testify under oath during the next session of Congress.

Fiddler Andy Leftwich, guitarist Cody Kilby, and bandleader Ricky Skaggs of Kentucky Thunder feature prominently in the new Mitchell report. Here, they perform the bluegrass classic “Little Maggie”.

And stalwart Ricky Skaggs now faces a badly tarnished legacy, and his chances of entering the Country Music Hall of Fame are severely reduced. And even though the Mitchell report does not constitute proof of wrongdoing, at the very least Skaggs’s records will be tagged with an asterisk.

According to the report, an estimated 10,000 young bluegrass players have tried, or currently take finger-specific steroids, designer stimulants, ground up Ritalin, beta-blockers, or other such banned performance-enhancers.

“Everyone, not just bluegrass fans, ought to be shocked by that disturbing truth,” said Mitchell.

But not everyone is convinced that the issue of illegal performance enhancement is an issue worthy of so much taxpayer expense and Congressional attention.

“Quite honestly, I think performance-detracting drugs are a much more serious problem in bluegrass music today. Half the bands I see are obviously drunk or high a lot of the time, especially in the second set,” said David Edgerton, a bluegrass lover from Alexandria, VA.


19 Responses to “New Mitchell Report on Performance-Enhancing Drugs Names Mountain Heart, Kentucky Thunder”

  1. Travers Chandler on June 23rd, 2009 9:59 am

    Well I just received a subpoena…They can say what they want but I know the score first hand…I injected Jimmy Van Cleve myself with crushed up crystalized dexatrim….soon the whole world will know…

  2. Jim Moulton on October 21st, 2008 11:00 pm

    I would like to see some sort of proof or even hint of proof that something like this is going on. Bluegrass Bands ,which I review alot are some of the most religious , kind folk that you will run into, Cody Kilby ,of Kentucky Thunder-(Ricky Skaggs Band) is a very good guitarist, do they get points off for deviating from the scale or melody. I will say that Bluegrass is the only form of music that has rewards for the fastest guitar player, but so what, they are fast. What about mandolins, I could make a Citizen’s arrest of Ricky Skaggs for his mandolin picking.
    I read an article about Darrin Vincent talking about Music production, he left out (Analog), yes, the A word, the kind of recording that makes for warm, smooth music, I think he should be penalized for clipping.

  3. Sunrise Sue on September 29th, 2008 8:14 pm

    You’re kidding right? Sounds like a skit from Hee Haw.

  4. Vasserman on September 28th, 2008 1:25 pm

    ?????? ????: ?????? ????

  5. reja on September 11th, 2008 8:58 am

    PS: does coffee count?

  6. reja on September 11th, 2008 8:53 am

    Now we will have to put an asterisk (or maybe an exclamation mark) after their names. Or maybe someone could create a little symbol to signify performance enhancement, to satisfy the purists.

  7. Paul Rogers on September 10th, 2008 2:35 pm

    This is not surprising, I have heard that all the Foggy Mountain Boys used to snort Tube Rose Snuff backstage before their shows. That stuff will get you higher than a hawk’s nest.

  8. How Do Those Bluegrass Guys Play So Fast - The True Story! « More to Come…The DJB Blog on September 6th, 2008 9:47 am

    […] play so darn fast?  Steroids!  Check out this stunning revelation from the incredibly funny Bluegrass Intelligencer which reports on the government funded study to uncover rampant performance enhancing drug use among […]

  9. gary bates on September 6th, 2008 7:25 am

    i find all these rumors about our beloved bluegrass artists using performance enhancing drugs to be just that………………………rumors.
    ive been going to bluegrass festivals since the ’70’s,and i have NEVER seen ANY drug use whatsover…………………with the possible exception of —- —- taking an occasional BC powder backstage .

  10. Festus with his Aluminum Hat on September 4th, 2008 10:46 pm

    I put a “not” in there (“stop pretending that it’s NOT going on.”)

    I did… I swear. Someone is editing my posts. Has Cahill got to you Bluegrass Intelligencer?!!!

  11. Festus with his Aluminium Hat on September 4th, 2008 9:56 pm

    I’m sorry Jason… but compare the above video of Ricky Skaggs with Ricky Skaggs just a few years ago (

    You try to tell me that a man can excel to that level in such a short period of time without performance enhancing drugs. It’s sick. It’s wrong. And it’s time EVERYONE in the bluegrass community stop pretending that it’s going on. I’M LOOKING AT YOU GREG CAHILL.

  12. Ricky Skaggs on September 4th, 2008 4:08 pm

    I’m insulted by these outrageous accusations! Maybe there’s extra anti-biotics in the Chicken and Dumplins at the Cracker Barrel. That’s the only thing I can think of.

  13. Barry Abernathy on September 4th, 2008 3:45 pm

    “I have never, nor will I ever use any finger-specific performance enhancing drugs!!”

  14. clay hess on September 4th, 2008 3:33 pm

    I have no comment on this matter. I just used some cream my trainer gave I don’t know what was in it.

  15. Jim VanCleve on September 4th, 2008 3:32 pm

    “No comment”…

  16. Tex on September 4th, 2008 3:02 pm

    I must protest the offensive pairing of that photograph with this article.

    Do you really expect us to tolerate the association of the American Flag with a suspected drug user? Why must you include such shock-rock symbolism in your choice of photography?

    Whether you expect the average viewer to believe that patriotism makes up for Van Cleve’s other failings or that his drug use is letting all of America down, these strong opinions could and should be spelled out verbally. There is no need to sully a respected icon such as Old Glory in order to keep your word count to the editorial limit.

    Please be advised that irresponsible use of photography will not be tolerated by the bluegrass community.

    Sincerely Yours,
    A concerned viewer

  17. Darcy on September 4th, 2008 12:16 pm

    Just as much of a concern is the betting at bluegrass concerts that is getting ou-of-hand. I’m all for wagers amongst fans (who hasn’t bet on the number of verses Sam Bush will sing on “Whitehouse Blues”), but Stuart Duncan betting with Dan Tyminski on the number of encores they’ll receive in Festival Season severely hurt the level of musicianship near the end of the summer. I KNOW Dan Tyminski was intentionally blowing licks to meet the over/under. Where in the he*& is the bluegrass commissioner?

  18. Kevin on September 4th, 2008 11:24 am

    …and to think I’m going to see Mountain Heart with Tony Rice in October. The betrayal is rampant. If it weren’t for the grace of Mr. Rice, I would protest outside the venue with a large sign and foam finger.

  19. Jason Parish on September 2nd, 2008 6:49 am

    What a crock of crap. Whats not “natural” about playing slick bluegrass as fast as one can? Most of these artists have played these tunes hundreds of thousands of times. Can you not say the phrase “practice makes perfect”?

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