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Ricky Skaggs in Charleston with a book

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bluegrass and country music fans will have a chance Thursday evening to see and meet country music star Ricky Skaggs.

The Kentucky native isn't performing, but will be signing copies of his new memoir, "Kentucky Traveler: My Life in Music" at 7 p.m. at Books-A-Million at Dudley Farms Plaza.

The book, released Aug. 13, covers the 59-year-old multi-Grammy Award winner's early years in music, his success in mainstream country and his return to bluegrass, as well as his personal life.

"I think it's a real American story," Skaggs said. "It's about hard work and dedication. There's talent, but that's a gift, but faith and family are really a big part of my life. My relationship to my mom and dad are almost on every page, and there's the relationships I've had with the elders of bluegrass music -- Ralph Stanley, Flatt and Scruggs."

Skaggs said he was first approached to write a memoir about 10 years ago, but ended up passing on the offer.

"I knew that it would take a long, long time to do this," he said. "And I had a new record label, Skaggs Family Records, and I was pretty busy producing acts on that label like Mountain Heart and Blue Highway."

He just wasn't ready until Harper Collins asked him two years ago when he could manage to put his memories down at a manageable pace.

Skaggs said he constructed his story in pieces. One day, he'd talk about something that happened a few years ago. The next, he'd talk about events in his life that were only a day or so old.

"It was an editor's nightmare," he said, but added that Harper Collins seemed happy with the results.

Despite his professional successes, Skaggs said he had to revisit painful memories: the collapse of his first marriage and the subsequent divorce, and when his 7-year-old son, Andrew, was shot in a drive-by shooting.

"How he came through that taught me a lesson in forgiveness," Skaggs said.

The Kentuckian is fitting in the book signing during his usual busy schedule. Skaggs is scheduled to play several dates with his band Kentucky Thunder during the next few weeks, including a show Sept. 20 at Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg.

He's also embarking on a short tour later in the fall with Bruce Hornsby. This week, the pair released "Cluck Ol' Hen," a live album from their 2007 tour.

"We just have too much fun together," Skaggs said.

The singer said he hoped people would check out the book and added that he wanted to send a copy to his old friend and mentor Ralph Stanley but wasn't sure if Stanley would find the time to sit down and read it.

"I might do it as an audio book," he said.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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