Dave LeDune says there are “worse habits” he could have picked up along the way, other than making music.
The 63-year-old Carlisle man, a telecommunications specialist for AT&T out of Vincennes by trade, has spent the better part of his lifetime playing a variety of stringed instruments and singing.
It’s all led to LeDune being inducted into the Wabash Valley Musician’s Hall of Fame, in a noon ceremony on March 13 in Terre Haute.
“To me, it means that even though I didn’t go on the road, and didn’t go to Nashville, I’m still being recognized in my community and the Wabash Valley for being a good musician and a good singer,” said LeDune, “It really means a lot to me. You don’t think about something like that ever happening. You just play.”
Play LeDune has done, almost since he was a toddler, growing up in the Indian Prairie community in Sullivan County, a few miles east of Carlisle. LeDune attended elementary school in Pleasantville, then graduated from Dugger Union High School in 1970, before making his way to Vincennes University.
LeDune grew up in a musical household. His father, Cyrus, played the banjo and the mandolin, both “by ear,” and an aunt played the piano. He says Cyrus was his “biggest inspiration.”
“I still have that banjo. The mandolin, too.” LeDune said. “He’d bought them from a pawn shop in Terre Haute.”
Cyrus taught Dave to play on both instruments, then bought his son a ukulele. Together, they’d play gospel songs.
“We got to the point where we’d do some ragtime and a little bit of Dixieland stuff,” Dave said. “This went on from about the time I was eight years old until I was about 12.”
Eventually, the 1960s came. A lot in America was changing, especially the music.
“It wasn’t really cool to play a mandolin or a four-string ragtime banjo,” he said. “So I laid it aside.”
It stayed “aside” until the early 1970s, after he’d married his wife of 43 years, Beth, a nurse at Union Hospital in Terre Haute.
As LeDune recalls, the Harvey brothers — Randy, Dick and Tom — were going to perform for a homecoming event at the Indian Prairie Church.
“They asked if I’d play banjo. But they didn’t want me to play that old four-string banjo. They wanted me to play a five-string banjo,” he said.
LeDune told the Harveys he didn’t know how, but they wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“They said I had six months to learn,” he said.
So LeDune bought the five-string banjo, and played it for the first time in public at the homecoming. It led to regular performances at area churches, as a group called the Bluegrass Gospel Brothers for a couple of years.
It was the start of what LeDune calls “a lifestyle.” Since then he’s continually been a member of one band or another.
“I’ve been fortunate to play everything from gospel to classic rock and roll, to rock, to country, Americana to old-style mountain music,” he said. “That’s why I have so many different instruments. And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
One of the most successful groups LeDune has been involved with was The Scrubby Pine Boys, in the early 1980s. The original lineup included LeDune, Richard Yates, Tim Ridgeway and Ron Lucas. Ridgeway dropped out after a little over a year, and was replaced by Kevin Doyle.
A highlight was the recording a bluegrass record entitled “Back to Indiana.” The record featured LeDune on banjo and lead vocal, Lucas on guitar and vocals, Doyle on mandolin, tenor and lead vocal and Yates, on bass and singing the bass parts. The record featured 10 songs, of which three were original.
The group first played informally at one of the Beanblossom festivals, hosted by the legendary Bill Monroe, known as the “Father of Bluegrass.”
LeDune said the four traveled to the festival together and parked underneath “an ugly old pine tree that’s still there.”
The men would play at night, and drew a crowd to their jam sessions.
“Finally, somebody said ‘What’s the name of your band?,” LeDune said. “We said ‘We’re not a band, just four friends who get together and play.’ But we’d talked about how ugly that pine tree was, and finally Richard Yates looked up and said ‘We’re the Scrubby Pine Boys.”
It wasn’t long after that the group came across a young singer named Allison Krauss, who has risen to stardom in the world of bluegrass and country music. Krauss entered the music industry at an early age, and recorded for the first time at age 14.
“She was classically trained as a child, but she really liked bluegrass,” LeDune said. “That, and Led Zeppelin.”
One thing led to another, and the Krauss camp approached the Scrubby Pine Boys about going on the road with Krauss.
“Her dad asked if we were interested in becoming Union Station,” LeDune said.
It was hard to turn down the offer, but the Indiana band did.
“At the time we all had jobs, wives, kids and insurance plans,” said LeDune, who emphasizes that none of the band members have any regrets. “It would have been a pretty chancy thing for us to do, just give up everything we’d worked for to that point in our lives.”
LeDune is currently performing with his old friend, Gary Ready, as a duo — The Fabulous Antiquities. They play mostly what would be described as “soft rock” with Ready working the guitar and LeDune playing the bass and the fiddle. Both sing, but Ready has vocals on the better part of the numbers.
“We play small roadhouses, or wherever we can,” LeDune said. “We’ve got some things we’re trying to get lined up. We both really enjoy it.”
The Fabulous Antiquities hope to get something worked out with another friend, narrator Ricky Lamb, a native Hoosier who now lives in Lincoln, Ill.
Lamb is an expert on music history. The idea is to have Lamb talk about a particular song, then have the duo play it. Ideally, LeDune says, it would lead to a two-hour show. Performing it at the Red Skelton Center on the Vincennes University campus would be “a dream,” according to LeDune.
LeDune says “the stars have lined up just right” for him to be inducted into the Wabash Valley Musician’s Hall of Fame.
While he’s a good musician, he stresses that there are a lot who are better, and those are the ones he likes to play with.
“If there was a secret or a reason for a person to get to where I am right now, it’s that I’ve always been fortunate to be around good musicians,” he said. “You always want to pay attention to what they’re doing. If you surround yourself with people who are better than you, then you have a goal, a goal to be that good.”
The road from Indian Prairie to the Wabash Valley Musician’s Hall of Fame has been long and interesting. But it’s not nearly over. Most musicians play until the day they die, and LeDune figures that’s the way it will be with him.
“I can’t imagine it any other way,” he said. “I’d hate to think of what life would be like if I wasn’t playing.”
By Bill Richardson