The unsigned profile at AllMusic – which is a bit fawning but filled with good information – says that Skaggs was given a mandolin by his father when he was five years old. It was obvious from the very start that Skaggs was something special, and he accomplished great things before he turned 20. The profile at his site described what certainly was an early turning point for the musician:
When the legendary Bill Monroe came to Martha, Kentucky for a performance, the crowd wouldn’t let up until “Little Ricky Skaggs” got up to play. The father of bluegrass called six-year-old Skaggs up and placed his own mandolin around his neck, adjusting the strap to fit his small frame. No one could have imagined what a defining moment that would be in the life of the young prodigy.
The AllMusic profile says that Skaggs was seven he appeared with Flatts and Scruggs and at 15 was invited to become a member of Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys — along with fellow teenager Keith Whitely — after opening for Stanley.
Playing with the legends of country music at such a young age — and turning out to be an all-time great and not a flash-in-the pan–makes Skaggs special. The Kentucky native, according to the profiles, is deeply versed in traditional American music while, at the same time, is willing to push the envelope and go in different directions. No doubt, his resume allowed him leeway that purests wouldn’t allow to others.
Skaggs was a member of The Country Gentlemen, J.D. Crowe’s New South and played in Emylou Harris’ Hot Band. Wikipedia says that he arranged “Roses in the Snow,” Harris’ 1980 bluegrass/roots album.
Above is “Little Maggie” and below is “Bluegrass Breakdown.”