Musician Raymond McLain recognized for contribution to ETSUs Bluegrass, Old Time, Celtic, and Country Music

Becky Campbell • Updated Apr 1, 2019 at 12:51 PM

One of East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time, Celtic and Country Music curriculum’s early leaders became the third person honored as a distinguished contributor to the program during a scholarship awards dinner Saturday night.

Raymond McLain, who helped the cultural program get off the ground, said he was honored to be recognized but spread the praise to those who were also involved, including Jack Tottle — who taught the first ETSU bluegrass classes in 1982 and Tim White, who has been a key booster of program scholarships throughout the years —  and were the first two designated as distinguished contributors last year, as well as  Wayne Andrews, former ETSU vice president of student affairs and the vice president of administration, and others who were open to the idea of a bluegrass program at all.

McLain worked at ETSU from 2000-05 as assistant director and 2006-09 as director of Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Studies. Under his leadership, the program established the B.A. degree in bluegrass, old-time and country music, which is the first of its kind in the world.

He and current program director, Daniel Boner, arrived at ETSU the same year and continue to share a deep friendship.

Boner said McLain was selected for the induction because he “helped elevate the program during his time at ETSU. He served as a mentor to students and faculty, including myself, and brought with him a lifetime of experience as a professional performing on the Grand Ole Opry stage and around the world. His impact on our program is still felt today.”

McLain said he was a little apprehensive about coming back to Johnson City because he hadn’t seen so many of his Johnson City friends in many years.

“It can make you nervous,” he told the crowd. “When Diane (his wife) and I walked in this evening, I looked around the room, what did I see? All of your smiling faces and the love in your eyes. It was just beautiful. It just warmed my heart.”

McLain said had it not been for the vision of Tottle — who brought McLain to ETSU as the assistant director of the bluegrass program — the program wouldn’t exist. Much of McLain’s comments raved over the contributions of those who were around him back in the early days.

Boner, however, had plenty of praise for McLain.

“He was instrumental in growing the ETSU program to what it is today, attracting students from across the globe and providing performance opportunities at such prestigious venues as NATO headquarters in Brussels; the Smithsonian National Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.; and concert tours of Japan, the United Kingdom and Belgium, Boner said.

“He got his start as a musician with the highly regarded McLain Family Band, performing with them around the country and as musical ambassadors for the U.S. Department of State. Eventually, McLain began playing with longtime Grand Ole Opry members and bluegrass legends Jim and Jesse, and performed at the Opry more than 1,000 times with them.”

In addition to the naming McLain as a distinguished contributor to the program, several students received scholarship awards for the coming school year. Dr. Ron Roach, director of the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, and chair/professor of the Department of Appalachian Studies, said more than $50,000 in scholarship money was awarded to students.

















Johnson City Press Videos