Doug Flowers has a vast and authentic history as a musician who lived well from within the welcoming arms of bluegrass culture. While he has many stories to tell of the people he’s worked with and known over a career that spans more than five decades, he’s also sowing seeds of the future, putting out new music and doing his part to bring roots music forward for new listeners to enjoy.
“My father could play anything,” Flowers said of his early influences. Growing up, the house was filled with sounds of The Carter Family and Bill Monroe. His dad owned all the records.
At age nine, he attended his first bluegrass festival when he had only been playing mandolin for three years. It was the Bill Monroe Festival in Indiana, which, back in 1970 when he first attended, was called the Bean Blossom Festival. There, he first witnessed performers who were stars of the genre, such as Monroe and Ricky Skaggs.
“A lightbulb went off,” he said, recalling that time long ago. He just knew he had to be a part of the scene. He said he saw them all, all the greats.
He began playing professionally three years later, at around age 12. Then, at age 14, a figure Flowers called “a female pioneer” of bluegrass came calling on this budding young pro who lived near her in that area around Augusta, Georgia. As one of the few female band leaders of her time, Fisher offered the teen a job.
“I worked on the road with Betty for four years,” Flowers said, adding that he still has many memories of those first experiences on the road. For instance, he was with Fisher when a history-making event took place. “We were on our way to Ohio when we heard that Elvis passed,” he said.
He reminisced with a humorous tone that sometimes, he’d have to step off the tour bus and get directly onto a school bus to make it to his high school classes.
“Bill Monroe knew her [Fisher’s] family,” Flowers explained. “Bill had us on the Opry Early Bird Bluegrass show. As a 16-year-old kid, you’re standing in that circle, and you’re like, wow…I’ve arrived!”
He’d later attend college at Georgia Southern, where he’d meet lifelong friends and fellow songwriters.
“I met Gerald Smith at Georgia Southern, who had been on Hee Haw already,” he said.
He also became friends with Tony Arata, who penned some songs for Garth Brooks, including his mega-hit, “The Dance.”
“These were my peers,” Flowers said, reflecting upon his good fortune of finding fellow musicians who shared the same heart for traditional music.
He then did an 18-year stint with a group called Avalanche and spent two years as an original Little Roy & Lizzie Show member.
“I’ve been playing at his [Little Roy] pickin’ party since it started.”
In 2012, he joined Clinton Gregory for a stint in his band. Then, in 2015, Flowers decided it was time to release his own record. It was called Doug Flowers & Friends and called upon the many connections he had already made in the biz.
“I wrote and co-wrote with Gerald [Smith] ‘All Over Me,’ which hit #1 on the roots charts,” Flowers said. He guessed that he’d co-written about ten songs with Smith to date.
In 2017, Flowers’ second CD – Doug Flowers Favorites – included participation from heavy-hitters such as Arata, who sang his version of “Dreaming with my Eyes Wide Open,” a song of his that country star Clay Walker had recorded. The release also included work by well-known musicians and songwriters, including Sam Bush, Scott Vestal, Donna Ulisse, Justin Moses and Lisa Schaffer.
The first record put out by his eponymously named full ensemble formed in 2015 – Doug Flowers Band – was “Brothersville,” released in 2021.
“We were very fortunate to get some very good airplay with that ‘Brothersville’ project,” Flowers said.
Today, he said Doug Flowers Band mostly does “a lot of corporate events and private parties.” In the coming year, he hopes to " go back in the studio and work on a new project.”
In introspection about this coming Thanksgiving, Flowers expressed gratitude for…well…everyone and everything that infuses American music culture with goodness.
“I’m thankful that I grew up in a Christian home that taught me morals and values and that they taught me music,” Flowers reminisced. He said he’s thankful for his wife, two kids, and all the “DJs, promoters and journalists” who help keep music thriving. He’s also grateful for “the many, many friends” he’s made in bluegrass.
This music veteran has been at it for a long time and feels very connected to the beginnings of the music he loves. After all, the original powerhouse patriarchs were still around when Flowers started pickin’ his first mandolin.
“Bluegrass was less than 25 years old when I started playing in the ‘60s,” Flowers said. “It has changed a lot, but I get excited when I see young kids getting into what we are doing.”