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Del McCoury

The Del McCoury Band is back in the Grammys spotlight. The group, which is fronted by York County native Del McCoury, earned a nomination for Best Bluegrass Album Dec. 6.

The nomination is for the group's latest album "The Streets of Baltimore," which was released Sept. 17. The band won a Grammy in 2005 for "The Company We Keep."

On Wednesday, Dec. 11, McCoury said he was excited about the nomination. During a phone interview from his home in Henderson, Tenn. -- about 20 miles from Nashville -- he said he always hopes for the best, but awards don't usually cross his mind while recording.

"You're always surprised, anyway," he added with a laugh.

The nomination is McCoury's 10th and his seventh with the Del McCoury Band, which includes his sons Rob and Ronnie.

"I hope we win," he said, adding that he plans to bring his family to the Jan. 26 ceremony in Los Angeles. "There is a lot of talent in (the category)."

Other nominees include The Boxcars, Dailey & Vincent, Della Mae and James King.

Earlier in the week, McCoury played in Naples, Fla., where it was 88 degrees. Meanwhile, his brother Jerry, who lives near Thomasville, was getting updates about snow. Jerry plays bass and sings with McCoury in Masters of Bluegrass, which also includes J.D. Crowe, Bobby Hicks and Bobby Osborne.

The group did a string of dates, while the rest of The Del McCoury Band -- known as The Travelin' McCourys -- shared the stage in Cancun with Yonder Mountain String Band.

McCoury said that while the The Travelin' McCourys were on tour earlier this year, he had a chance to put an album together. He hunted for material, something that isn't too hard to come by near Music City. He said he might have listened to 75 songs before selecting about a dozen titles for the album. Having his own label, McCoury Music, gives him the freedom to pick the tracks. Ronnie helped arrange the instrumental parts.

While recording, McCoury said he thought about writing about his bluegrass beginnings. Then, he came across "Streets of Baltimore" written by Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard.

"I always liked that song," he said. "It kind of squeaked onto the record."

But it worked its way up to the title track of the album. The tune makes McCoury nostalgic about playing shows in the Baltimore area in the late '50s and early '60s. Ray Davis used to play a lot of bluegrass on his radio show out of Baltimore, which was hosted by Johnny's Used Cars.

"It kind of popularized the music in the area," he said. "York County and Baltimore County and Wilmington, Del. -- it's big country for bluegrass."

The owner was also great at selling music acts and booking bands, McCoury added. He books gigs all along Route 1 and Route 40.

But, this fall, another stretch of road became Del McCoury Highway.

McCoury said that he got a call from officials Mitchell County, N.C., who wanted to name a five-mile stretch of Highway 261 after him.

"That was a shock," he said. "It's a great honor."

While McCoury was born in York county, his ancestors are from Mitchell County. He said his dad grew up along a stretch of the highway that now bears his name.

When he's not on the road -- or having one named after him -- McCoury is picking away at another passion project. After folk singer Woody Guthrie's 2012 death, his daughter Nora reached out to McCoury.

She asked him to write music for her father's unfinished songs. McCoury though she would send one or two. He received two dozen.

"I wrote the music to 12, and we put them on a record, which has yet to be released," he said.

He worked on melodies for several others. In June, the band previewed the songs during a "Del & Woody" concert in New York.

McCoury said he knows what years the songs were written -- between 1935 and 1949 -- and where and what time of day. Even though the ink has faded, Guthrie's notes are still legible above his lyrics.

He wrote "Women's Hats" while looking down onto the streets of New York City. McCoury said it's dated from the same day he wrote "This Land is Your Land."

Talking history got McCoury thinking. As the interview ended, he said he said he should probably work through his musical memories of York County.

Contact Erin McCracken at 717-771-2051.

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Read more about Del McCoury on FlipSide's band page:

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