Photographs by Peter Jordan
Two influential members of the southern New England bluegrass community were inducted into the Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance (RIBA) Hall of Fame on Friday, May 13th in a ceremony at the Elks Lodge in West Greenwich, RI. Musician Sky Travis and music event producer Chuck Wentworth were selected as the 2022 inductees for their lifetime achievements.
“Southern New England is home to a vibrant bluegrass community, yet many people are unaware that local musicians and people in the music business, like
Sky and Chuck, have had an impact on bluegrass music both locally and nationally,” said Sal Sauco, RIBA President. “Since 2016, we’ve been honoring these individuals and commemorating their contributions in the RIBA Hall of Fame and there are so many more who we will honor in the years to come.”
Sky Travis’s love of bluegrass music began in the 1950s when he went to a concert in Fall River and saw Roy Acuff with Brother Oswald on Dobro guitar. He instantly loved the sound of the Dobro. He found a Dobro at a yard sale and bought it even though he didn’t know how to tune it. He spent countless hours playing records until he learned how to play the songs. He had a natural ability to play any song by ear.
Sky went on to play with Joe Gallant and his band, Fred Pike and Randy Hawkins and many others, both on the radio and at live bluegrass shows across New England. Born Raymond Tavares, he adopted “Sky” as his stage name after getting hooked on the national duo, Jerry and Sky (Jerry Howorth and Schuyler Snow). He changed Tavares to Travis because it was easier to pronounce.
Throughout his musical career, Sky played with nationally known musicians such as Joe Val, Mac Wiseman, Bill Harrell, Don Reno, Bill Rawlings, Jimmy Gaudreau and Joyce and the SKs. He generously mentored many local musicians and always encouraged those who were new to bluegrass. Sky was inducted into the Massachusetts Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
Chuck Wentworth was first introduced to bluegrass music when he attended the Berkshire Mountain Bluegrass Festival in Ancramdale, NY in July of 1978. Later that year, he became the Folk and Roots Music Director at WRIU 90.3 FM in Kingston, RI where he hosted a weekly program called Traditions for 37 years.
Chuck’s work in radio led him into the field of festival and concert production. He joined the staff of the Cajun and Bluegrass Festival in Escoheag RI in 1981. After a couple of years, he began booking the musical talent and running the stage production for the festival.
In the following years, Chuck began producing and booking talent at several other festivals across the country including the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Fanfest in Owensboro, KY, the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in upstate NY and the Rhythm & Roots Festival in Charlestown, RI.
Today, Chuck spends most of his time with his wife Deb, his children Chucky, Tanya and Caitlin, and his nine grandchildren.
Celebratory jamming followed induction of the honorees.
The Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance's mission is to promote the appreciation of bluegrass music and serve as a resource to fans, students, teachers, musicians and venues in Rhode Island and the surrounding area. In addition to the RIBA Bluegrass Hall of Fame, the organization also sponsors youth and adult musical education programs and serves as a resource to venues and musicians.