Ricky Skaggs to be special guest on 75th annual Santa Train

J. H. Osborne • Oct 13, 2017 at 9:00 AM

KINGSPORT — When the Santa Train makes its 75th annual trek from Shelby, Ky., to downtown Kingsport on Saturday, Nov. 18, Santa’s special guest will be 15-time Grammy winner Ricky Skaggs.

Skaggs, a Kentucky native, will help Santa distribute 15 tons of toys, food, warm clothing and other gifts to thousands of people at 14 stops along the 110-mile rail route the Santa Train has followed each year since 1943.

From Skaggs Family Records label’s website biography of the singer:

• Skaggs was born in Cordell, Ky., in 1954 and by age seven earned his first paycheck as a musician by playing with the legendary Flatt & Scruggs on their television show.

• In the 1970s he entered the musical profession full-time along with friend Keith Whitley when the two were asked to join the band of bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley.

• In the late ’70s he turned his focus to country music and found success as part of Emmylou Harris' Hot Band and then as an individual.

• With the release of Waitin' for the Sun to Shine in 1981, Skaggs reached the top of the country charts and remained there throughout most of the 1980s, resulting in a total of 12 No. 1 hits.

• In 1982, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, the youngest to ever be inducted at that time.

• Skaggs was named the Country Music Association (CMA) "Entertainer of the Year" in 1985.

• Chet Atkins credited Skaggs with "single-handedly" saving country music due to Skaggs’ front-and-center role in the neo-traditionalist movement.

Items distributed by Santa and his helpers come from donations from across the nation each year — from individuals, groups and businesses.

Each year, thousands of people — including families for whom a visit to the train is a multi-generational tradition — turn out at stops along the way, regardless of the weather.

Gifts are distributed only when the train is stopped. Nothing is thrown from the train while it is in motion.

The times for this year’s stops haven’t been announced, but the 14 stops made by the Santa Train in recent years have been Shelby, Marrowbone, Elkhorn City, Toms Bottom, Haysi, Clinchco, Fremont, Dante, St. Paul, Dungannon, Fort Blackmore, Kermit, Waycross and downtown Kingsport.

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