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oin Kentucky Educational Television as they examine the history of luegrass music, from its origins to its eventual worldwide popularity, nd hear from dozens of musicians who explain the ways bluegrass usic transcends generational, cultural and geographic boundaries.

THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD


from the Publisher’s desk

around to the festivals ng tti ge e tim a of ck he a d ha I ll We tching a steaming wa y da e on of t os m t en sp ... th last mon to Knoxville ed lk wa da ul co w, to a r fo ng iti wa radiator and it in the end, nothing rth wo all s it’ ow kn u yo t Bu ! ck ba and et your troubles. rg fo u yo e ak m to ce an rm rfo pe like a lively ass festival this summer, or gr ue bl a r fo ad ro e th t hi u yo d Di ur story, I love to hear yo ow kn e m t Le ? to ng ni an pl u are yo from other diehard fans like me: Keith@thebluegrassstandard.com Thanks for your support! Keith Barnacastle – Publisher

The Bluegrass Standard − click here to subscribe − it’s free! The Bluegrass Standard magazine is published monthly. Opinions expressed are not necessarily the opinions of The Bluegrass Standard or its staff, advertisers or readers with the exception of editorials. Publication of the name or the photograph of any person, business or organization in articles or advertising in The Bluegrass Standard is not to be construed as any indication of support of such person, business or organization. The Bluegrass Standard disclaims any responsibility for claims made by advertisers. Advertising rates are subject to change without notice. The Bluegrass Standard reserves the right at its sole discretion to reject any advertising for any reason. It is our policy to publish any letters to the editor that are signed and verifiable by phone number. We reserve the right of anonymity upon request. Letters must be grammatically correct, clarity and original and free of libel. The Bluegrass Standard reserves the right to decline to publish any letter. Please send your comments to: editor@thebluegrassstandard.com The views expressed are not necessarily those of The Bluegrass Standard. Copyright ©2019. All Rights reserved. No portion of the publication may be reproduced in any form without the expressed consent of the publisher.

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Jesse McReynolds The Wood Family Phil Salazar Steel City Jug Slammers Roland White Bluegrass Today David Pugh THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Jam Grass TV Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars:

Steve Gulley Central Valley Boys Shannon Slaughter Roper Sisters  Fiddler’s Porch 

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photographers: Barbara and Don The BluGuest e gras s St andard StDuncan aff Keith Barnacastle • Publisher The Bluegrass Standard is a life-long dream of Keith Barnacastle, who grew up in Meridian, Mississippi. For three years, Keith brought the Suits, Boots and Bluegrass Festival to Meridian. Now, with the Bluegrass Standard, Keith’s enthusiasm for the music, and his vision of its future, reaches a nationwide audience every month!

Keith@TheBluegrassStandard.com

Richelle Putnam • Managing Journalist Editor Richelle Putnam is a Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) Teaching Artist/Roster Artist (Literary), a Mississippi Humanities Speaker, and a 2014 MAC Literary Arts Fellowship recipient. Her non-fiction books include Lauderdale County, Mississippi; a Brief History, Legendary Locals of Meridian, Mississippi and Mississippi and the Great Depression. She writes for many publications.

Richelle@TheBluegrassStandard.com

James Babb • Creative Director James is a native Californian, and a long-time resident of Palm Springs. He creates a unique “look” for every issue of The Bluegrass Standard, and enjoys learning about each artist. In addition to his creative work with The Bluegrass Standard, James also provides graphic design and technical support to a variety of clients.

James@TheBluegrassStandard.com

Shelby C. Berry • Journalist Editor Shelby Campbell is a writer and designer whose heart beats for creativity. A native of rural Livingston, AL, she found her passion in journalism and design at The University of West Alabama, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. Shelby also has her own photography business.

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The Blu e gras s St andard St aff Kara Martinez Bachman • Journalist

Kara Martinez Bachman is an author, editor and journalist. Her music and culture reporting has appeared in dozens of publications and she’s interviewed many performers over the years, from local musicians to well-known celebrities. She’s a native of New Orleans and lives just outside the city with her husband, two kids, and two silly mutts.

Stephen Pitalo • Journalist Stephen Pitalo has been an entertainment journalist for more than 30 years, having interviewed everyone from Joey Ramone to Bill Plympton to John Landis. He is the world’s leading authority on the The Golden Age of Music Video (1976-1993), mining inside stories from interviews 70+ music video directors and countless artists of the pre-internet music era. GoldenAgeOfMusicVideo.com

Susan Marquez • Journalist Susan Marquez is a freelance writer based in Madison, Mississippi and a Mississippi Arts Commission Roster Artist. After a 20+ year career in advertising and marketing, she began a professional writing career in 2001. Since that time she has written over 2000 articles which have been published in magazines, newspapers, business journals, trade publications.

Emerald Butler • Journalist

Emerald Butler is a writer, songwriter, fiddler, and entertainer from Sale Creek, TN. She has worked and performed various occasions with artists such as Rhonda Vincent, Bobby Osborn, Becky Buller, Alison Brown, top 40 radio host Bob Kingsley, and country songwriter Roger Alan Wade. With a bachelor’s degree in Music Business and a minor in Marketing, Emerald has used her education, experience, and creative talent to share the love of music with others.

Emerald@TheBluegrassStandard.com

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Bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds just celebrated his 90th birthday, but don’t think he’s close to retiring.

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completely. So, I have tried to stay active with my music and my life. Hey, I have my health, and that’s pretty good I reckon.” This from the man who has outlived his legendary brother by nearly two decades and survived an aneurysm. He’s surprised, honestly, that anyone cares that he’s turned 90, “I mean, the phone’s been ringing constantly for the last two days. It’s just crazy.” Members of the Grand Ole Opry and fans gathered this past July to commemorate McReynolds ninth decade of life and his legacy in bluegrass music. Plus, he just celebrated another milestone – his 66th anniversary as a Grand Ole Opry member. Having joined with his brother Jesse in 1964, he is currently the Opry’s oldest living member. “We have had a pretty hectic weekend with this birthday celebration. Just amazing. It was a very long weekend,” he laughed. “They did a special show at the Opry and had a lot of people involved in it. I didn’t know they would do that, but it worked out pretty good.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Raised in the small Virginia community of Carfax near Coeburn, the boys grew up in a family steeped in traditional mountain music. Following in the footsteps of their grandfather, 12

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RCA recording artist Charlie McReynolds, was natural. “We had a lot of company come on weekends and play on Saturday nights, and we’d have music and dancing and they sang. People would do that back then but there were no actual shows going on anywhere because of that. People, that I remember, weren’t doing any shows, they were just playing. First one I remember going to was the Carter family; we went to see one of their shows. The admission was 15 cents. When I was about, I guess ten or eleven years old or something like that. Along the way, we’d get music by catalog order or mail order. That’s how we got it.” The brothers’ harmonizing was unmistakable: Jim’s enhanced high tenor combined with Jesse’s deep lead and unique mandolin style took traditional music by storm, practically defining bluegrass. Many have imitated, but few have successfully mastered Jesse’s unique style of speedy yet complex melodic patterns. “When Jim was in the army and I played with another band. I was playing electric guitar at that time. Jim got out of the Army and he bought a THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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mandolin here. He thought he was gonna be a mandolin player. We did a couple of shows with him playing mandolin and me playing guitar, and I said, let’s switch round and you played guitar. I’ll play a mandolin. So, Jim, he decided to play the chords.” After a few lucky breaks on TV and radio, Jim and Jesse started pumping out music for several decades for consequent generations, yielding classic tunes with what became Jesse’s signature mandolin-picking style. The brothers recorded upwards of 60 albums together, becoming bluegrass legends who kept their humble demeanor. McReynolds said one of the highlights was definitely the National Heritage Fellowship Award at the National Endowment for the Arts in 1997, presented to him and Jim by then first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and actress Jane Alexander. “They called us one morning – they called my house,” McReynolds recalled about the news and then the ceremony. “It was very interesting to actually be in Washington at the same time 14 THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD


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they were having the Country Music Awards in Nashville. We went to the White House and met Hillary Clinton. I guess Bill was out of town.� After he and his brother were both diagnosed with cancer in 2002, Jesse made a full recovery THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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while Jim unfortunately did not. The time after his death proved to be very difficult, but the music helped him through, and does to this day. “I never thought about quitting,” he explained. “Jim would have probably carried on too.” He’s hard pressed to pick a favorite from the 60 albums he and Jim recorded. “I’ve had no big hit. No favorite or anything, but I guess it’s hard to pick a particular song anyway. We used to do “Freight Train” along with all our favorite songs. I mean, we ended up making 60 so albums all together and that’s a lot of material to pick from.” “That night at the Grand Ole Opry, that took me way back,” said McReynolds of the surprise birthday tribute at the Opry. “It was entertaining to me as much as it was about me, this birthday celebration. You see, they got me over at the edge of the stage and I didn’t know they were going to do this until they started playing. Hey, I didn’t expect that the folks at the Grand Ole Opry would really care so much, but they did. I got a standing ovation.” 16

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McReynolds’ tour schedule is far less than the old days, to say the least. “I mean, how do you stop? Me and Jim used to travel – we’d do two hundred dates a year, just travel on the road. When I think about what we’ve done, and to be this age? The lesson is to be thankful that you’re still around, and able to do it.” And will he be performing at his 100th birthday? “Well, I hope I’m still around for that,” he laughed. “You never know.”

Not one to slow down, McReynolds was on the roster to perform at the Grand Ole Opry on the Monday after this interview... and by all accounts, he played to yet another standing ovation!

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The Wood Family: Keeping Tradition Going by Kara Martinez Bachman 18

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For musician Jason Wood, being left-handed has always made him just a little bit unique. While most pickers have a dominant right hand, for Wood, it was the opposite. This meant either making special adjustments or having custom instruments designed to meet his specific needs. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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“It’s a blessing and a curse,” he explained. “It draws a lot of attention.” As mandolin player with the family band, Wood Family Tradition, he’s had to seek out special instruments over the years. At age 15, his dad – who is also a member of the band – bought him a left-handed guitar made by Jeff Huffman. A left-handed guitar isn’t all that rare but finding other instruments for lefties can be a challenge. Several members of the band use Recording King instruments, and are big fans, and Wood owns one of their left-handed banjos. The company doesn’t, however, make mandolins appropriate to his uncommon leftie needs. Wood first picked up the mandolin at about age 17 and figured out quickly how to make it work for him. “I had to turn the strings around on it to learn how to play,” he reminisced. At some point, though, he contacted notable luthier, Carl Altman, and asked: “Can you build me a left-handed mandolin?” He built it, and Wood really liked it. “I love the mandolin because I love the melodies, 20

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and I love being able to take what I hear in a song and put it on a fret board,” he said. “There’s so much you can do with a mandolin.” It’s possible Wood’s penchant for music is simply in his blood. Not only is the band all composed of family, but his 82-year-old retired grandpa and Wood family patriarch Al Wood was a banjoist and songwriter. His music has been adopted by people such as Lorraine Jordan, who recorded his tune, “The Hills of Home.”

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In addition to Jason Wood on mandolin, the band includes Mike Wood, on guitar; Bobby Wood, with his bass; Mackenzie Wood, with her vocals; and Brian Aldridge, on banjo. Brothers Mike and Bobby traveled with Al’s band for over 35 years, and Jason and the other band members have professional experience in various settings and with various groups. For this family affair, keeping the songs of Al Wood alive – as well as composing new original “Wood” music – is of primary importance. “Our first CD was released in 2015, and nine out of thirteen tracks were original material,” Wood said. He was humble about his own writing abilities, explaining he mostly composes musical pieces without lyrics. He’s only penned one lyrical song so far, a gospel number. “I don’t consider myself a great songwriter,” he explained with humility, adding that kudos go to his wife, father and uncle for providing most of the family’s current writing chops. 22

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Wood said there’s something unique about the band’s 2015 CD.

“We didn’t use any pitch correction,” he said. “Everything you hear is real, raw singing. We wanted people to hear on the CD what they’re gonna hear onstage. There’s a lot of spit-polished music out there, but we try to stick to our roots.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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He said the group is often most acknowledged for its harmonies. “We get a lot of compliments on our harmony. We’ve played and sang together for so long, we know what each other is gonna do. If you can have tight harmonies and great singing, that’s what makes a band. It touches people’s hearts.” Wood Family Tradition performs several dozen times a year. Upcoming on the slate will be three showcases at IBMA. Jason’s father and guitarist Mike Wood is really looking forward to going back into the studio, perhaps as soon as September. “We are working on our material right now,” Mike said. “Early next spring is when I’d like for it to be released.” Until then, however, this family band will just keep trucking along, doing what they all love to do best: making music together.

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247 Salmon Lake Road, Grapeland, TX 75844 247 Salmon Lake Road, Grapeland, TX 75844

• August 29, 30, 31, September 1, 2019 •

The Grascalls (Friday Only)

Jeff Robertson and Friends

Edgar Laudermilk featuring Jeff Autry

Southern Style

The Malpass Brothers (Saturday Only)

Pine Island Station

Sabine River Bend Band

The Marksmen

Lonestar Bluegrass Band

Pet Rooster

The 43rd Labor Day Bluegrass Music Festival

EARLY BIRD REDUCED RATE 4-DAY PASS $65 - by August 15, 2019 Call 936-697-5949 for Credit Card purchases For info contact: coleebiller@aol.com 936-697-5949 www.TXBluegrassMusic.com By Mail: Include order form with your check and mail to: Texas Bluegrass Music, LLC P.O. Box 1303 Magnolia, TX 77353

WEDNESDAY: Potluck at Pavillion at 6:00 pm CAMPING: Over 400 Full Hook ups $22/night for 30 & 50 amp Golf cart rental please call 936-687-2594 to reserve in advance.

ADMISSION:

Thursday: $15 Friday: $25 Saturday: $25 Sunday: $15 Weekend in advance: $65 by Aug. 15 Weekend at the gate on Thursday: $70

Texas Bluegrass Music at Salmon Lake Park

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Phil Salazar and the Kin Folk by Susan Marquez Fiddler Phil Salazar has been on stage since he could crawl. “My father started the

symphony he conducted the year I was born. I literally crawled onto the stage, and by the time I was old enough to walk I was putting music on the stands.”

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Growing up in a musical family in California was certainly a good influence on Phil, and he grew up playing with his three older siblings. “I would learn a piece of music, but because I didn’t like to practice, I played by ear.” He joined the youth orchestra and played the violin, but by the time he was 17, he had learned to be a fiddler instead. “I heard the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken album and when I heard Vassar Clements play, I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” 28

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Phil’s early exposure to all kinds of music still has an influence on the music he plays today. “I was crazy about J.D. Crowe when I first heard New South. And of course Stanley, Monroe and Flatt and Scruggs. When I was very young, my dad brought home four rock and roll records and one country record. That was the first time I had ever heard country. I would listen to records by the Beatles, Donovan, Frank Zappa.” Phil was particularly impressed with Papa John Creach who played violin with Jefferson Airplane, and Don “Sugarcane” Harris, a pioneer in the amplification of the violin. As a teenager, Phil had his own band. “It was all plugged in, including my violin, which was very progressive at the time.” In 1985, Phil played at the Grass Valley bluegrass festival in California. “I played rock, Irish and bluegrass music, and it was all plugged in. I guess it freaked them out, because it was 34 years before I was invited back!” He played the Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley this year. “We did some Tom Petty and Bob Dylan covers and folks really seemed to like it.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Phil Salazar calls his band Kin Folk, because they are like family to him. The group of seasoned musicians has played together for over three decades. Bill Knopf is the banjo player. “He’s internationally known,” says Phil. “He’s been with me since the late 70’s.” Rick Borella has played electric bass with the band since 1984. “I picked Rick because he had never played bluegrass. That brought a fresh perspective to what we were doing.” Dobro/guitar player Bill Flores has played on and off with Phil since high school. And the new guy, Tom Corbett, has been playing mandolin and guitar with Kin Folk since 1995. Some of those same guys were with Phil when he was hired to play at Disneyland in 1979. “The gentleman who booked us said we were the only bluegrass band he had ever seen who smiled on stage. He said that’s why he hired us.” Smiling comes naturally to Phil and his band members, because they love what they’re doing. In addition to playing with his own band, Phil has had an opportunity to play with other groups, including playing on some Grateful Dead tunes. “I’m friends with some of those guys.” He’s also 30

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played with Jonathan McEuen (son of banjo picker John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), Kenny Loggins, the late Kate Wolf, French violinist Gilles Apap and others. The group plays plenty of covers, which Phil chooses, and they always put their own spin on them. “That’s the fun part,” he adds. The group also does original music. “Tom Corbett and I write tunes together. I wrote an instrumental piece we do.” A champion fiddle player, Phil has also been an instructor for other fiddle champions. Gabe Witcher of The Punch Brothers was his student for seven years.

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He enjoys 4 x 4 off highway adventures. “I have a four-wheel drive camper that I take deep into the deserts of Arizona and Utah. My students often go with me. We’ll be in the middle of nowhere and start playing. I’m so lucky that my job is my 32

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hobby.” Phil currently has thirty students who study with him. “I love to teach, promote and play music, even when I’m off work.” Another hobby is woodworking. “I have a woodshop, but the reality is that it’s dangerous for the fingers, so I don’t spend a lot of time doing that.” Phil says he is learning to do Instagram to help promote the band. He can use his new social media skills to promote the album the band is currently in the process of making. “It will have the kind of music I’ve always loved to play, including jazz, Cajun and bluegrass.”

For more information, visit www.pskfband.com

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by Emerald Butler While driving toward the United States and Canadian border, a rugged and somewhat sleepy band of musicians answer the call to share some stories of their journey. Banjo player Anthony Suttonwood takes the wheel as G.W. Henderson (Guitar/Fiddle) rides shotgun, Ramblin’ Ricky Tate (Mandolin/Banjitar) sleeps, and Washtub Jay mediates the conversation. These guys are known as the Steel City Jug Slammers, and they hail from Birmingham, Alabama. They identify as musicians, road warriors, and even vigilantes. 34

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Washtub Jay has known mandolin player Ricky Tate since they were kids, and they grew up playing music together. However, it wasn’t until 2012 that Ricky started a band called the Jug Slammers. Jay was hanging around with Ricky and the band one day when they had a homemade washtub THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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bass in the room. “My brother was actually there hanging out too,” Jay begins. “He tried to play it. He had a big mohawk at the time, but he didn’t like playing it. He thought it was stupid. I walked in there, picked it up, and I started pulling around on it and I liked it, so I just started playing it.” Washtub Jay shared that the band “set out to see the country and get our name out there as much as we can.” Like their name describes, they play Jug Band music. The band says the music is old timey, fun, and easy to play. “It’s an early rootsy format of a lot of American music that came to be later on,” the Jug Slammers described. “Most of the time people think we’re a bluegrass band, or they think we are the Soggy Bottom Boys. We’re not.” The group concluded that Jug Band music is more rugged than genres like Bluegrass. “It’s not as well polished. It came from homemade instruments vs. a nicer banjo or a nice bass. You would have stuff you could put together like a washtub or a wash board. Things that were found or made instruments.” 36

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In September of 2017, the Steel City Jug Slammers were inducted into the Jug Band Hall of Fame. “It was kind of like one of those things that happened by accident,” Washtub Jay admitted. “We ended up getting a few gigs around the Jug Band community and doing the National Jug Band Jubilee. We ended up making a name for ourselves in Jug Band stuff, and through that we got nominated and inducted.” The band has played across the country in all kinds of venues. “We’ve played in shacks, house venues, dive bars, and in a skateboard ramp. We opened up for Old Crow Medicine Show and we played the Fitzgerald Theater.” Now they are beginning to reach music fans in provinces like Canada.

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These jug slamming boys also told one of their most exciting experiences that took place in San Francisco. “I was trying to meet a girl,” Washtub Jay began narrating the story. “We parked our car, went to a bar dancing and hanging out. Then we decided that we had to go get a bag from the vehicle, so we sent our buddy Derrick that was in the band down there, and he came back with a sad look on his face. He said that our van got broke into, and we spent the rest of the night being vigilantes on the street like Batman. We had a folding chair and Ricky had a sock with a bunch of rocks in it. We fought the streets trying to get our stuff back. We did get some of our stuff back. The cops were out their fighting crime. We were out there fighting crime.” “We weren’t actually working with the cops,” one of the other boys stated, “we were actually doing their job for them.” After roaming the streets and following a trail of their stolen clothes, the Steel City Jug Slammers ended up getting most of their instruments back. Ever since that night, though, they’ve kept their instruments as close as possible. 38

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With their equipment in tow, the Steel City Jug Slammers plan on bringing even more exciting music and adventures. They are looking for more and more shows to play. The band also shared that they have a new album, music video, and show dates to be released in September. The official dates have not yet been announced.

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Admission Per Person Thursday $15 Friday

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Clarence and Roland White, 1972

The Great White Way Roland White Stakes His Claim Through his Namesake Band While Continuing the Family Tradition by Stephen Pitalo 42

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Bluegrass mandolin master Roland White grew up in Maine, a state not really earmarked by the bluegrass tradition. That didn’t keep him and his family from celebrating the music whenever they could, however. “Maine has a lot of string music tradition – fiddle in particular,” White explained. “The various fiddle traditions, I don’t really know, but my dad played the fiddle and probably played in one of the styles from his native New Brunswick. He also played guitar, and all my aunts and uncles played piano or guitar or both. We listened to the pop and country music of the day, on the radio and on records. Mother had a good collection and liked to kick off her shoes and dance to the radio or a record. When we got together with extended family there was always music making and often dancing. They’d push the furniture to the edges of the room and roll back the rugs!” As a member of several of the most influential and popular groups in bluegrass history, White – as well as his younger brothers Eric and Clarence and his sister Joanne – take their place among 43 THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD


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the greats, having played from a very young age. “It was in Maine, when I was about 11,” White said, recalling the first time his sibling made music together. “Eric was eight, and Clarence was five. I’d been playing rhythm guitar to my dad’s fiddle for some years, and I was sitting on the sofa one day and Clarence and Eric were running around through the house. I was strumming the guitar and singing a song with my sister JoAnne.

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My mother called JoAnne to the kitchen, and on the next pass running through, Clarence stopped and looked at me. I asked what he wanted. He pointed to the guitar and said, “I want to do that.“ So, I got him up on the couch to the right of me, gave him the pick, and I made the chords while he strummed. I had a harmonica in my right hand, and I played some simple tune, probably ’Bile [Boil] ‘Em Cabbage Down‘ and that was the beginning!” Not much later, Eric wanted to get in on it too, as White further explained. “Dad got him a tenor banjo. It was tuned like the highest four strings of the guitar and he watched my hands on the guitar to get the chords. I had also been playing mandolin for a while by that time, so once Clarence could manage to chord and strum too, maybe a year later, we had a little band. Dad first got him a ukulele, but by about age seven he was playing rhythm guitar. “We didn’t do any singing at first, we just played instrumentals. Surprisingly, Dad didn’t guide us when we got together. He thought we were doing fine and encouraged us.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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The Kentucky Colonels Moving to southern California in 1955, the White Boys formed The Country Boys, later becoming The Kentucky Colonels, and went on to win talent contests, appear on local television shows and even landed appearances on The Andy Griffith Show. “The audition was a little surprising to us,” White recalled about their Mayberry experience. “It was just before the actual filming of the show, so I guess they thought it likely we’d pass. It was 46

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at Desilu Productions. Andy Griffith was very friendly. He called us into the green room and after the introductions we got our instruments out and he sang a song and we backed him up. After just one chorus he said, “that’ll do, boys!” and that was it! We went off to the cafeteria and tried not to stare at some of the movie and TV stars there as we ate lunch, and then did our part in the show. That was the episode ‘Mayberry on Record’. Right after that I got drafted into the U.S. Army.” White and family toured the U.S., taking advantage of the folk music boom of the early 60’s, creating a fever among coffeehouse, festival and college audiences with their instrumental virtuosity, traditional brother vocal harmonies and rhythmic innovations. The Kentucky Colonels’ influence is still apparent today, and their “Appalachian Swing” album remains one of the most important albums of that era, and a true landmark in the bluegrass canon. Moving from The Kentucky Colonels into a position as guitarist for Bill Monroe in the late 60’s, Roland White absorbed the traditional feel THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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and repertoire from Monroe. Roland then joined another bluegrass pioneer, Lester Flatt, and played mandolin on several albums as a member of The Nashville Grass from 1969 to 1973, and White said these two titans of the bluegrass sound had a profound effect on him. “Their personalities are very different, but they are both pure embodiments of bluegrass music,� White said as he explained the difference in

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his experiences with the two. “Maybe slightly different aspects of it, but they are both essential to it. Lester was warm and easygoing, liked to laugh. Bill had humor too, but he wasn’t as easy to get close to. Both were caring friends and mentors to me. They both were natural musicians and for each, music was his life. They were both dear to and dedicated to their fans – as Bill called them, ‘my people’.” That last year, a short-lived reunion of The White Brothers was brought to an untimely end due to Clarence White’s tragic death. Two concert recordings of those shows captured the White Brothers’ sound, live and at their ripest, perfectly matching Clarence’s country rock journey with the Byrds and Roland’s years with the bluegrass masters. After Clarence’s death, Roland began a thirteenyear tenure with the progressive west coast group Country Gazette, first playing guitar and then mandolin, with such bluegrass luminaries as Byron Berline, Alan Munde, Joe Carr, and Roger Bush. In 1989, Roland joined Nashville Bluegrass Band, who distinguished themselves as the THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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premier bluegrass band of their generation, winning two Grammy Awards and Grammy nominations on all their albums. White recalls these times fondly and values the education that both afforded. “Both of those bands furthered my musical development,” White explained. “The repertoires of both, and the great musicians in both were a continual source of discovery for me. I really appreciated the high level of musicianship in both those bands. I had a very tight rapport with my brothers and the original Kentucky Colonels, and it was great to play with other musicians who could uphold the standards of great timing and good musical communication. Also, both bands branched out a little into other styles. Alan Munde turned me on to a lot of jazz recordings as we drove the highways, and some jazz made it into some of the tunes.” In 2000, Roland formed The Roland White Band, and they earned a Grammy nomination for their first recording Jelly on My Tofu. With Roland on mandolin, Diane Bouska on guitar, Richard Bailey on banjo, Brian 50 THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD


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Christianson on fiddle and Jon Weisberger on bass, the band has enjoyed playing songs on the road, taking quite a few from their most recent album, Straight-Ahead Bluegrass. Both SPBGMA and IBMA have honored White for his achievements and contributions to bluegrass music, but he just takes it in stride, saying he only started a namesake band to get out there and use what he learned from others.

“I thought it was time to go out on my own again,” White said, his emergence as a solo act serving as the springboard for his career to date. “I could sing more and record my selection of songs. Being in National Bluegrass was great, I just wanted to have my own band! I keep on performing and recording because that’s what I do! I still love the music as much as I did when I first found it.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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For more information, visit www.rolandwhite.com

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John Lawless & Terry Herd: The Beginning of Bluegrass Today by Emerald Butler The internet has reconstructed the way news is delivered and consumed. What might have taken a couple of days or even a month to deliver to the greater public can now be delivered online in seconds. From the start, John Lawless and Terry Herd, co-founders of Bluegrass Today, knew news wasn’t always about tragedy and politics. With

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plenty of happenings in the bluegrass world to talk about, Bluegrass Today has been called the CNN of Bluegrass. Lawless and Herd concur and here is how it all happened. “I got interested in the banjo before I even knew there was bluegrass,” said Lawless, “and that came oddly enough from watching the Captain Kangaroo show as a little tiny kid. Then, when I saw Flatt and Scruggs on the Beverly Hillbillies, I just thought that was the neatest thing I’d ever heard before.” But it wasn’t until Lawless was around 17 years old that he really started following Bluegrass. “Before that, I had planned to be Paul McCartney, but of course Earl Scruggs was much cooler. It wasn’t just the banjo. It was Earl Scruggs playing the banjo. It was still a new sound, and it wasn’t popular like it is now. So, I think that appealed to me too. That whole idea of ‘you like the Rolling Stones? Well I like Flatt and Scruggs.’ ” Lawless shared that bluegrass made him feel like he was on the cutting edge and cooler than the “in crowd”. “When you meet other bluegrass people, especially those who are in ‘bluegrass isolation’, they get so excited to find somebody else that can talk to about Del McCoury.” Still, Lawless only thought that he was

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on the cutting edge of bluegrass. He would come up with something that would help alter ‘bluegrass isolation’. “I started a company called AcuTab which initially was just doing transcriptions. When video became doable on a small scale, we started doing videos on VHS tape and eventually started doing DVDs. The company was fairly successful, not great but enough to pay me and a couple of people. But when the internet really got started, my fascination really got turned in that direction.” Lawless remembers when “blog” became the coolest word in 2004 because everyone had one, and that’s what the news talked about. “The guy that was my video editor back then, he and I used to talk about it all the time mostly joking, but we said, ‘you know we probably could have a blog if we wanted.’ So, we said ‘what the heck? Let’s just do it,’ and we created a company called the Bluegrass Blog doing largely what Bluegrass Today does now but on a much smaller scale.” Lawless reached out to several festivals and companies for advertisement and asked if they would be willing to do this. They were. “We tried it, and it caught on. Largely because it was the only

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thing like that available,” Lawless stated. “Bluegrass Unlimited wasn’t online, and they were the 700 pound gorilla, and nobody wanted to take them on, but we weren’t going to be in the print space. It became popular because we could get the news out way before Bluegrass Unlimited’s next issue came out. We could present (news) to the market that day.” A few years later the partner that Lawless had for the bluegrass blog decided that he wanted to get out of video editing, go back to school, and move. This was the guy that knew how to do all the coding

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for the blog. Lawless had to figure out what to do next. "Just by the freakiest of chances,” Lawless began, “Terry Herd had been an acquittance of mine for years in Nashville. He called me and just said ‘John I’m thinking about launching a website that’s a news site.’ His phrase at the time was ‘I want it to be like the CNN of Bluegrass.’ ” Both Lawless and Herd agreed that they wanted to take this thing to the next level. They both invested some money to develop a professional new site. “Within a year, we were online in 2011 as Bluegrass Today,” Lawless remembers. The team was able to take the content and google analytics of 7 years from the Bluegrass Blog and put it into Bluegrass Today, so it wasn’t just like starting a brand-new website. “We were able to hit with a bang!” Lawless proclaimed. Lawless admitted that he and Herd have had some disagreements on things mostly in the beginning, but he thinks that they complement each other in a way. “Terry is a real go get ‘em promoter kind of guy from being in the radio business all these years.” Lawless saw Herd as very business oriented and by the book kind of guy whereas Lawless would have a creative idea and just go

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with it whether it was in the business plan or not. Regardless of the arguments, the two co-founders have become close friends over the years.

“I know Terry has his bases covered, and he knows that I’ve got my bases covered,” Lawless stated. “Now it’s a legit business. It’s like a machine. It runs.”

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The Mountain Bluegrass Show by Kara Martinez Bachman 60

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Radio host David Pugh was 12 years old when he switched his primary passion from country to bluegrass. “I went and saw the Osborne Brothers. They were just starting out,” Pugh reminisced. “They tore the house down…and I fell in love with bluegrass on that day.” Today, that West Virginia boy has parlayed that moment into what has quickly become an upand-coming roots music favorite, the Mountain Bluegrass Show, broadcast on World Wide Bluegrass. The program is well-suited to his education and experience in broadcasting, great radio voice, and outgoing, generous personality. Pugh’s connection to roots music dates to his childhood. His dad played in bluegrass and country bands. About the time he heard the Osborne Brothers and the family relocated to Kentucky, the music genre came calling his name. He learned to play mandolin, guitar, and he loved to sing. He put a few different bands together in THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Kentucky, but it was all for fun; he “wasn’t looking to be a professional.” Pugh loved public speaking, and received attention for it at a young age, including winning the Kentucky State Speaking Award while still in high school. “I started to get an urge to go into radio,” he explained. “I decided to take TV and radio at a vocational school and took it at college as well.” His first radio gig was at a small country station in Carrollton, Kentucky. He then worked at a southern gospel station out of Cincinnati, Ohio that served the “tri-state” region of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. After a while, he switched

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gears and took a job with the postal service, from which he retired after 30-plus years. Soon, however, the music biz was pulling at his heartstrings once again. Because of his experience in broadcasting, Pugh was recently given a radio slot on the World Wide Bluegrass Channel. He said he’s discovered that so much has changed in radio over the years; there is of course a learning curve. But he’s embraced it all out of love for the music, and for the magic of the airwaves, and has put things into place that listeners seem to love. “I came in with a mission,” Pugh explained, of his mindset earlier this year when planning out his show’s content. “I’m gonna make something out of this show.” “I implemented a Top 12 countdown every other week. The listeners love it,” he said. Pugh began to do interviews, and really enjoys that aspect of his show, which just began airing in March but has gotten a highly positive response from fans. Although he’s featured some well-known THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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names of the bluegrass world, he said a special feeling comes with being able to get behind the up-and-coming musicians who need a boost getting their music out there. When talking about the high points so far, Pugh said one of those moments has got to be his interview with bluegrass notable, Lorraine 64

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Jordan. “It was a big deal to me,” Pugh said, his affection for this musical lady apparent in his tone of voice. He also mentioned an interview he did with performer Sally Berry. “She [Berry] ended up being so nice,” Pugh said. “I’d never talked to anyone as kind as she was. People [listeners] really just got a hold of it...they loved it.”

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To hear interviews and more from David Pugh’s Mountain Bluegrass Show, tune in to the Internet Radio station World Wide Bluegrass every Sunday from 9 to 11 Eastern Standard Time. “I’m trying to put a good product on the air,” Pugh said. “Something I can be proud of. I’m loving it, because everyone is so supportive.”

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Epic Creative’s Jam Grass TV by Emerald Butler 68

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As Bluegrass and its relational subgenres continue to grow and sprout up across the globe, so does the technology and businesses that drive it forward in new directions. One of those technological businesses just might be Jam Grass TV. Jam Grass TV is the newest “sandbox” of Epic Creative: a full-service ad agency based out of West Bend, Wisconsin that was created by a selfproclaimed hippie named Jim Becker. Originally Epic Creative was just a video production company, but as time went on it added more services including graphic design, web design, and photography. However, it wasn’t until about ten years ago that the group started branching out into the music industry. “It started as a sandbox, in-house venture,” Jim’s son, Zak Becker recalls. “I went to the Northwest String Summit Festival while following Yonder Mountain String Band. I discovered this cool little festival with such a great location, and we decided that we wanted to try to do a documentary on it. Because until I had been there, I had never heard anything about it. We reached out to the festival and over the next THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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four or five years we’ve done two separate documentaries.” The first documentary that the creative group filmed at the Northwest String Summit was released in 2013 and named Turn Left at the Peacock. Later in 2016, the group made a sequel film entitled Return of the Peacock. “At this point, we were kind of like, ‘well we would like to keep working with String Summit and maybe a portion of the music industry.’ Jim Becker of Epic Creative Simultaneously over that time, we developed some live streaming capabilities…” These live streaming capabilities streamed into another idea of live streaming music festivals in general. So far, they 70

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have live streamed the 2017 and 2018 Northwest String Summit and Blue Ox festivals. They also stream several live shows in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. Calling his father an old “dead head” and himself a fan of Jam Grass, Zak adds that this venture started as simply a fun thing to do. “We’ve really just established what we are doing, and we’re just looking for opportunities to keep growing it.” “Zak oversimplifies things when he said that his father, Jim the owner of Epic, was just an old deadhead,” Epic’s Creative Director, Dan Augustine, cuts in. “Jim’s not just a dead head but he’s just an old school hippie. The way I describe it is he founded Epic Creative exclusively on concepts of Peace, Love, and Understanding which is pretty miraculous in our line of work. As a result, he’s just attracted a number of employees that are very like-minded. There’s a wealth of people at Epic who are really into the Jam scene, the Bluegrass scene, and the rock scene.” Dan shared that the team has invested a decent amount of time and money into Jam Grass TV and that the project has been a “true THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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labor of love.” “When you’ve got an old school hippie that runs an ad agency, you’re going to find that a lot of his employees have aspirations of becoming old school hippies themselves.” Social Media Account Executive, Hanah Christiansen shared that Jam Grass TV has become a staple in the scene that they are in. “People are so enthusiastic about it.” This year marks Epic Creative’s 30th Anniversary, and though the team wouldn’t share too many details, they did say that they have some exciting plans coming up for Jam Grass TV. In the meantime, they are striving to keep growing Jam Grass TV and even partner with other festivals, bands, and media groups.

“One of the things that we definitely want to put out there,” Dan Augustine adds, “it’s hard to talk about, but the reality is we’ve been putting this out for free, or damn near it, for a great long while. “The investment to Epic is pretty significant. I don’t think there is any 72

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desire to find a way to make Jam Grass TV a profit generator, but we would like to break even. We are constantly looking for sponsors and partners. There is no end to any festivals that we want to cover.� For more information, visit: www.jamgrass.tv

Dan Augustine of Epic Creative THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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The Diamond in the Rough:

Dreyden Gordon by Shelby C. Berry

Photo by Zach Gordon

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There’s nothing like the rush of finding a new artist, especially young artists with a future ahead of them. But they aren’t always easy to find. Sometimes, however, we find that diamond in the rough – a musician pouring heart and soul into his songs and devoting himself to traditional bluegrass music. Meet Dreyden Gordon, a fifteen-year-old bluegrass musician and unusually gifted individual. “The first time I got on a stage, I was two years old. I started with clogging and did only that until I was about seven,” said Dreyden. “That’s what got me into the bluegrass music business.” Dreyden then picked up the spoons and sang his first note at eight years old. “I started playing guitar about three or four years ago,” said Dreyden. “Since then, I’ve gotten to work with some great people like the late Dr. Ralph Stanley, Ralph Stanley Jr., Larry Sparks and Joe Mullins to name a few,” which is no small accomplishment. 76

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Photo by Terry Vaught “One of my most memorable onstage moments in my career so far was getting to be a guest with the late Dr. Ralph Stanley for the first time. It was definitely the honor of a lifetime. It’s not something a lot of people, especially young musicians, can say they’ve done.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Even with all the attention Dreyden has received in his short – but successful – career, his favorite part of playing bluegrass is seeing how his music touches listeners. “I’ve always enjoyed the way a song can touch somebody – making them feel something, whether that is happy or sad,” said Dreyden. “I especially love touching people through singing gospel songs. On top of that, I also really enjoy meeting all of the people, traveling and just getting to entertain.” Attending a live show performed by Dreyden leaves you with the feeling that you had watched and heard someone two or three times his age, purely based on his talent alone. His lively, energetic traditional bluegrass show pleases fans of all ages. While Dreyden has not yet released any original music, in early 2018 one of his bluegrass covers reached number three on the Kentucky bluegrass charts. “I was very excited about making it on the charts last year, but I am looking to release a project of 78

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my own soon as well!” said Dreyden. With dreams of a long and successful career in music, Dreyden is proud to be a member of Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars.

Photo by Virgie Colegrove “I think TBS is a great organization. It does so much to preserve the future of bluegrass music. Not only does it do that, but it also helps young artists like me to get shows booked. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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“It even gets young people involved in bluegrass because other musicians their age are playing this music.” With dreams of one day playing the Grand Ole Opry and traveling the world to perform his own music, Dreyden’s talent and ever-growing passion for bluegrass music steadily pushes him toward those dreams. Jeannie Seely of the Grand Ole Opry said it best about Dreyden:

“[Dreyden] is definitely a young man to watch. He has the drive and work ethic to make it – which you have to have – in addition to his talent.” He’s a diamond in the rough that’s going to shine.

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Steve Gulley and New Pinnacle by Susan Marquez Taking a time out from teaching songwriting at Lincoln Memorial University in northeastern Tennessee alongside the Cumberland Gap, Steve Gulley reflects on his life as a bluegrass musician...

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“I guess I come by it naturally,” says Steve. “My dad was a musician and radio personality who played at the Ryman in Nashville before I was born.” Steve’s mother sang Gospel in church as well as singing country and bluegrass with his dad. Steve feels at home at Lincoln. “They gave me a doctorate here in 2016,” he says proudly. He spent thirty years at the Kentucky’s historic Renfro Valley. “I lived away for ten years and missed the mountains every day. I’m really just a 82

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good ol’ mountain boy at heart.” At age five, Steve began his musical career, singing on stage with his dad. “I sang country music and did my first recording session singing harmony at age ten.” When he was twelve, Steve got his first bass. His earliest musical influences were George Jones and James Taylor. “I read that James Taylor was influenced by George Jones too.” Steve was also influenced by the music of Buck Owens, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Bobby Osborne and Paul Williams. “I’m really a traditionalist at heart, but I like to push the envelope at times. Luckily, I’ve always had people who have supported me.” Steve recalls that because his dad was in radio, he often brought home promo copies of albums. “I started listening to Michael McDonald and the Doobie Brothers and played bass to it. I am a high tenor singer and I used to sing along with the albums. My dad never put labels on anything. He said there are two kinds of music: good and bad.” After entertaining at Renfro Valley, Steve joined THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver which exposed a wider audience to his talent. He was a founding member of Mountain Heart, where he recorded five projects before becoming a founding member of Grasstowne. A gifted songwriter and tenor, Steve has written with Tim Stafford and recorded with Keith Whitley and others. But it’s writing that really drives Steve. “Writing has been great therapy for me, both personally and musically. You can disguise what it is you’re really saying, but still you get it out. I love teaching the process of songwriting, from coming up with an idea to getting it on paper. It’s really such great therapy.” Steve’s band, Steve Gulley and New Pinnacle is a throwback to his father’s band, the Pinnacle Boys. “We have a great band that’s very forward thinking, and that’s reflected in our music. But we have a strong appreciation for the past. We always have a foot in the past, but we are heading full-bore into the future.” Steve is the old guy in the band, with the other members all born after him. “They have energy on call,” he laughs. “The guys in New Pinnacle push me to be 84

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a better musician. They are so creative in their thinking and that gives us an edge, from good country music and ballads to straight-ahead bluegrass barnburners.” Brian Turner plays bass with New Pinnacle. “Brian’s been my picking buddy for a long time,” says Steve. “His uncle and my dad were good friends. We own a recording studio together, and he helps with the engineering. He also sings alto tenor.” Gary Robinson, Jr. plays mandolin with New Pinnacle, but is an accomplished musician on many instruments. “He’s also married to my

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youngest daughter. I’ve watched him grow up since he was seven years old.” Matthew Cruby is a “banjo virtuoso,” according to Steve. “He is the most innovative banjo player I know. He’s one of those dudes you love to hate, only because you wish you could play that good.” Steve says the same band has been together for five years and they have found their niche musically. “The creative process is the motivating factor that keeps us going. At the end of the day, we hope everyone likes what we’re playing.”

Steve Gulley and New Pinnacle will be releasing their new LP in September. High Peaks and New Ground is a hybrid album with half the album featuring their chart-topping songs and the other half composed of new originals. The band’s new single, Rise and Shine, is currently at the number one spot on the bluegrass charts. “It debuted at number sixteen,” says Steve, “and in two weeks it went to number one. We are super excited.” 86

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Steve explains that the “high peaks” are their chart-toppers, the songs that have worked well for the band. The “new ground” is the original music they are releasing out into the world. “It’s an exciting time for us and we hope folks really like this new album.” For more information, visit www.stevegulley.com

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Best Get Dressed: Dave Gooding Talks Central Valley Boys & Traditional Bluegrass Music by Shelby C. Berry THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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A group of five veteran bluegrass musicians joined forces almost a decade ago with one goal in mind – to play traditional bluegrass music together while wearing some pretty amazing suits. With a name nodding to their home state, Central Valley, California, these “boys” pay tribute to the musicians of the area, like Vern Williams, one of the area’s well-known bluegrass musicians. Central Valley Boys is about simple, classic bluegrass, sharing a microphone, wearing the same colorful suit, and performing bluegrass covers by artists like the Stanley Brothers, Reno & Smiley, The Farmer Boys and Rose Maddox. The band is made up of Victor Skidenenko on banjo, Yoseff Tucker on guitar, John Cogdill on mandolin, Peter Hicks on fiddle and Dave Gooding on bass. This year, they loaded up and performed at many festivals across the US. I got the chance to chat with Dave Gooding before The Central Valley Boys hit the studio to prepare for the next festival season. The Bluegrass Standard: First, tell me a little bit about the Central Valley Boys. 90

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Dave Gooding: About 10 years ago, a bunch of us had played together and in other bands. We wanted to put together a band to play some older music and travel to play lots of festivals. We were all hanging out together having a good time and decided to buy some red suits to perform in, and I ordered them right then.

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BGS: What are your favorite songs to perform? DG: Some of our three-part harmony Stanley Brothers songs are great. “God Gave You to Me” is one of my personal favorites. Songs written before 1964 tend to be our repertoire. We dig pretty deep into the catalog of older bluegrass. We’ve even gotten some songs off the B side of albums that were big in the 1950s and tend to be forgotten about now. BGS: What inspires your band, your sound, and your love for music? DG: One of our biggest inspirations is a man named Vern Williams. He played in many bands, and he brought the traditional bluegrass sound from Arkansas to California. BGS: After almost a decade of performing together, what would you say has been the most rewarding part of this experience? DG: The comradery of playing with the same people for almost ten years and a new audience who hasn’t seen us before getting excited to hear the older songs is what keeps us going. 92

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BGS: How do you feel your music resonates with fans? DG: I think it’s how people remember the roots of the music when they hear us sing or see us perform. Dressing up like we do and huddling around one microphone is a homage to older country and bluegrass music. It’s the way they used to entertain. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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BGS: Let’s talk suits. What are your favorite suits to wear when you are performing & what inspired this theme with the band? DG: Recently, I’ve been a fan of the lime green suits. I always like to wear the red ones too because those are the ones we wore in the beginning. BGS: How would you describe your music in one word? DG: Traditional. That pretty much says it all. BGS: What should a fan expect when attending one of your shows? DG: Outstanding harmonies and singing! Our fiddle player, Peter, hits a D note lower than I can hit on my bass. BGS: What shows, events, or venues have been the most memorable? DG: One of the most memorable for us is the Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley, California. It’s where we all met, and it’s one of the largest bluegrass festivals on the West Coast. Playing there is like coming home. My kids grew 94

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up there. BGS: What era of music would you consider the greatest of all? Why? DG: Probably the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s because that was the origin of bluegrass music. That’s when bluegrass broke off from country music to really become its own genre. BGS: If you could collaborate with any artist in any genre, who would that be and why? DG: That’s a hard one! I would probably have to say Frank Sinatra. I’m not exactly sure how that would work, but he was one of my heroes. I listened to a lot of his music as a kid. BGS: What is your band’s ultimate dream? DG: Our dream would be to keep on traveling and playing festivals, maybe play some different places and play for new people along the way.

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BGS: Anything else you would like to add for our readers? DG: If you like older traditional bluegrass shows, we are the band for you! And always remember to keep supporting the young bluegrass musicians. That’s where the future is at.

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Shannon Slaughter and County Clare

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From his home in Argo, Alabama, Shannon Slaughter says he lives the good life.

“I’ve got a beautiful wife, three kids, I get up and go to work every day. I have a garden, a fishpond, a tractor and I chop wood. I’m just a good ol’ boy living the dream.” The dream is playing the music he loves, making beautiful harmonies with his wife, Heather, and traveling to festivals with his family. Shannon Slaughter and County Clare is a bluegrass and acoustic country music band formed in 2010 by Shannon and Heather. Known for their powerful 98 THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD


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vocals and instrumental tunes, the band has made a name for themselves across the United States and into Canada. The Elite Circuit recording artists have been at the top of the bluegrass charts, with three number one songs many top ten songs. Not bad for a guy who never had music lessons. “I grew up listening to music. Really listening. I listened to a lot of country and bluegrass growing up in north Florida. Merle Haggard. Randy Travis. Tony Rice. Keith Whitley. Ricky Skaggs. The Osborne Brothers.” Shannon got his first guitar at age eight, but singing was his first love. “I sang in churches, at livestock fairs and other venues around the Gainesville area. As a teenager, sang harmony to the radio. One of the earliest things I knew I could do musically was to lock in on instrumentals within a song. I could hone in on one instrument and tune out everything else. Everybody’s got a gift in life, I guess that’s mine.” Shannon attended the University of Central Florida, University of Florida and graduated from Radford University in Virginia where he majored in social science with a minor in political THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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science. He earned his master’s degree in gifted education from Samford University. “I didn’t study music in college, because I had never really had any formal lessons before that.” But music was a strong calling. His professional career in music began in the summer of 1992 when Shannon moved to Virginia to join the Lost and Found. That December he joined the Larry Stephenson Band, where he cut his teeth on harmony singing. During the next three years, Shannon recorded two CDs, toured across the United States and Canada, and performed on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. His next endeavor was creating Savannah Road, a band that lasted six years before he took a break from music. But the road called and in 2004 and 2005 Shannon toured with Buddy Cannon’s daughter, Melonie Cannon, until becoming guitarist and lead vocalist with The Lonesome River Band through 2007. From 2008 to 2012, Shannon was the guitarist and featured vocalist with Lou Reid and Carolina, and most recently, he was guitarist and vocalist in Grasstowne and is featured on their latest 100

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recording, Grasstowne 4. Meeting Heather was certainly the highlight in Shannon’s storied musical career. “We met online,” he jokes. “But not on farmers.com or anything like that.” A radio disc jockey contacted Shannon and asked if he had any songs for a

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female singer. “He said he knew someone really talented. I heard her sing and was blown away. We developed a friendship online and then I met her, and we sang together. What can I say? Seven months later, on July 26, 2009, we got married and now here we are with three kids and four records!” Their children are ages 5, 3 and 1. The kids travel with the band more often than not. “We hire a nanny, or my mother-in-law goes with us.” Shannon’s band, County Clare, is made up of some of his best friends. “Some of them were even in my wedding.” Ron Inscore is on mandolin and vocals, Trevor Watson on banjo and vocals, Owen Piatt on banjo and vocals and Matt Wingate on mandolin, guitar and vocals. “These are some of the best musicians I know,” says Shannon. Heather is a fluid mandolin player who claims Adam Steffey as one of her major musical influences. She also plays upright bass. “We play contemporary bluegrass and acoustic country, but we are influenced by other genres,” says Shannon. The band got its name from the New Grass Revival instrumental by the same name, 102

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“and because we live in a rural country called St. Clair in Alabama,” Shannon explains. Both Shannon and Heather are educators. Heather is a master’s degree-certified special education teacher and works for Pell City Schools. Shannon teaches high school A.P. history, government and economics. “I also coached for 22 years.”

The band is almost finished with their newest record, due out this fall. “There will be a lot of good singing and the best instrumentation I’ve had on any of my records,” promises Shannon. “There will be nine original songs and the first instrumental I’ve ever written. We have a lot of co-writers on this. It’s going to be dynamite!”

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Hooked on Bluegrass from Sister to Sister:

The Roper Sisters by Shelby C. Berry THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Based in Central Virginia, twin sisters Hannah and Emily Roper perform bluegrass music together as The Roper Sisters. Having performed all their lives, they took a stab at playing professionally a few years ago and since then have preserved the traditions we all love about bluegrass music. Music has always been a part of their lives, but not in the traditional way of bluegrass musicians.

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“Emily and I didn’t grow up in bluegrass. We grew up playing classical orchestra, and we discovered bluegrass at 14 when we began taking lessons from someone who played old time bluegrass music. We were intimidated at first as we didn’t know much about playing by ear, but we went to a jam and fell in love with it. We loved the community and how everyone encouraged us and helped us to learn and be better,” said Hannah.

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Hannah takes the spot as lead singer and guitarist, and plays the clawhammer banjo on a few numbers; Emily sings harmonies and plays the mandolin. The sisters focus on traditional acoustic, old country, bluegrass and bluegrass gospel music with their youthful enthusiasm and vocals bringing fun entertainment. They like to jam to contemporary artists like NSync, however, the legendary Monroe brothers influence is evident in their approach to music – in the way they play and in the way they sing harmonies. Crediting their sound to the Monroe brothers, The Roper Sisters are inspired by older bands with stronger vocals and harmonies. “When we learn songs, we try to get it as close to the original as we can,” said Hannah. “Then we adapt it to make it more us. If you are going to change a traditional song, it should come from a place of knowledge. We want to play the music authentically and as ourselves.” Appealing to older audiences with traditional 108

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music and younger audiences with a new appeal and twist, “We try to be really authentic to both the source and the way we perform – our branding and our representation,” said Hannah. Over the past two years, Hannah and Emily have both started earning respect in the bluegrass world, winning first, second and third place awards at the Virginia Folk Music Association for vocals, mandolin and guitar. “I’m really proud of Hannah for winning first place female vocalist two years in a row,” said Emily. “It makes us feel really supported to THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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win awards like this because we spent a lot of time working really hard to get there. It’s really encouraging to know that other people see that.” “We love playing music together. We are both really easygoing and get along very well. We honestly don’t even really get a break from one another. We are even in most of the same classes. It’s super convenient because we are together all the time. I can just walk in Hannah’s room and ask her to play some music with me,” said Emily. This sister duo really strives to be the best they can be – with tight vocals, driving traditional music and entertaining performances. Part of this can be credited to their role as students at East Tennessee State University in the Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program. 110

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Hannah and Emily are able to support their passion for music at ETSU by learning new songs, instruments and techniques for playing as well as working in a band, booking gigs and promoting yourself. “The people on staff at ETSU are all leaders in their field and lots of students are even playing professionally themselves. Studying there is such a great opportunity for us,” said Emily. When they aren’t in class, The Roper Sisters perform at a variety of markets, churches and charity events, their favorite place to perform being Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. As a different kind of performance, Hannah and Emily got to perform in the streets interacting with people and performing with them. “It is a great environment, very wholesome with good vibes. We love playing there,” said Emily. Hannah and Emily plan to keep pushing towards their dream of playing professionally every day. “We love the opportunity to tour, perform and share our music with others. We want to do that every single day as long as we can,” said Hannah. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Performers like The Roper Sisters show the world that the future of bluegrass music truly is in good hands. They value the lessons and music of the greats before them, incorporating that sound into their music. But Hannah and Emily love adding their contemporary twist to this traditional music, showing us how bluegrass music is constantly evolving while also staying true to itself. That’s why we need to look no further than The Roper Sisters.

To follow a long on Hannah and Emily’s mu sical journey, yo u can find them @theroper sisters on Facebo ok, Twitter, Ins tagram and Youtu be. 112

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 Fiddler’s Porch 

A NAMM Story by Emerald Butler It all started a few years ago for me. I had never heard of NAMM before one of my friends and bandmates had posted pictures on Facebook about the event. My friend Joel Beaver, son of Rockabilly Hall of Famer Stan Beaver, had met James Burton, Elvis Presley’s guitar player, there in 2017. Somewhere among all of the comments, my drummer friend Chris Gordon had mentioned the name Tutt. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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My bandmates held this “Tutt” in such high reverence while imagining the possibility of meeting this man too. I, of course, had no clue who this “Tutt” was. Being in a playful mood, I claimed to have seen this “Tutt” in Nashville. All I knew of Tutt was mummy wrappings and hieroglyphs. When in reality this “Tutt” they mentioned is Ronnie Tutt. The drummer who played for Elvis Presley in his TCB Band. “You lie!” Chris accused me. I’m sure I made up some fantastical story about meeting this “Tutt” even though my friends probably never believed me.

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If they did, well…sorry guys. The truth comes out now. I was just kidding! JK, Ha-ha, LOL, etc. Anyway, that was my first introduction to the NAMM conference. However, it wasn’t until this year that I got to experience it. Twice a year the NAMM show takes place in Anaheim, CA and Nashville, TN. It is known as “the world’s largest trade-only event for the music products, pro audio and event tech industry.” This summer NAMM was hosted at the Music City Center in Nashville. As I entered into the showroom floor, my ears were filled with various arrangements of music. Some might call it noise, but I’ll be optimistic about it. The convention room was filled with booths of music product companies such as Recording King Guitars, Gibson Guitars, Martin Guitars, Franklin Straps, Shubb Capos, Ear Trumpet Labs, and numerous others. I had already been told by several friends that I was quite likely to run into famous musicians there as Joel had. I did indeed THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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see a few celebrities this year including Vince Gill, Stephen Mougin, and viral video fiddler and dancer Hillary Klug. It was a fulfilling experience to be in the same space with so many people who are also passionate about music and creating an even greater music industry for our future. There was so much innovation on display as well as a sense of tradition for a modern age. I can’t wait to see what next year’s event has to offer! Though technology may be ever-changing, I believe that the love of music will always stay true. May it be in one of the biggest buildings in Nashville, or on one of the smallest porches in the country.

Oh, and before I conclude this story I would just like to say that I did see “Tutt” in Nashville this year! ;) 116

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• Booking 2019–2020 •

Turnberry Records & Management

Christian Davis

Rebekah Long

Phillip Steinmetz & His Sunny Tennesseans

No Time Flatt

The Kody Norris Show

Bluegrass Outlaws Nu-Blu

SpringStreet

Jeff Brown & Still Lonesome

The Baker Family

Turnberry Records & Management

a division of The Bluegrass Standard Magazine 760.883.8160 • Booking 2019–2020 • turnberryrecords@gmail.com 12168 Turnberry Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270 www.TurnberryRecords.com

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Summer Bluegrass Events Mt. St. Helens Washington August 9-11

Grand Targhee Alta, WY August 9-11

Summergrass San Diego, CA August 16-18

Pickin’ in the Pines Flagstaff, AZ Sep 13-15

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Walnut Valley Winfield, KS Sep 18-22

SW Pickers Red River, NM August 22-25

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Brown County Georgetown, OH August 22-24

Freshgrass North Adams, MA Sep 20-22

Uncle Pen Days Bean Blossom, IN Sep 18-22

Nothin’ Fancy Buena Vista, VA Sep 19-22

Raleigh, NC Sep 24-28 Back 40 Curryville, MO Aug 29 – Sep 1

D&V LandFest Hiawassee, GA Sep 12-14

Salmon Lake Grapeland, TX Aug 29 – Sep 1

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August Bluegrass Festivals Dates

Event

Location

Aug 2-3

7 Mile Bluegrass Festival

Greenfield, Ohio

Aug 5-10

Old Fiddler’s Convention

Galax, Virginia

Aug 9-11

Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival

Medical Lake, Wash.

Aug 9-11

Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival

Alta, Wyoming

Aug 15-17

North Carolina State Bluegrass Festival

Marion, N. Carolina

Aug 15-18

Green Mountain Bluegrass & Roots

Manchester, Vermont

Aug 15-18

Winding Creek Bluegrass Festival

Russiaville, Indiana

Aug 16-18

Summergrass San Diego

San Diego, California

Aug 22-24

Brown County Bluegrass Festival

Georgetown, Ohio

Aug 22-24

Central City Bluegrass Festival

Central City, Iowa

Aug 22-25

Blistered Fingers Bluegrass Festival

Litchfield, Maine

Aug 22-25

Pickin’ in the Pasture

Lodi, New York

Aug 22-25

Rainier Bluegrass Festival

Rainier, Washington

Aug 22-25

SW Pickers Bluegrass & OldTime Festival

Red River, N Mexico

Aug 28 – Sep 1

SamJam Bluegrass Festival

Piketon, Ohio

Aug 29 – Sep 1

Back 40 Labor Day Bluegrass Festival

Curryville, Missouri

Aug 29 – Sep 1

43rd Labor Day Bluegrass Festival

Grapeland, Texas

Aug 30 – Sep 1

Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival

Woodstown, N Jersey

Aug 30 – Sep 1

Four Corners Folk Festival

Pagosa Springs, Colo.

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September Festivals & Events Dates

Event

Location

Sep 12-14

Dailey & Vincent LandFest

Hiawassee, Georgia

Sep 12-14

Mohican Bluegrass Festival

Glenmont, Ohio

Sep 13-15

Pickin’ in the Pines

Flagstaff, Arizona

Sep 15

Lyons Fiddle Festival

Lyons, Pennsylvania

Sep 18-22

Uncle Pen Days

Bean Blossom, Indiana

Sep 18-22

Walnut Valley Festival

Winfield, Kansas

Sep 19-21

Blazin’ Bluegrass Festival

Whitley City, Kentucky

Sep 19-21

Cumberland River Bluegrass Festival

Burkesville, Kentucky

Sep 19-21

Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival

Kodak, Tennessee

Sep 19-22

Nothin’ Fancy Bluegrass Festival

Buena Vista, Virginia

Sep 20-22

FreshGrass

North Adams, Massachusetts

Sep 24-28

IBMA World of Bluegrass

Raleigh, North Carolina

Sep 26-28

HOBA Fall Bluegrass Festival

West Plains, Missouri

For the complete list with links to full info, check out our Events tab at TheBluegrassStandard.com! THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Did you miss it?

Volume 2, Issue 10: Our coverage of last year’s IBMA convention included many influential artists such as Hot Rize and Garrett Newton, and the history of the International Bluegrass Music Association. If you’ve ever wondered who comes up with all of those fantastic stage jackets and costumes, check out Manuel Cuevas, the creator of the original Elvis Jumpsuit!


our readers around the World

from the Publisher’s desk

readership is The lion’s share of our are also we t bu , es at St ed it Un e from th da, the U.K, popular in Germany, Cana Ireland and Australia! andard with St s as gr ue Bl e Th g in ar Keep sh and let d, rl wo e th nd ou ar s nd ie your fr for FREE – e ib cr bs su n ca ey th ow them kn ubscribe /s om .c rd da an St ss ra eg lu www.TheB Keith Barnacastle – Publisher

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The Bluegrass Standard - Mobile - Volume 3, Issue 8  

The mobile edition is specially designed to enjoy on your phone or tablet device. This month we celebrate Jesse McReynolds' 90th birthday, e...

The Bluegrass Standard - Mobile - Volume 3, Issue 8  

The mobile edition is specially designed to enjoy on your phone or tablet device. This month we celebrate Jesse McReynolds' 90th birthday, e...