The Bluegrass Standard - May 2021

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Early Bird Special 3-day ticket $


before June 1, 2021

Checks and all major credit cards may be used for advanced tickets

June 17, 18 & 19, 2021

Tax Included

Mike Wilson, Promoter

Russell Moore & III Tyme Out Saturday

David Davis & Warrior River Boys Friday

Lonesome River Band Thursday

Seth Mulder & Midnight Run Thursday

Dewey & Leslie & Carolina Gentlemen Thursday

Gates Open June 12 8 am for early arrivals

Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road HOST BAND Friday and Saturday

Roxboro, North Carolina

Big Country Bluegrass Saturday

Sideline Friday

Malpass Brothers Saturday

Keven Prater Band Friday

Cane Mill Road Thursday

For Festival Reservation Form and More Information Roxboro, NC 27574

Caroline Saturday

Drive Time Saturday

Scarlett & Big John Friday

Friday and Saturday Mornings


Directions: 3.5 miles south of Roxboro off NC Hwy 49 on Blalock Dairy Rd. 1 hr north of Raleigh/Triangle area | GPS: 36.37456, -79.04302

ADULT TICKETS 3 Day at Gate - $90 Thursday - $30 Friday - $30 Saturday - $30 CHILDREN’S TICKETS Age 12 and under - Free Age 13-16 - $15 per day order tickets online

CAMPING w/ festival ticket Primitive campground campsites .........$5/day Adv Elec campsites ...$20/day or $120/Sun-Sat Electric campsites at gate .................... $25/day Parking in One-Day lot ............................. FREE Quality Inn-10% Discount..(336) 599-3800 Hampton Inn .................(336) 599-8800

For more information, or help with online ticket sales call 919-779-5672 To pay by check make checks out to Willow Oak Productions and mail check to Jordan Entertainment, 101 Timber Pointe Lane, Garner, NC 27529


Family Style Bluegrass Vendors Electric Hook-ups Hot Showers Concessions Camping in Shade Lots of Campsite Jammin’ Fishing Pond Workshops


No alcohol in the concert area. No smoking in the concert area. No pets in the concert area. Pets must be on a leash at all times. Golf carts only. No ATVs. No glass containers in concert area.


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Our Staff 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!

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.

Rebekah Speer • Creative Director

Rebekah Speer has nearly twenty years in the music industry in Nashville, TN. She creates a unique “look” for every issue of The Bluegrass Standard, and enjoys learning about each artist. In addition to her creative work with The Bluegrass Standard, Rebekah also provides graphic design and technical support to a variety of clients.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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 uses her creative talent to share the love of music with others.



THE PETERSON FAMILY When it comes to American roots bands, The Petersens are bringing a new era of music to their home base in Branson, Missouri, as well as surrounding areas. Their show features authentic music, clean comedy, and a heartwarming family experience. The Peterson band features sisters Katie, Julianne, and Ellen Petersen Haygood, along with brother Matt. In 2017 they added Emmett Franz on dobro and mom Karen Petersen on upright bass. While the Petersen children were growing up, their father, Lt. Col. Jon Petersen, was in the Air Force. “We moved around a lot,” recalls Ellen, who is the spokesperson of the family band. “We were always surrounded by music. My dad played the piano and saxophone, and my mom played the trumpet. They played together for us and we always had such fun.” As is the case in many families, the children were involved in a variety of activities. “My parents were always running around from the soccer fields to music lessons or whatever else we were doing. My dad wanted to find something we could all do together.” He found just the thing while the family was on a history field trip to Gettysburg. “That 8

same weekend the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival was going on,” says Ellen. “My mom grew up listening to bluegrass music with her dad. We went to the festival and my dad saw several family bands, many sitting around playing music. He said we could start a family bluegrass band!” Jon bought a banjo for Ellen at the festival. “Ricky Skaggs was playing at the festival along with banjo great Jim Mills. I actually got to talk with Jim

area, and a job opportunity for a retired military family presented itself, and the family moved to Branson. Soon after they arrived, they met D.A. Callaway, director of entertainment for Silver Dollar City. “He gave us a few slots to play, which forced us to practice,” laughs Ellen. “We didn’t want to go on stage and look like fools, so we started practicing on our own, without our dad’s urging.” An opportunity to compete in the Gospel singalong resulted in a regular gig at the Little Opry Theatre at the Branson IMAX. They play every Tuesday, We d n e s d a y, and Thursday. They do their Gospel show on Wednesday nights, with Jon

Mills, who gave me some of his CDs and some advice on playing the banjo.” Not only did the family get a great introduction to bluegrass that weekend, but they learned that the culture of bluegrass was to raise future musicians in the genre. “The truth is that the kids didn’t really like the bluegrass style, but we loved the people, so that kept us going to festivals. The love of the music came later.” Jon retired from the Air Force in 2007, and the family was looking for a place to settle down. Karen had family in the Branson

joining them onstage. As the children in the band get older, their interests and fields of study are as varied as they are. Katie, the oldest Petersen sibling, graduated from College of the Ozarks in 2014 then moved to Oxford, England to study. Most recently she traveled to Nicaragua to teach music and English at a school through Project Hope. “As someone has to rotate out of the band, we have a family meeting to discuss how we will keep the business going,” says Ellen. “It’s so


important for us all to be here, but we love each other and never want to hold anyone back from their dreams.” When someone needs to rotate out for a while, the family meets to discuss how they will keep the family business going. “Of course, the sweet spot is when all of us are here.” “When someone has to be out for a while, we take the time to learn more songs and sing lead,” Ellen says. “We also play multiple instruments.” Ellen graduated from the University of the Ozarks in 2014, then moved to Oklahoma City to work as a laboratory technician. That same

University. She is also the first of the siblings to marry. While Matt may be the lone boy sibling, he holds his own on stage. He is also the director of operations for the band. He graduated from College of the Ozarks in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in business. He handles outside bookings and the technical side of the Branson show. He keeps the band grounded with his comedy. Julianne is the baby of the family, but she also holds her own on stage. She has been the full-time mandolin player since 2017 after starting

AFTER HER AUDITION, JUDGES HARRY CONNICK JR. AND KEITH URBAN ASKED HER TO PLAY THE THEME SONG FOR THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES ON HER BANJO. SHE DID, AND THEY STOOD ON EITHER SIDE OF HER SINGING THE SONG. summer she auditioned for American Idol as its bus tour went through Branson. After her audition, judges Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban asked her to play the theme song for The Beverly Hillbillies on her banjo. She did, and they stood on either side of her singing the song. “That was a fun moment,” Ellen laughs. She ended up making it to the top 48 on Season XIV. After American Idol, she moved back to Branson to focus on music, and she earned her MBA at Missouri State 10

off playing the fiddle and clogging when the band started in 2005. She ran sound and lights for the band when she was only eight years old. Now Julianne attends John Brown University. They are currently on tour with the Bass Pro Shop U.S. Open Fishing Tournament. “It’s a lot of fun,” says Ellen. “We sing while folks weigh their fish!”



EDGAR USELTON THE PIE MAN by Susan Marquez Who doesn’t love a man who bakes pecan pies, fries the best fish, grows a garden, and puts up peaches from his orchard? Oh, and on top of that, he can play a mean fiddle and guitar! Some may call Edgar Uselton a Renaissance man. He just thinks of himself as a man who has plenty to do, and he enjoys doing every bit of it. At age 91, Edgar shows no signs of slowing down. “He’s amazing,” says bluegrass artist Becky Buller (Richelle, you may want to put a link to your article about her here). Becky and her husband, Jeff Haley (also a bluegrass musician) know Edgar because they attend church together at Hurricane Grove Baptist Church in Manchester, Tennessee. “We live in Manchester, and Edgar lives in Hillsboro,” says Becky. “We are a 15-minute drive apart.” Perhaps it is having friends like Becky and Jeff that keep Edgar young. “Edgar played as a duo in the early 1950s with my husband’s late uncle, Floyd Haley,” says Becky. Recalling his days of playing in bands, Edgar says he always loved playing music, but he had a job that kept him busy during the week. “I made golf clubs for 42 years at the Wilson Golf plant in Tullahoma, Tennessee. I played music in the evenings when I could, and on the weekends.” Edgar says he was in a band that would play for get-togethers. “Some of those guys went on to play at the Grand Ole Opry. I played at Station Inn with Benny Williams, who has played fiddle for Bill Monroe as well as Flatt and Scruggs and many others.” Like most musicians, Edgar has collected a few instruments over the years. One of his most prized instruments was a 1952 model D-28 Martin guitar that once belonged to Kitty Wells. “I met a woman who lived next door to Vince Gill and told her about the guitar. She called Vince, who was playing a show with Willie Nelson. Vince called me for several days, and when we finally spoke, he offered me $11,000 for the guitar. I only had $1000 in it, so I made $10,000 on the deal! He probably would have given me more for it, but I was happy with that offer.” Edgar says his mother played the guitar and she showed him the chords. “I just picked it up from there. She used to sing Mother, the Queen of my Heart by Jimmie Rodgers when I was young, and that was the first song I learned to play. I learned to play a couple of more tunes, including Roy Acuff’s The Old Age Pension Check. I played them for my family, and it blew their minds. I just started singing and picking all the time after that.” While he does not play much anymore, Edgar recently played an impromptu gig at his barbershop. “My barber had a couple of old fiddles that he took down and showed me. The strings were rusty, and the fiddles were way out of tune. I told him I would bring my fiddle up there and play for him. It took me about six months, but I got my neighbor who plays the guitar and another friend who plays the upright bass, and we played about eight to ten tunes right at closing time. Everyone really had a great time.” Becky has encouraged Edgar to keep playing. “I’m going to have some gall stones taken out, and after that, I’m getting with Becky and Jeff to make a CD!” Edgar would rather stay outdoors than be cooped up in his home all day. “I put in a big garden each year, and I call it the Garden of Edgar. I grow huge tomato plants that fill the cages and grow to be six to eight feet tall. I took one of the tomatoes to the store last year and it weighed two and a half pounds! The secret is to use a lot of fertilizer and to plant grass around the plants to hold in the moisture.” He also has a peach orchard. “I have peaches that look like they came from the grocery store. No worms in them at all. It’s because I spray them well early on. I dehydrate some of the peaches and put others up in the freezer.” Edgar says he enjoys fishing as well, especially when he can host a big fish fry with his catch. But it is his pecan pies that Becky says are the best. “I had to learn his secret,” says Becky. “We went to his home and he gave me and my sister-in-law a lesson on how to make the perfect pecan pie!” Becky says there is no one quite like Edgar Uselton. “He is so special. We are blessed to have him as a friend.”


THE BERKELEY INSTITUTION FREIGHT & SA BY KARA MARTINEZ BACHMAN There are many music venues in the world, but there are few that have the history, vigor, and mission-oriented purpose of Freight & Salvage, which has brought traditional music to Berkeley, Calif. for 53 continuous years. The venue started as a coffeehouse back in 1968, but in 2009 moved to a larger location, which -- according to Director of Marketing and Communications Brian Peebles Kameoka -- was “remodeled to our spec, with a state-of-the-art Meyer sound system.” He said the venue has “maintained a reputation for excellent sound quality and an incredible lineup of musicians, all while maintaining an intimate [450-seat] listening room.” Although the venue had to shutter itself this past year due to COVID-19 restrictions, they’re all excited to get back into the fray. If the past is any indication of what’s to come, audiences are in for a treat. When Peebles Kameoka says the roster of past performers is “incredible,” well...anyone with any sense would have to agree. From Ricky Skaggs to fiddler Laurie Lewis, the list of recognizable names is long. There are also talented acts that are just building a name, and he specifically mentioned the young group from the Bay area, Crying Uncle. “We love them,” Peebles Kameoka said. “They did a streaming porch concert to benefit The Freight shortly after the shutdown last year. You may not have heard of them, but you will!”






Laurie Lewis is a special case, as her involvement at the unique, nonprofit venue space goes beyond just appearing there. Peebles Kameoka called her “a living legend” and said, “we’re blessed to have her living locally.” He said Lewis curates the annual on-site Bluegrass Festival in conjunction with the venue’s program director. She also does an annual show there on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. “Bill Evans performs regularly, and like Laurie’s show, his annual California Banjo Extravaganza event went online [for 2021] -- both the show and the mini-camp -- and was incredibly successful,” Peebles Kameoka said. “Ricky Skaggs is among the many big names we’ve had at The Freight, and we had a sold-out show with him two days before closing down. I remember that because the pandemic was dominating the news at that time, but California hadn’t closed yet, and we were all monitoring what would happen.” As of the time we went to press, the reopening date for the venue wasn’t etched in stone. It’s been an unpredictable year, and much depends upon the decisions of local lawmakers. Peebles Kameoka said they are shooting for a reopening in late summer or early fall. “The governor of California has cleared the way for reopening on June 15, however, we still have to follow county and city health guidelines which are likely to be determined in the next month or two,” he said. “Everyone at The Freight is excited to have a reopening on the horizon, but at the same time there is still a lot of work to do before we’re ready for that.” In the meantime, they’ll continue offering online content, as they have for the past year, including when they streamed their annual Bluegrass Festival featuring artists that had originally been scheduled to perform in person, including Laurie Lewis, Alice Gerrard, Michael Daves, 16


Barbara Higbie and Laurie Lewis

Tatiana Hargreaves, and Peter Rowan, all of whom streamed a set from their own homes. Since then, Freight & Salvage has presented over 50 streaming concerts, including a transition to filming them at the venue itself, but minus the live audience. “The streaming concerts are never going to be the same as being there,” Peebles Kameoka said, “but we made a commitment to figure out how to make it happen because it was putting musicians back to work. For our longtime supporters, it’s a really great sign of hope to tune in and see music being played in our room again.” “It’s also worth mentioning our education programs, led by Director of Education PC Muñoz,” he added. “We teach all kinds of classes to the general public, but also in local schools, and those switched over to take place online and have flourished. It’s been a bright spot during the pandemic, and we’ll come out of it with a lot of people picking up a new instrument during this time.” This outreach is part of the nonprofit’s mission, aimed at promoting public awareness and understanding of traditional music of various genres. In addition to the streaming shows, on June 4 the venue will do a scaled-down, online version of its wildly popular Freight Fest. Peebles Kameoka said bluegrass fans will want to tune in for The High Water Line, one of the bands confirmed to perform at this event. When it’s all said and done, it sounds as if Freight & Salvage is beloved because of respect for the performers. Peebles Kameoka said the venue “puts the music and the musicians first,” and many of them consider it “home.” “There are some cool generational things happening too,” he added. “We have staff now who grew up around this place because their parents were musicians and very involved. A co-worker told me that as a kid, she used to sleep in her parent’s guitar case backstage during gigs. The Freight is that kind of place.”


Susan Marquez

CAROLYN EYERLY Carolyn Eyerly never strayed far from home, but she’s had experiences around the world. “I was born in Philly,” she says, “but when I was young my dad found a job in the Washington, D.C. area. I’ve lived in Vienna, in Fairfax County, Virginia most all my life!” Married to her high school sweetheart, the couple has many mutual friends. “We used to have a big mid-year party and invite everyone we knew, but over the years, it simply got too big!” Those friends encouraged Carolyn to do many things in her life, including releasing her solo project, The Sunny Side of Life, in December 2020, featuring Gospel bluegrass tunes as well as seven of Carolyn’s original compositions. “I chose them carefully, like building a setlist for a show,” she explains. “The songs tell a story of the promise of God and of human frailties and angels.” She jokes that she could have titled the album Issues and Anger. “These are Christian 18

songs that I wrote and recorded. I sold my dream car, a 1966 Mustang convertible, to pay for it! I really miss that car.” Carolyn’s musical career did not start early in her life, although she was surrounded by an outgoing and talented family. “My dad was a musical theatre guy. He played lead roles in plays in college, but then he got married and had four kids, so he had to focus on earning a living to provide for his family. My brothers and sisters were all singers, but we had no money for instruments.” Carolyn finally got her first guitar when she was in middle school. “I lent it to a friend’s big brother, who later said it was stolen. So that was that.” Carolyn was in her high school’s choir and she sang in church.” At age 19, working as a carpenter’s helper with her fiancé, she had the fervent desire to pursue her dreams. “I joined the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts. “I guess I grew up with a kind of racy life, but when our kids came

along, we settled down.” Carolyn says she is a Christian, but she is also very human. While she had intentions of acting after her children were grown, music had an overwhelming draw on her. Carolyn has been active on the bluegrass scene in Virginia for over a decade. “I used to find people who wanted to sing.” That led to Carolyn co-founding a D.C.-area folk group called Shenandoah Run. She used her training to lead the theatre program at her church. She then joined an all-female group called Sweet Yonder, a group nominated in 2019 for WAMMIE awards for best bluegrass band and best bluegrass album. “One of our outreach ministries is to sing comfort songs for the homeless.” That experience led Carolyn to write As Though They Were King, which she says is her real “message song.” The song is on her solo project. “It reminds us that we should be ambassadors for Jesus, not his henchmen.” One of her favorite songs on the project comes from an unplanned,

but memorable experience. “Christmas in a Dive Bar” was inspired by a family trip to Patagonia in Chile. “We had just finished our walk of the Patagonia trail, and it was Christmas Eve. Everything was closed, so we hit up a local dive bar. We had a wonderful time together -- one we will never forget.” Sometimes you find Jesus in the most unlikely of places. The album ends with a cover in a cappella of Leon Patillo’s “Go”. It proclaims, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations. Go, go, go. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and

Holy Ghost. Go, go, go. “It’s the great commission of the project, the one that sends people out into the world to do His work. I wanted this project to be my message, based on my experiences and understanding.” Carolyn says the bluegrass world has been such a wonderful and welcoming community of people. “Everybody embraces and mentors you. We have some amazing, talented folks in this area.” One of those people is Dede Wyland, one of the pioneering women in bluegrass. “Dede has been a mentor to me, and she agreed to produce my album. That’s

the level of support that we have in this bluegrass community.” Now that the Covid pandemic shows signs of slowing down, Carolyn says she looks forward to going to festivals again in the sprinter van she purchased for traveling. “We mainly play in this part of the country.” One of Carolyn’s favorite things to do at festivals is to participate in informal jam sessions. A strong promoter of “all things” bluegrass, she became the membership director on the D.C. Bluegrass Union. “I want bluegrass to thrive!” 19



Hal Leonard is releasing a new Earl Scruggs banjo songbook later this month. The publishing company and distributor released the Earl Scruggs banjo method several years ago with the book Earl Scruggs and the 5-String Banjo. Now, Hal Leonard has transcribed 84 of Scruggs’ instrumental masterpieces in The Earl Scruggs Banjo Songbook. Jeff Schroedl, the Executive Vice President at Hal Leonard, shared that the company has wanted to create an Earl Scruggs songbook since the release of the revised and enhanced Scruggs banjo method back in 2005. The original Earl Scruggs banjo method dates back to the late 1960s with Earl Scruggs teaching readers how to play banjo from the ground up. This is very much a “how-to” book that Schroedl believes to be the best-selling banjo method of all time. The new songbook, however, is here for musicians who want to learn more of Scruggs’s tunes as he performed and recorded them. The company stayed in 20

touch with Earl’s son, Gary Scruggs, and has been working closely with him and a team of transcribers to pick the tunes transcribed in the new songbook. “The method book includes many songs, but certainly not a large portion of what

Schroedl said that it normally doesn’t take more than 9 months to create a songbook, but this publication took a lot longer than that. Once the team finalized their selection, next came the process of requiring a license from the original publisher to include the songs in the songbook. “There are dozens and dozens of publishers that we had to reach out to secure the proper licensing, but then the transcribing itself is very meticulous.” The project officially started in March of 2017 to finalize the proper song list and understand the discography. “In Earl’s case,” Schroedl began, “he recorded a lot of the same songs many times and we had to identify which recording specifically we wanted to pull from.”

Earl recorded,” Schroedl stated. “We spent a great deal of time compiling and curating the list for the songbook. Not only the song titles themselves but also which exact recordings would be transcribed.”

Deciding and finding those recordings was editor Jim Schustedt. Schustedt gathered the majority of the recording sources and assigned songs to different transcribers.

Schroedl said that the team ordered the DVD collection of the Flatt and Scruggs Grand Ole Opry TV Show which broadcast from 1955 until 1969. With a combination of audio and video sources gathered from DVD sets, old recordings, and scoured YouTube videos, the transcribing team got to work. Schroedl stated that it usually takes a transcriber a couple of hours to transcribe a song, but it depends on the song. “This was a more complex transcribing project than most just because Earl is such a virtuoso player.” Once the transcriptions are in, the editor pours over them to review the accuracy. From there everything is put into computer notation and then proofread for a couple of rounds. The artwork is then created and sent to be approved by Gary Scruggs. Once it’s approved, the team puts it all together and sends it to print. There have been a few adjustments made over the past couple of months, but the Earl Scruggs Songbook is set to be published by May 15 according to the staff at Hal Leonard. Schroedl shared that “Gary understands and appreciates how many people love his father’s music and look up to him as a great banjoist. I think Gary just wants the utmost quality as we do. We want it to look good, be accurate, and to be a testament to Earl’s playing.”




ibson Davis is a fourth-generation teen musician from West Virginia. His great grandfather, Elzie Davis, was a fiddler for Red Allen whose pickin’ transcended the generations. His grandfather Danny Davis also played for some of the all-time bluegrass greats throughout his career—including Ralph Stanley. However, the biggest impact on Gibson was his father, Chris Davis, who is a member of the Grascals.“When I was younger, I really had no idea what was going on,” said Gibson. “I would go on the road with my dad and be exposed to all of this great music. I got to meet and be exposed to all of these great banjo players, and it really kept me alive.”


ifteen-year-old Gibson has played music for more than half of his life. At around age 8, Gibson gravitated to the banjo and learned to play Cripple Creek on his grandfather’s instrument. It was a Gibson. “My grandad took out his banjo and showed me a forward roll and some licks. He told me to practice it 100 times. I did this over and over until I really got that playing banjo was for me. He taught me the basics.” ith the knowledge from father and grandfather, Gibson was on his way to becoming a proficient banjo player. “I also met a lot of great banjo players on the road with my dad, and they taught me so much,” said Gibson, remembering those days. “I got to go to Christmas in the Smokies when my dad played for Marty Raybon. They let me onstage to play with them, and it is probably one of my most memorable times on stage because it was the first big thing I ever got to do. It was the first time I saw people’s reactions to me and my music. It made me understand why bluegrass musicians really play for the live music and the people.”


ibson, along with his father and grandfather, still enjoy jamming with each other. “It happens all the time! We love to jam. We will pick up our instruments, and it happens naturally,” said Gibson. “We jam countless times in a month or year. It’s




lthough Gibson credits his growing musicianship to his father and grandfather, he credits artists like Earl Scruggs and Blue Highway as major influences. He is drawn to artists that play traditional bluegrass music with their modern twist. “The best part of playing bluegrass music is meeting new people. There’s no one musician the same. You get to see all these different styles, backgrounds, religions, and cultures. You get to travel and meet all sorts of incredible people. It’s not just about playing music but meeting others along the way.”


his frame of mind led Gibson to Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars (TBS), the group for young musicians. It was a perfect fit for Gibson. “Being from a small town in West Virginia, there aren’t a lot of people that play bluegrass. I had some friends that talked about being a part of TBS, and eventually, John Colburn reached out to me to join as well. I didn’t think there were a lot of young bluegrass musicians, but joining TBS made me realize there were,” he said. “There were people I already knew in TBS, and I got to meet a lot of new people too. It’s one big family of musicians.”


ibson hopes to record in the next few years and feature collaborations with his father and grandfather. “I’d really love to travel the world and meet other musicians of all genres. And I’d love to be a music teacher for bluegrass music and encourage kids to play our type of music where everyone is a big family.”


ibson Davis is well on his way.




I got to start a banjo company with Sonny Osborne called KRAKO Banjo. We’ve sold a lot of them, and we even sold three since yesterday actually! It’s a lot of fun. The only bad this is that it gives me really bad BAS or Banjo Acquisition Syndrome. At least it’s a lot cheaper on me! I get to play a new one for a few days before we give it to the new owner. BS: What currently inspires you musically?

A few years ago, The Bluegrass Standard interviewed Lincoln Hensley (check out the 2019 feature to discover Lincoln’s musical beginnings) when he was a student at East Tennessee State University and a member of a new band. Since then—a lot has changed, the music industry, the world … and Lincoln. Without the opportunity to tour and play music due to COVID-19, Lincoln had to approach his career differently. “COVID really shocked the music industry,” said Lincoln. “Most people turned to social media for ways to play their music. In the beginning, I joined my former director at the ETSU bluegrass program Dan Boner and another musician to do a Tone Tuesday on social media.” Their recorded videos were very successful. “Our first one got 17,000 views, so we kept it up. Under the guidance of the amazing Sonny Osborne of The Osborne Brothers, he encouraged us to sing songs and other things that haven’t been done much in 60 or 70 years. It has really filled our creative void in this time.” Then something amazing happened. Lincoln joined his mentor and friend, Sonny

Osborne, in creating their banjo company— KRAKO Banjos, an opportunity Lincoln never thought he’d have. Join The Bluegrass Standard for this up close and personal interview with Lincoln. Bluegrass Standard: In the crazy COVID world we’ve lived in for over a year, how have your performances and your time spent changed? Lincoln Hensley: I’ve done a few shows. I’ve played at The Station Inn in Nashville, Tennessee a few times, but it is limited seating only. Hopefully, things will start opening quickly with the vaccines now. First, at The Station Inn, there was no audience at all. We played to a lot of empty chairs. Honestly, I didn’t like it too much. It was very difficult. BS: What’s life like since your graduation from ETSU? LH: I’ve been playing with the Price Sisters for almost 3 years. I love playing music on the road. You get to see what your music does to a listener live and see how it affects them. It’s great to have a job to see how your music affects people’s emotions. And, of course, I’ve been making banjos.

LH: To start my career, it was Earl Scruggs. I heard him play, and it lit a fire under me. He created the whole thing of bluegrass music in my opinion - the way I want to play. I quickly became interested in Sonny Osborne’s style of playing as well. He is a very musically minded genius. He’s earned that title. Even though he doesn’t play anymore, he still teaches me a few times a month, and he has done that for 3 or 4 years. It’s an honor to learn from that guy! I think the world of him and Bobby. BS: If you weren’t playing music, what would you do? LH: In high school, I wanted to be an auto body technician. I even placed in a competition. I always loved old cars, but I got a full ride to ETSU for banjo playing and my life changed. I thought I’d give it a try. I haven’t sanded a car since then. I’ve always been very mechanically minded. My dad and grandad both worked on cars. My grandfather on my mom’s side was an oldtime fiddle player though, and he could play it all. Everyone says I get my musical talent from him. BS: When we last talked, you hoped to record your banjo album. Were you able to? LH: I actually did finish it! It is sealed and ready to print. I was about to release it when COVID hit, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t have had any shows to sell it at. Sonny produced it for me which was a major deal! His mind is incredible. He brought a lot out of me in the studio I didn’t know I could do myself. BS: What is the biggest challenge representing yourself as a young musician while staying true to traditional bluegrass 25

SHELBY C. BERRY music? LH: It’s hard to play the music in a traditional way without falling into the copycat category. Earl Scruggs was brilliant. Sonny has helped me be creative on my own. He listened to other genres of music other than bluegrass like big country session players. He would use things from them, and no one had ever heard that on the banjo. He has helped me figure out that process. I hardly listen to any new bluegrass, because I don’t want to unintentionally bring it into my playing. I really only listen to Sonny and Earl. All my other musical inspiration comes from other genres - Ray Charles, Pearl Travis, and Hank Thompson. BS: Do you hope to play the Grand Ole Opry again?

LH: Yes, I wish I was there every Saturday! That was an amazing experience to play with Bobby Osborne. I would love to play with him again and play on my own someday. It was a dream come true! I want to play the Ryman Auditorium next, though. BS: What is the ultimate dream for your music? LH: Success is measured in a lot of ways. Some think it’s money, some think it’s fans. I just want to be able to touch people with my music. I want them to feel good or sad depending on the song. My goal would be for my music to inspire people to play the banjo or listen to another song. BS: What’s next? LH: The next big thing is getting that record


out. I hope people haven’t forgotten about it! I’m looking forward to it. Some of my favorite musicians are on there with me. It’s all about timing and getting the most people to see it, so we are waiting for the right time. But you can check out the banjos we’ve been building! There’s already a yearlong waiting list. It’s such a real treat to do that with Sonny. It put a tear in my eye the first time I saw one of the banjos. You can follow Lincoln Hensley, his music, and his banjo business on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.




CHALLENGE CREATES TALENT Butch Robins was age 12 when his passion took hold of him. That passion would bring him around the world, landing him on stage with people such as Bill Monroe, Leon Russell, and Jim & Jessie. It would also be connected to years of distress that he’s only worked through as time has passed.

winning more contests and found himself playing with the most famous guy in

Robins recalled where it began. “Some guy came around that had an old banjo he sold my dad for two dollars,” he said. “I played on that thing for six or eight months. I looked at Earl Scruggs on TV and I said, hey man, I can do what that guy’s doing. That’s what can get me out of the trailer parks.”

In 1977, Monroe lost a banjo player and invited Robins to join in. Robins was skeptical and asked whether it was a good idea. “We’ve both grown a lot since then,” Monroe said.

After six or eight months he won a contest for young musicians. His parents saw the potential.

But had they? Robins’ four-year stint as a Blue Grass Boy came with both headaches and triumphs. The two continued to push against each other, and an undercurrent of conflict persisted.

“My parents paid a hundred dollars down and five dollars a week for my first Mastertone banjo,” he said. It wasn’t long before the young man was 28

lived. After a stint in the military and a move to Nashville, Robins picked up sessions playing with people such as multi-genre pop and rock songwriter and performer Leon Russell, known for his collaborations with everyone from The Beach Boys to Eric Clapton. During the 70s, Robins gigged with various outfits including Charlie Moore, Jim & Jesse, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper, and the New Grass Revival, where he played bass.

bluegrass, Bill Monroe. It didn’t work; they butted heads too often and it was short-

“He was a very strange individual,” Robins

said. “Everything in life was a challenge with Bill Monroe. It was like a boxing match with him, and every night I walked off that stage with a bloody nose.” “I never found a bottom to that old man’s talent,” he said, his voice almost glowing with the compliment. Things can often be complicated. Life is bittersweet and comes both with troubles and joys. This was certainly the case with his four years as a Blue Grass Boy. Robins said despite these early conflicts, he still considers Monroe to be one of two musicians he feels are true “genius,” with the other being banjo player Bill Keith. Those four years brought Robins far from the trailer parks. He performed on more than one occasion at the White House, and once sat at a luncheon with President Jimmy Carter. He of course performed at the Opry, Lincoln Center, and appeared on Austin City Limits. Not only was he busy, but he was always growing as a performer. In retrospect, he acknowledges that the challenges and head-butting with Monroe made him a better player. There was accidental mentorship in the battling.

A final blow-up happened; he left the band, and the two men were estranged for many years. He did make amends several years before the legend’s passing. “When I quit you,” he said to the old man, one night just after a show, “it was the ugliest thing I ever did.” Following the reconciliation, Robins found a sense of peace that had eluded him for years. He also regained a relationship with the man who may have done the most to push him to be the best banjo player he could be. “For those last four or five years, he considered me his friend,” Robins reminisced. While the Monroe chapter is just one part of an interesting life as a musician, it’s the most colorful. And boy oh boy, Robins can tell some interesting tales about his life in the bluegrass world. Those interested in hearing more might want to check out a series of videos he recorded six or seven years ago for Radford University. Titled “Butch Robins 29

Presents -- Blue Grass Music, its Origin and Development as a Unique and Creative Art Form,” the series is available online. The five interviews feature Robins walking through the background of bluegrass and giving his opinions and philosophies on what makes the music tick. He readily admits that he is opinionated. It’s what caused friction with another opinionated musician, Monroe, whose improvisational ways rubbed a young Robins the wrong way. “Monroe played all over the place,” Robins recalled. “With Monroe, that backbeat chop he did was more reminiscent of the jazz era in Chicago.” Robins said Chicago jazz influenced other things in the early days of bluegrass. “Monroe was the first one at the Opry that had soloists go up to the mic and play alone,” he said. The video series deals both with history and with ways of making strong music. “How do you make it sound like a freight train coming at you?” he asks. “That whole thing has been fascinating to me, how you make power in the music.” Robins has been part of some powerful music, and he’s stood before big crowds. When he played with Leon Russell, he’d pick before crowds of 60 to 70 thousand. Very few bluegrass performers ever get to experience something that huge. “That year I worked for him, Leon was the top-grossing rock and roll act in the United States,” Robins explained. He liked it just fine that way, supporting a big name. Not being at the front of the stage suited him. “I never played into the popularity contests,” Robins said. “I’m an introverted person...I could be anonymous but be part of that wonderful music that they played.” Despite feeling at home at back-of-stage, 30

Robins has put out much material of his own over the years. With fourteen albums to his credit, he might soon have another coming down the pike. He said he wants it to be musically “simple”, and maybe even have a “Lawrence Welk” vibe. “It’s a banjo music record that’s very, very different,” he said. “I want continuity of rhythm...I want it danceable...and I want discernible melody.” He played a few tracks he’s already completed: they almost sound like a blast from the past. They’re basic. Soothing in their simplicity. He read some lyrics, which he said are all about positivity. He said he’s not a “religious” guy so much as a “spiritual” one and hopes his simple music with a universal appeal will help lift spirits higher. A spirit lift came recently when a few months ago Robins received a prototype of the “Butch Robins Banjo” inspired by him and created by Davis Banjo company. “It’s one of the better banjos I’ve ever played,” he said. He’s come quite far from the days of playing that busted-up old thing that cost his dad two whole dollars.








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