LeAnn Rimes, Ricky Skaggs, Charlie Nagatani, Sarah Darling, Diamond Rio, The Grascals, Lennon and Maisy Stella, & moreCountry
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Riders In The Sky
8:00 – 8:15
Margaret LeAnn Rimes (born August 28, 1982, in Jackson, Mississippi) is a popular American country and pop music singer. Rimes emerged with her first single, "Blue" when she was just thirteen years old in 1996. She is most recognized for her crossover hit "How Do I Live"; which, according to the Billboard charts, is one of the most successful songs in American music history, spending 69 weeks on the charts, more than any other song in American history. While country singer Trisha Yearwood's version of the song won a Grammy in 1998, Rimes' version outsold Yearwood's by millions of copies.
"There's nothing like playing music to bring a family together," says Sharon White, but that's not exactly right; over 30 years have shown that the music of The Whites - sisters, Sharon and Cheryl, and father Buck - has just as much power to bring audiences together in a feeling that resembles that of one giant, extended family.
The story of The Whites begins in Texas, when a young Buck White started his musical career not long after the end of World War II, working the dance halls and radio shows in a succession of bands. Honky-tonk music called for the piano and the bluegrass mandolin, and so he became proficient on both, absorbing the many varieties of Texas country and blues to fashion his own distinctive style - one that kept him in steady demand as a sideman throughout the 1950s. In 1961, tired of the rough-and-tumble life of a honky-tonk musician and wanting to raise his family in a more wholesome environment, White moved to Arkansas. Yet within a matter of months, he and wife Pat were once again making music, forming a band with another couple that eventually called themselves the Down Home Folks. As Sharon and Cheryl grew, they, too, were drawn to music ("Mama said I could carry a tune before I could talk," Sharon recalls.) at first forming the Down Home Kids with the children of other Down Home Folks members in the mid-1960s, then moving up to join their parents in a growing number of bluegrass festival appearances.
The first big turning point for the Whites came in 1971, when a successful trip to Bill Monroe's Bean Blossom festival convinced the family that the time was right to move to Nashville and pursue a more serious music career. Though Pat retired from the band in 1973, the move paid off as Buck White and the Down Home Folks began their recording career, featuring the striking family harmonies and top-notch instrumental work that has characterized their music ever since. The remainder of the decade saw them make a steady ascent in the world of bluegrass, recording five acclaimed albums for various labels and working a busy touring schedule, even as they gained a toehold in the country music field thanks to their powerful vocals and broad repertoire. The former, in particular, attracted the attention of Emmylou Harris, who brought them in to sing on her Blue Kentucky Girl album of 1979 and then took them on the road with her as an opening act.
The early part of the 1980s brought The Whites - by then renamed to reflect their family ties - to national prominence as their simple, traditionally-rooted yet dynamic sound put them on Billboard's country charts with a succession of Top 20 hits. Favorites like their first Top 10, "You Put The Blue In Me," as well as "Hangin' Around," "Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling," and "Pins And Needles," - the latter all produced by Sharon's husband, Ricky Skaggs (the two married in 1981) - introduced them to new audiences, culminating in the induction as members of the Grand Ole Opry in 1984.
Since then, The Whites have entertained and inspired literally millions of listeners at thousands of personal appearances with their unique sound. Time has also brought renewed attention to Buck White's mandolin playing; as bluegrass historian Neil V. Rosenberg recently said, "insiders have long known of his prowess," and with his appearance on Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza, released in 1999, a wider audience has been introduced to his masterful style and compositions.
Their first release for Skaggs Family Records, A Lifetime in the Making, (produced by one of their former sidemen, the legendary Jerry Douglas) proves once again The Whites are among the top ranks of artists able to combine a respect for - and mastery of - traditional country and bluegrass. "We're always falling between the cracks when it comes to styles, but that's just the way our music is. We have dobro, fiddle, and mandolin on this album, as well as some piano. It has the same kind of feel as those singles we made back in the early 1980s, but it's as bluegrass as anything The Whites ever did." Released in the fall of 2000, A Lifetime in the Making received substantial critical acclaim, winning an INDIE Award for 'Best Country Album' (2001), as well as a Golden Voice Award at CMA Music Festival's third annual awards show in Nashville.
In 2001, acoustic music blasted onto the mainstream with the smash hit movie and soundtrack, O Brother Where Art Thou? Buck and the girls were hand selected among bluegrass music's finest to participate in the soundtrack and appear in the film. The Whites were recognized at the International Bluegrass Music Association's (IBMA) Awards Show in 2001, where they won two awards including the well-respected 'Album of the Year' honor. In November of 2001, The Whites were recognized at the 35th Annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in the highly esteemed 'Album of the Year' category. Their involvement in the film and soundtrack brought further acclaim the following year, including the highest industry honor achievable - a GRAMMY Award - in the revered 'Album of the Year' category; as well as the 'Album of the Year' nod from the Academy of Country Music (ACM). Along with all the industry accolades, The Whites made numerous appearances in promotion of O Brother, including their involvement in the first 18-city 'Down from the Mountain' tour, a stop at David Letterman's "Late Show" with fellow O Brother artist, Dr. Ralph Stanley, and a featured spot on the follow up tours - the 40 plus city 'Down from the Mountain' summer tour in 2002 and the 'Great High Mountain' tour in the summer of 2004.
In 2007, after years of blending their voices from the living room to the stage, The Whites teamed up with Ricky Skaggs on Salt of the Earth, their first collaborative effort, which earned them a Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album and a Dove Award for Bluegrass Recorded Album of the Year. Buck, Sharon, Cheryl, and Ricky share lead vocals with Skaggs' award winning band Kentucky Thunder laying the foundation for their tight family harmony. Traditional hymns, a few familiar favorites, and brand new treasures flow throughout the album providing an intimate look into the heart of one of music's most beloved families.
In 2008, proud Texans Buck, Sharon, and Cheryl received the ultimate honor from their home state with their induction into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. For those who have heard The Whites before, that's good news indeed - and for those who haven't, it will be an exciting introduction to a rich, yet comfortable musical world. They may not use the name anymore, but Buck, Sharon, and Cheryl White are still creating music that's as good and as real as everything conjured up by the phrase "down home folks."
Diamond Rio recently took home their first Grammy Award for The Reason. Named Grand Ole Opry members in 1998, Diamond Rio has had an illustrious career that includes over 10 million album sales, nine #1 singles, six Vocal Group of the Year awards (Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music) and 14 Grammy nominations. The band is highly regarded for their charitable contributions as the longtime National Spokespersons for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and was further honored with the prestigious Minnie Pearl Humanitarian Award in 2004.
Lennon and Maisy Stella
Nashville TN | Singer-Songwriter
Kumamoto Japan | Country
Spreading "global peace through country music" is a job that Charlie Nagatani takes very seriously! In fact, Charlie, who will turn seventy this February 20, has become somewhat of a phenomenal icon in country music, not only to his homeland of Japan, but throughout the world. At the age of twenty, he joined a band called "Speedy Kido & Hillbilly Jamboree" as a singer. Five years later, he formed his own called "Charlie and the Cannonballs" and began touring American military bases located in Japan. From there, they went on to tour military bases in Okinawa, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand and Guam Island, especially during the years of the Vietnam War. Since forming, Charlie and the Cannonballs have been bringing country music to the masses for over five decades! Recently, I had the privilege to interview Charlie and when I asked if being a country singer was something he has always considered, he replied: "Yes, when I first listened to country and western music on my 20th birthday, I made up mind to be a country music singer. I quit college and [put together "Charlie and the Cannonballs"] and it was 1956. For fifty years now, I am living with this great music from morning til night. I can't live without it. I don't need anything but country music. I really thank God [for] this wonderful music."
To be called a legend in the entertainment industry, one must first be a pioneer and then proceed to accomplish many more "firsts". JEAN SHEPARD has done that and much more. A sample listing of some of her "firsts" includes: *Starring in the 1st network country music show, THE OZARK JUBILEE. The 1st female in country music to sell a million records. The 1st country music female vocalist to overdub her voice on records. The 1st country music female to make a color TV commercial. The 1st female country singer to be a member of the GRAND OLE OPRY for 47 years.
Cordell KY | Country
A life full of music is the story of Ricky Skaggs. By age twenty-one, he was already considered a “recognized master” of one of America’s most demanding art forms, but his career took him in other directions, catapulting him to popularity and success in the mainstream of country music. His life’s path has taken him to various musical genres, from where it all began in bluegrass music, to striking out on new musical journeys, while still leaving his musical roots intact.
The year 2012 marks the 53rd year since Ricky struck his first chords on a mandolin, and this 14-time Grammy Award winner continues to do his part to lead the recent roots revival in music. With 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated classics behind him, all from his own Skaggs Family Records label (Bluegrass Rules! in 1998, Ancient Tones in 1999, History of the Future in 2001, Soldier of the Cross, Live at the Charleston Music Hall, and Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe in 2003, Brand New Strings in 2005, Instrumentals in 2007, Salt of the Earth with The Whites in 2008, Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947 in 2009 and Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved along with Mosaic in 2010), the diverse and masterful tones made by the gifted Skaggs come from a life dedicated to playing music that is both fed by the soul and felt by the heart.
Ricky was born on July 18, 1954 in Cordell, Kentucky, and received his first mandolin at the age of five after his father, Hobert, heard him harmonizing with his mother from across the house as he played with his toys. Two weeks after teaching him the G, C and D chords, Hobert returned from working out of town shocked to see his young son making chord changes and singing along. He soon earned a reputation among the locals in his community. When the legendary Bill Monroe came to Martha, Kentucky for a performance, the crowd wouldn’t let up until “Little Ricky Skaggs” got up to play. The father of bluegrass called six-year-old Skaggs up and placed his own mandolin around his neck, adjusting the strap to fit his small frame. No one could have imagined what a defining moment that would be in the life of the young prodigy. By age seven, Skaggs had made his Grand Ole Opry debut and performed with bluegrass legends Flatt & Scruggs on their popular syndicated television show, for which he earned his first paycheck for a musical performance.
In 1971, he entered the world of professional music full-time with his friend, the late country singer, Keith Whitley, when the two young musicians were invited to join the band of bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley. Ricky soon began to build a reputation for creativity and excitement through live appearances and recordings with acts such as J.D. Crowe & the New South. He performed on the band’s 1975 debut album for Rounder Records, which is widely regarded as one of the most influential bluegrass albums ever made. A stint as a bandleader with Boone Creek followed, bringing the challenges of leadership while giving him further recording and performing experience.
In the late 1970’s, Ricky turned his attention to country music. Though still in his 20’s, the wealth of experience and talent he possessed served him well, first as a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band and later as an individual recording artist on his own. With the release of Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine in 1981, Skaggs reached the top of the country charts and remained there throughout most of the 1980’s, resulting in a total of 12 #1 hits. In 1982, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, the youngest to ever be inducted at that time. As his popularity soared, he garnered eight awards from the Country Music Association (CMA), including “Entertainer of the Year” in 1985, four Grammy Awards and dozens of other honors. These achievements also placed him front and center in the neo-traditionalist movement, bringing renewed vitality and prominence to a sound that had been somewhat subdued by the commercialization of the ’Urban Cowboy’ fad. Renowned guitarist and producer, Chet Atkins, even credited Skaggs with “single-handedly” saving country music.
In 1997, after Ricky’s then-current recording contract was coming to an end, he made the decision to establish his own record label – Skaggs Family Records. Since then, Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder have released an amazing 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated classics (8 of which went on to earn the revered award) while also opening the label to a variety of other musical artists, all the time keeping emphasis on bluegrass and other forms of roots music. Since then, Ricky and Skaggs Family Records have had the privilege of working with many musical talents, including the Del McCoury Band, Jerry and Tammy Sullivan, Blue Highway, The Whites, Mountain Heart, Melonie Cannon, Ryan Holladay, Keith Sewell, Cherryholmes and Cadillac Sky.
Ricky’s first release for Skaggs Family Records, Bluegrass Rules!, set a new standard for bluegrass, breaking new sales records in the genre, winning Skaggs his sixth Grammy Award and earning the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Album of the Year Award. In 1999, his second all-bluegrass album, Ancient Tones, won a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album – his second consecutive Grammy in that same category. Just one year later, Ricky won his eighth Grammy Award in the Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album category for Soldier of the Cross, his first all-gospel project with his band Kentucky Thunder.
Ricky made further progress with the release of his fourth bluegrass album in 2000, Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe, a project which featured an all-star cast of musicians ranging from Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless and Travis Tritt to Joan Osborne, John Fogerty and Bruce Hornsby, and celebrated the music and the life of Ricky’s mentor, Bill Monroe. Big Mon received much critical acclaim, including a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. The album was re-released by Lyric Street Records in 2002 under a new name, Ricky Skaggs and Friends Sing the Songs of Bill Monroe. His fifth bluegrass album, History of the Future (2001), a timeless collection of both traditional bluegrass standards and newly conceived acoustic gems received rave reviews and industry accolades, including a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album and an IBMA nomination for Album of the Year, once again placing Skaggs among the leading innovators in the genre.
Skaggs’ first all-live album with Kentucky Thunder, Live at the Charleston Music Hall (2003) led to an IBMA Award for Instrumental Group of the Year – an award Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder has taken home 8 times in the last decade. The decision to record a live album was an obvious one for Skaggs. From a string of high-profile tour dates with the Dixie Chicks in 2000, to his position as host of the unprecedented “All*Star Bluegrass Celebration” which aired nationwide on PBS in 2002, to his participation in the wildly successful 41-city ’Down from the Mountain’ tour – Ricky has become one of bluegrass’ most dynamic and sought-after live performers.
He counts the current configuration of Kentucky Thunder among the best group of musicians he has ever worked with. “This group of guys meets my approval every night,” Ricky says. “Each and every one of the pickers in Kentucky Thunder totally amazes me in every show…and that, to me, outweighs any award we could ever win.” The all-star lineup of Kentucky Thunder includes Andy Leftwich (fiddle), Cody Kilby (lead guitar), Paul Brewster (tenor vocals, rhythm guitar), Eddie Faris (baritone vocals, rhythm guitar) Justin Moses ((banjo, background vocals) and Scott Mulvahill (bass, bass vocals). Live at the Charleston Music Hall was honored in 2004 with a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group for the Harley Allen-penned track, “A Simple Life.”
In 2005, Ricky earned his 10th career Grammy (Best Bluegrass Album) for Brand New Strings – a beautiful collection of music featuring four Skaggs originals as well as several tunes by some of his most admired contemporaries, including Harley Allen, Guy Clark and Shawn Camp. In 2006, Skaggs was honored with a Grammy Award – this time in the Best Musical Album for Children category – for his contribution to Songs from the Neighborhood: the Music of Mister Rogers. Greater success followed with the release of Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder Instrumentals, an album of all-original, all-instrumental material in the fall of 2006. Praised by fans and critics alike as a landmark album for Skaggs, Instrumentals debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s bluegrass album chart and earned Ricky his 12th career Grammy Award (Best Bluegrass Album).
Cross pollination has been a mainstay throughout Ricky’s career, from his weekly collaborations with various artists as host of The Nashville Network’s Monday Night Concerts in the 1990’s to his recent pairings with Bruce Hornsby and The Whites. Released in March of 2007, Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby (Sony/Legacy) drew from the deep roots in mountain music – adding piano and Hornsby’s inimitable songwriting to the core bluegrass lineup of mandolin, guitar, bass, fiddle and banjo. A major ’CMT Crossroads’ special coincided with the album’s release.
His next recorded project, released in September of 2007 on Skaggs Family Records, was a literal family affair. After years of blending their voices from the living room to the stage, Ricky Skaggs and The Whites teamed up for their first collaborative gospel album, Salt of the Earth, which resulted in a 13th career Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album, followed by a Gospel Music Association Dove Award for Bluegrass Recorded Album of the Year and Inspirational Country Music Awards for Musician of the Year as well as Mainstream Country Artist of the Year and Inspirational Bluegrass Artist of the Year (with The Whites).
In 2008, Skaggs paid tribute to the man he has often referred to as his “musical father”, Bill Monroe, and the original lineup of the Bluegrass Boys (Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise and Howard Watts) with the release of Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947, earning a 14th career Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.
A musical father in his own right, Skaggs continued on the full circle path with the addition of a ReIssue Series of his groundbreaking country music masterworks to the Skaggs Family Records catalog in 2009. Beginning with 1982’s Highways & Heartaches, and followed by 1981’s Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine and 1983’s Don’t Cheat in Our Hometown, the ReIssue Series will include nine albums total and includes bonus retrospectives with each release, which feature Ricky, in his own words, sharing never-before-told stories about the making of each project.
Skaggs’ first-ever solo album, Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved (2009), celebrated the man that caused him to fall in love with music – his father, Hobert Skaggs. He elaborates, “If I could’ve gotten my dad into the studio, this is how I would’ve wanted him to sound.” Playing every instrument and singing every note on the album, Ricky brought raw, emotional honesty to the songs. By coming home to the music that meant so much to him as a child, Ricky tapped into a wellspring of passion that is channeled into every tune, as though he willed himself back to his family’s house in Kentucky. Solo was honored in the American roots field with a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2010.
Ricky Skaggs’ album, Mosaic (2010), marked a return to a full band sound that mixed elements of Country music with Beatles-esque melody and lyrics that spoke to Skaggs’ faith, “making music that is in my head and in my heart,” as Ricky said. Grammy winning songwriter/producer Gordon Kennedy, who co-wrote Eric Clapton’s “Change the World,” was instrumental as co-producer and writer. This most special album hooks the heart, as the sounds invite you in to take notice and come closer. They have blended their talents and love of music with their love for the Lord to create this distinctive collaboration of writing and talent, unparalleled in strength of genius. The song, “Return to Sender” from Mosaic was nominated for a Grammy for Best Gospel Song, and the album was a contender for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards, receiving major critical acclaim.
Marking Ricky’s 50th year in music was the release of Country Hits Bluegrass Style (2011), a compilation of many of Skaggs’ #1 country hits and fan favorites played in a bluegrass style. Combining his country and bluegrass roots along with Ricky’s impeccable tenor voice, his eight time IBMA Instrumental Band of the Year, Kentucky Thunder, and some of Ricky’s original award-winning country band alumni together with special friends added to the magic of this release.
Long awaited by country and bluegrass music fans alike, Music To My Ears (2012) is an exciting new offering by Ricky. Fresh, new bluegrass tunes co-written by Skaggs along with a brand new instrumental mark this CD in distinction among all others, while new takes on older bluegrass standards add to its charm. The album features a new duet with Ricky Skaggs and Barry Gibb (of Bee Gees fame) on deeply moving “Soldier’s Son,” along with new bluegrass treasure “You Can’t Hurt Ham,” inspired by a true story of Mr. Bill Monroe.
Ricky Skaggs has often said that he is “just trying to make a living” playing the music he loves. But it’s clear that his passion for it puts him in the position to bring his lively, distinctively American form of music out of isolation and into the ears and hearts of audiences across the country and around the world. Ricky Skaggs is always forging ahead with cross-cultural, genre-bending musical ideas and inspirations.
Great musicians will always find a way to make good music, but for great musicians to make great music, they must form a bond - one that, more often than not, goes beyond the purely musical to the personal. For The Grascals, that bond has been forged at the intersection of personal friendships, shared professional resumes and an appreciation for the innovative mingling of bluegrass and country music that has been a hallmark of the Nashville scene for more than forty years. As their records prove, The Grascals' rare musical empathy gives them an unerring ear for just the right touch to illuminate each offering's deepest spirit - whether they're digging into one of their original songs or reworking a bluegrass classic or a pop standard.
Vocally, the trio of Terry Eldredge, Jamie Johnson and Terry Smith are tighter than ever, cutting loose on driving solo vocals and soaring trios with equal fire and passion. As an instrumental unit, The Grascals have never sounded sharper, with mandolin ace Danny Roberts, fiddler Adam Haynes and banjo player Kristin Scott Benson leading the charge. As a result, their cutting-edge modern bluegrass is delivered with a deep knowledge of, and admiration for, the work of the music's founding fathers. Timely yet timeless, The Grascals make music that is entirely relevant to the here and now, yet immersed in traditional values of soul and musicianship. It's a unique sound that has earned two of their previous releases (THE GRASCALS, 2005 and LONG LIST OF HEARTACHES, 2006) Grammy nominations for International Bluegrass Music Association's Best Bluegrass Album.
The group's newest CD, the 13-track THE GRASCALS & FRIENDS (January 10, 2011, BluGrascal Records) is a special project produced in conjunction with (and sold only in) Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. The disc features The Grascals in true duet format with close friends, including: Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Dierks Bentley, Joe Nichols, Charlie Daniels, Tom T. Hall, The Oak Ridge Boys and Darryl Worley. Paisley's rollicking version of Buck Owens' "Tiger By The Tail" is an engaging romp of pure fun; while Parton strikes a more serious note as she shines on "I Am Strong," a song that appears in both duet and "cast version" formats on the disc and features the touching vocals of three-year old cancer patient, Ansley McLaurin. The "cast" version features not only special guests Terri Clark, Randy Owen and Steven Seagal, but most of The Grascals' aforementioned duet partners as well. The song, written by The Grascals' own Jamie Johnson (along with wife, Susanne Mumpower-Johnson and friend, Jenee Fleenor) was inspired by a visit Johnson, Smith and Eldredge made to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. As Johnson recalls, one child had written on a "thought wall" the words: "I Am Strong," and the song was born. Parton's heavenly voice has never been better, and her performance is simply stunning. "It's like a choir of angels when she sings," Terry Smith adds. A portion of the funds raised by "I Am Strong" will be donated to St. Jude's, and collectively, The Grascals hope the song will do well if for no other reason than that.
THE GRASCALS & FRIENDS project brought Tom T. Hall out of retirement, and Smith laughingly recalls the day Hall reported in for duty to sing his own 1971 #1, "The Year That Clayton Delaney Died." "Tom's such a professional," Smith says. "He walked right in, said 'howdy' and got right down to it - and it worked. He nailed it in two or three runs." Paisley, understandably busy with his ongoing success, nevertheless made time to participate, and his cut is a disc highlight. "We're really humbled that he found time to do this for us," says Danny Roberts. "I mean, come on, he's the CMA's 2010 Entertainer of the Year. That's big!"
Dierks Bentley's take on "Folsom Prison Blues" is exactly what the group had imagined it would be. "That big, raspy voice," says Terry Eldredge, "was the perfect fit." And, the "perfect fit" is what the group had hoped for all along - and got - with THE GRASCALS & FRIENDS as a whole. The project was a labor of love for the group; a reunion of sorts - a blend of "old" and "new;" "past" and "present." There is a feeling of homecoming and unity that will give Bluegrass fans plenty to love, and Country fans familiar favorites - Grascalized.
Already among the most beloved and acclaimed bands on today's bluegrass scene, The Grascals have won SPBGMA's Bluegrass Band of the Year award in 2010, the International Bluegrass Music Association's Emerging Artist of the Year award in 2005 and earning its Entertainer of the Year honor in both 2006 and 2007.
For those who know them, the quick emergence of the group came as no surprise, for these are musicians whose roots and crossed paths reach back over more than two decades in bluegrass ensembles like the Osborne Brothers, Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time, the Sidemen and New Tradition. Their roots can also be traced back to Nashville's larger musical community, where The Grascals have been able to draw on legends like Bobby Osborne, George Jones, Vince Gill, The Jordanaires, Steve Wariner, Lloyd Green, Paul Craft and others for songs and for performances in the studio, on stage (including multiple guest appearances on the Grand Ole Opry), and for national television appearances, including on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, CBS's Early Show and Fox News Channel's Fox & Friends.
Thanks to those experiences and those friendships, The Grascals embody a profound grasp of and familiarity with country and bluegrass tradition that made them a natural choice for Dolly Parton to turn to for recording and tour support not long after the group was created in 2004. The group continues to push the envelope and, in 2010, The Grascals joined The Rowdy Friends Tour, traveling far and wide with Hank Williams, Jr., playing before huge crowds, expanding their fan base and exposing new audiences to the diverse and unique "BluGrascals" sound.
Terry Eldredge's soulful vocals and easygoing stage presence have earned him not only the loyalty of bluegrass fans and the appreciation of fellow bluegrass musicians, but the admiration of a stunningly wide variety of entertainers who have witnessed him fronting the Sidemen at Nashville's world-famous Station Inn. The Indiana native began his career with first-hand experience of the music of an earlier generation of country stars, playing bass with longtime Opry stars Lonzo and Oscar. He joined the Osborne Brothers in 1988, soon switching to guitar and adding a powerful lead and low tenor voice to the Brothers' legendary trios. Eldredge took up the bass again when he joined Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time at the end of the 1990s, earning a 2003 IBMA nomination for Bass Player of the Year and contributing mightily to the ensemble's success with dynamic tenor and lead vocals. During a hiatus from Lonesome Standard Time, he recorded and performed as a member of Dolly Parton's Blue-niques. In addition to two solo albums for Pinecastle Records and albums by the Osborne Brothers, Cordle, Parton and the Sidemen, Terry's recording credits include appearances on CDs by IBMA Hall of Honor members Benny Martin, Josh Graves and Chubby Wise, as well as country star Dierks Bentley.
Shared Indiana roots and a love for the Osborne Brothers' harmonies first sparked a friendship between Eldredge and Jamie Johnson, but when the latter moved to Nashville at the end of the 1990s, the two quickly discovered a vocal blend that rivals bluegrass' greatest sibling harmonies. Though he helped to found the Wildwood Valley Boys at the beginning of the decade, Jamie first drew attention to his soaring tenor voice as a member of the Boys From Indiana, with whom he performed in the mid-1990s. Stints with local bluegrass and country bands followed before he returned to the Wildwood Valley Boys, making his recording debut on their I'M A BELIEVER (2000). Following his move to Nashville, he began to find success as a songwriter - he co-wrote the title cut of Bobby Osborne's WHERE I COME FROM (2002) - and as a singer, making his Opry debut as a member of Gail Davies' band, joining the Sidemen in 2001, and contributing leads and harmonies to BLUEGRASS - THE LITTLE GRASCALS: NASHVILLE'S SUPERPICKERS. He has recorded with Dolly Parton (harmony vocals on 2005's Those Were The Days and Backwoods Barbie), alternative country singer Trent Summar (on the Davies-produced Caught In The Webb), Ricky Van Shelton, hit songwriter Jerry Salley, and has enjoyed further songwriting success with cuts by The Grascals (including the title tracks to LONG LIST OF HEARTACHES, KEEP ON WALKIN' and THE FAMOUS LEFTY FLYNN'S), the Lonesome River Band and bluegrass-country singer/songwriter Ronnie Bowman.
Danny Roberts began playing guitar to back up his friend Jimmy Mattingly (founding member, The Grascals) when the two were growing up on adjacent farms in Leitchfield, KY. Soon he was winning contests on his own as a guitarist and, eventually, mandolin player. In 1982 he co-founded the New Tradition, a dynamic, ground-breaking bluegrass/gospel group that toured the country for close to 20 years (the last ten on a full-time basis), recorded ten CDs, made "Seed Of Love," the first bluegrass video to feature the banjo - it reached #1 on the TNN channel - appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, and helped to bring the bluegrass sound and gospel message to a new generation of fans. When the group dissolved in 2000, Danny went to work for Gibson Musical Instruments, where he rose to the position of plant manager at the company's Original Acoustic Instruments luthiery. Still, he kept his hand in as a musician, giving workshops with mandolin colleagues like Sam Bush, Chris Thile and Bobby Osborne, making guest appearances with artists such as Marty Raybon, Larry Cordle and Melonie Cannon, and touring and recording with bluegrass/country veteran Ronnie Reno as a member of his band, the Reno Tradition, before reuniting with Mattingly in The Grascals in 2004. His solo recording, MANDOLIN ORCHARD, received extensive airplay and was touted by the Chicago Tribune as one of the Top 10 Bluegrass Releases of 2004. Roberts was also honored with the 2006 and 2008 SPBGMA Award for Mandolin Performer of the Year.
Another veteran of the Osborne Brothers' band, bassist Terry Smith grew up in North Carolina before moving to Nashville in his early teens. Beginning in a family band with his brother, Billy, and his parents (Hazel Smith, Terry's mom, is a songwriter and renowned country music journalist) he graduated swiftly to stints with bluegrass and country legends Jimmy Martin, Wilma Lee Cooper and the Osborne Brothers. He also found time to pursue a separate career with his brother, recording a 1990 album for CBS that generated an early #1 video on CMT, following it with 1992's GRASS SECTION disc (made with friends and colleagues like Ronnie McCoury and Glen Duncan) and a 1996 Bill Monroe Tribute that included some of the Father Of Bluegrass's last recorded appearances. In 1999, the Smith brothers issued VOICES OF THE MOUNTAIN, with original songs that found a place in the repertoire of bluegrass favorites like the Del McCoury Band and the Lonesome River Band. Terry has worked as a staff songwriter for EMI and Major Bob Music, and recorded with Marty Raybon, Vern Gosdin, IBMA Hall of Honor member Kenny Baker and more. After a long tour of duty with Grand Ole Opry member Mike Snider, Terry joined The Grascals in 2004.
Fiddler Jeremy Abshire burst onto the bluegrass scene as a member of Billie Renee and Cumberland Gap (winners of the 2006 SPBGMA International Bluegrass Band Championship), and came to The Grascals' attention as a member of IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year Dale Ann Bradley's band. His style is both fluid and hard driving, owing to the influences of Benny Martin, Scotty Stoneman, Chubby Wise, Bobby Hicks, Kenny Baker, and Stuart Duncan - whom Abshire cites as his favorite fiddle player. As for joining The Grascals, Abshire explains "It was an easy choice for me. I had been around the guys, and the personalities meshed really well. The thing that excited me the most was the fact that when I went out to play with them, they didn't want me to play like anyone else. They just said, 'Play what you feel,' and when I did, it brought everything together. I couldn't have picked a better group of guys to hang out with ... I'm out there having a blast!"
Three-time International Bluegrass Music Association Banjo Player of the Year (2008, 2009 & 2010), Kristin Scott Benson is the newest member of The Grascals. Raised in a musical family in South Carolina, she made her stage debut, on mandolin, at the age of five. Given a banjo as a Christmas present when she was 13, Kristin honed her skills through the rest of her teenage years. Since then, she has performed with many outstanding artists, including Laurie Lewis, Josh Williams, IIIrd Tyme Out, Jim Hurst, Roland White and Rhonda Vincent. Kristin was named SPBGMA's Banjo Performer of the Year award in 2009. Of her membership in The Grascals, she says, "I've been in the business long enough to realize how rare it is to be in such a successful band and I feel blessed that they offered me a chance to be a part of what they've already established." Kristin's solo CD, Second Season, is on the Pinecastle label.
Whether being light-hearted and jovial or soul-searching and reflective, The Grascals are at the very top of their game. Though it is still - at least in bluegrass terms - a new group, the web of friendships, band memberships, recordings and personal appearances that binds The Grascals together has produced an ensemble of unsurpassed cohesion and focused artistic direction. Whether in the studio or on stage, The Grascals honor the past and forge into the future, bringing fresh yet familiar sounds to the bluegrass world and beyond.
Perryville MO | Country
A fortunate few come to Nashville and find a home in the city's historic honky-tonk district. Then there are those incredibly rare talents who manage to set it on fire. Chris Janson is one of the latter.
Chris came to Nashville at 18 and pleaded with the doorman at the legendary Tootsie's Orchid Lounge for the chance to sing one song with the house band. Not long after he'd finished "Folsom Prison Blues," the bar's owners offered him a job.
Virtually overnight, Chris became the talk of the Nashville music scene. Crowds packed Tootsie’s to experience this Missouri-born musician, who could own an audience the way just a handful of his idols, a compelling and charismatic group of country and rock greats that range from Waylon to the Ramones, could do. For the next year he played four shows a day.
Chris began performing at the age of 11, although he didn't choose music as a career path until the summer after high school. He'd earned a scholarship to attend college to study veterinary medicine, but decided to try Nashville instead. With his parents' blessing, he took off with a few hundred dollars and quickly landed the Tootsie's gig.
His audience quickly began to include celebrities. Director Jonathan Demme saw Chris and offered him a small part in the Neil Young concert film Heart of God. Young, Rob Reiner, members of Guns N' Roses and many others came by to watch him perform. On one memorable night that looked like a convention of Music Row executives, he was offered publishing, booking, and management deals. Chris has toured Europe with the Critically acclaimed Moonshine Session's band....and the US with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams, Jr, Sugarland, Jamey Johnson, Shooter Jennings, and James Otto.. He has shared the stage singing and playing with Hank Jr, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Velvet Revolver, James Otto, Neil Young, and the list goes on and on......
He is most impressive on stage, bringing an array of strengths into the spotlight. He is an accomplished singer/songwriter, a dynamic multi-instrumentalist, a compelling vocalist, and a dynamic entertainer. The music, while drawing on a range of influences, is nonetheless solid country and unmistakably Chris Janson.
As of 2012, Chris is newly signed to the Bigger Picture Group label, sharing the roster with Zac Brown, Craig Campbell, among others.
Riders In The Sky
Riders In The Sky are truly exceptional.
By definition, empirical data, and critical acclaim, they stand "hats & shoulders" above the rest of the purveyors of C & W - "Comedy & Western!"
For more than thirty years Riders In The Sky have been keepers of the flame passed on by the Sons of the Pioneers, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, reviving and revitalizing the genre. And while remaining true to the integrity of Western music, they have themselves become modern-day icons by branding the genre with their own legendary wacky humor and way-out Western wit, and all along encouraging buckaroos and buckarettes to live life "The Cowboy Way!"
Riders In The Sky are exceptional not just in the sense that their music is of superlative standards (they are the ONLY exclusively Western artist to have won a Grammy, and Riders have won two), but by the fact that their accomplishments are an exception to the rule as well. That Riders In The Sky was even formed is a feat of improbable likelihood. What are the odds that a theoretical plasma physicist, a wildlife manager - galvanizer - Life Scout, an English major - shot putter - Bluegrass Boy, and a Polka Hall of Fame member would collectively become "America's Favorite Cowboys?" And even more unlikely is that 30-plus years later, the original members are still "bringing good beef to hungry people" while putting up Ripken-like numbers! The Rolling Stones only made it a few years before replacing Brian Jones; the Sons of the Pioneers constantly changed personnel; even the Ringo-era Beatles only lasted 8 years. (Perhaps Too Slim, as a sophomore writer for the University of Michigan Daily, had an ulterior motive in 1969 by propagating the rumor that Paul McCartney was dead! It's true... go ahead and Google "Paul is dead rumor"...) But the key to keeping the same founding members intact for three decades on the road is more easily explained: "Separate hotel rooms," cracks Ranger Doug!
Riders In The Sky's first official public performance was Nov. 11, 1977, at the erstwhile Nashville nightspot "Phranks & Steins." Taking the stage that night for a crowd of eight or nine (counting Herr Harry behind the bar) were Ranger Doug (Idol of American Youth) on arch-top guitar and baritone vocals, and Too Slim (A Man Aging Like Fine Cheese) on bunkhouse bass, face, and tenor vocals. A chain saw may have been in the mix somewhere that night, but was soon retired. Replacing the chain saw was Woody Paul (King of the Cowboy Fiddlers) on fiddle, tenor vocals and rope tricks, and the launch was successful! They subsequently added the "Stomach Steinway" stylings of Joey the Cowpolka King on accordion and baritone vocals, much to the delight of 'Polkaholics' everywhere.
As a classic cowboy quartet, the trail has led them to heights they could have never predicted. Riders have chalked up over 6100 concert appearances in all 50 states and 10 countries, appearing in venues everywhere from the Nashville National Guard Armory to Carnegie Hall, and from county fairs to the Hollywood Bowl. Their cowboy charisma and comedic flair made them naturals for TV, and landed them their own weekly show on TNN, as well as a Saturday morning series on CBS. They have been guests on countless TV specials, documentaries and variety shows, appearing with everyone from Barney to Penn & Teller. And their animated likenesses have shared the screen with Daffy Duck on the Cartoon Network, and the Disney Channel's Stanley. If you consider their compositional credits, one might call them "Writers In The Sky!" In addition to penning award winning songs for their own albums, they wrote the score for Pixar Animation's 2002 Academy Award-winning short "For the Birds." They composed the theme song for the internet cartoon show "Thomas Timberwolf" by renowned Bugs Bunny creator Chuck Jones. But the animated character that history will most certainly link to Riders In The Sky is the loveable cowboy Woody, as Riders performed "Woody's Round Up" in "Toy Story 2," with the album of the same name garnering Riders their first Grammy Award in 2001 for "Best Musical Album for Children." Two years later, Riders roped their second Grammy in the same category, for "Monsters Inc. - Scream Factory Favorites," the companion CD to Pixar's award winning movie.
Equally as exceptional, but of greater significance, is that in 1982, Riders In The Sky became the first, and to date only, exclusively Western music artist to join the Grand Ol' Opry, the longest running radio show in history, and thus began a love affair with radio as well. In 1988, they recorded comedy skits for the album "Riders Radio Theatre" and launched the long-running international weekly radio show of the same name on public radio. And keeping pace with the ever-changing technological landscape, in 2006 "Ranger Doug's Classic Cowboy Corral" debuted on XM Satellite Radio, still heard weekly on SiriusXM Channel 56.
Exceptional artists also appeal to a diverse and broad-based cross section of their adoring public. Riders In The Sky's music and comedy delights cowboys and cowgirls of all ages, and from all walks of life. Riders are equally at ease amusing a theatre full of children as they are enthralling a symphony audience accompanied by 50 or 60 classically trained instrumentalists, or even an NCO club full of servicemen during a USO Tour. Riders have performed at the White House for both Democratic and Republican administrations, and at Major League Baseball's winter meetings for both American and National Leagues (although with an admitted bias for the Detroit Tigers). With their ability to persuade cowpokes on both sides of the fence to set aside their differences for a brief escape from day-to-day tribulations, is it any wonder that Riders have a virtual home called "Harmony Ranch?"
Ultimately, exceptional careers do not go unnoticed, and throughout theirs, Riders In The Sky have been honored regularly. In addition to being inducted into the Grand Ol' Opry, Riders are in the Western Music Association's Hall of Fame, the Country Music Foundation's Walkway of Stars, and the Walk of Western Stars (in Newhall, CA near Melody Ranch Studios) along with Gene, Roy, John Wayne and other cowboy legends. No less important than their two Grammies, Riders have been the Western Music Associaton's "Entertainers Of the Year" seven times, and won "Traditional Group of the Year" and "Traditional Album of the Year" multiple times. The Academy of Western Artists has named them "Western Music Group of the Year" twice in 5 years, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum has bestowed Riders with their Wrangler Award statuette three times. It comes as no surprise then that Billboard magazine's Jim Bessman counts them as one of "the most historically significant acts in the history of American music."
Yes, it would be "The Easy Way" to call it a career after 30-plus years, but it wouldn't be..."The Cowboy Way!" And so, the never-ending trail drive continues. The ponies are rested and watered, and America's Favorite Cowboys are ready to saddle up and ride, bringing good beef to hungry people wherever they may be. Yes, Riders In The Sky are truly an exception to the rule.
Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X- Press
Bobby Osborne is a bluegrass musician known for his mandolin playing and high lead vocals. Born December 7, 1931 in Leslie County, Kentucky, Bobby Osborne is known primarily for his collaborations with his brother Sonny Osborne in their band, the Osborne Brothers. He was a pioneer in conceiving the now-popular "high lead" vocal trio concept. He has released numerous recordings since the 1950s. Most notably, the Osborne Brothers recordings of "Rocky Top", and "Kentucky" inpired their being named official state songs of Tennessee and Kentucky, respectively.
Des Moines IA | Country
Declared by the New York Times as a "sophisticated songwriter" with a "crisp, powerful voice," Black River Entertainment artist Sarah Darling is confidently making her mark on the country music scene. She made her Grand Ole Opry debut in February 2011 and quickly followed that up with the #1 music video for her hit "Something To Do With Your Hands" from her sophomore release, Angels & Devils. The multi-dimensional artist is aligned with such high profile brands as Crock-Pot and Betsey Johnson. Her rendition of The Beatles classic "Blackbird," recorded for the charity-based compilation album benefiting "The Women and Cancer Fund," received heavy airplay on SIRIUS XM's The Highway and the music video for "Blackbird" made its debut at No. 1 on the CMT Pure 12-Pack Countdown. Darling is currently in the studio working on her upcoming album with producer Dann Huff (Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts) to be released in 2012.
Fort Worth TX | Country
One of the most respected vocalists to emerge during the urban cowboy era, John Conlee was known for his superb taste in material and his distinctively melancholy voice. Conlee was born and raised on a tobacco farm in Versailles, KY, in 1946, and took up the guitar as a child, performing on local radio at age ten. He went on to sing with the town barbershop chorus, but didn't initially pursue music as a career, instead becoming a licensed mortician. He also worked as a disc jockey at numerous area radio stations, and made important industry connections via that area when he moved to Nashville in 1971. Five years later, Conlee's demo tape got him a contract with ABC. He released a few singles, but didn't find acceptance until 1978's "Rose Colored Glasses," a song he'd co-written with a newsman at his radio station, rocketed into the country Top Five. Conlee spent the next decade or so scoring hit after hit, nearly all of them helmed by producer Bud Logan. He had two number ones in 1979 alone -- "Lady Lay Down" and "Backside of Thirty" -- and four number two hits through 1981, which included "Before My Time," "Friday Night Blues," "She Can't Say That Anymore," and "Miss Emily's Picture." Conlee returned to the top of the charts three times over 1983-1984 with "Common Man," "I'm Only in It for the Love," and "In My Eyes," and had his last number one in 1986 with "Got My Heart Set on You." All told, Conlee made the Top Ten 19 times through 1987, when he moved from MCA to Columbia and reached the Top Five with "Domestic Life." Never much for touring, Conlee subsequently curtailed his recording activities as well, instead devoting his time to charity work (often on behalf of American farmers), raising his family, and running his own farm outside Nashville.