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Appalachian Musician and Bluegrass Radio Host Otis Head, 94 Dies

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 22:47

Harmonica stylist and 60-year radio host Otis Head, age 94, of the Plainview Community, died Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at Heritage Health Care in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. He was born near Prater’s Mill, North of Varnell, Ga. at Gobbler’s Knob. Head was also a prizefighter, Western and Appalachian music promoter and performer and record producer. He began his performance career competing on a talent show in “Doc” Chamberlain’s Medicine Show hosted by country legend Rambin’ Tommy Scott in the late 1930’s.

As a producer, he fostered the careers of multi-million selling banjo stylist Raymond Fairchild; country singer Clyde Beavers and numerous bluegrass and gospel acts. He hosted seasonal western shows in Florida and North Carolina featuring an array of western-themed street plays featuring gunfights for audiences in western theme parks. Head was a quick draw pistol artist and usually played the role of the town marshal in the productions.

Otis promoted music shows in the Northwest Georgia area featuring Country Music Hall of Famers Bill Monroe and Charlie Louvin, Boys from Indiana, the Bailes Brothers, the Lewis Family, Randall Franks and Raymond Fairchild. His “Otis Head Show” and it predecessors ran on Dalton area radio for almost 60 years with his final live broadcast on WTTI in March 2014. He began hosting live radio shows featuring country and bluegrass in 1959 on WBLJ. He moved to WRCD for 28 years and finally settled at WTTI sharing bluegrass gospel for 27 years.

Head was an entrepreneur and entertainer that opened the Plainview Superette, a grocery store and restaurant, famous for his Otis Burger, north of Dalton, Ga. in the 1940s. Working to meet the changing needs of the community, his business location changed its focus from food to clothing, shoes to videos and finally to a tanning and hair salon.

Otis was a volunteer of the Share America Foundation donating his time to raise funds for scholarships encouraging youth in Appalachian music. Head was highlighted in Ramblin “Doc” Tommy Scott’s autobiography “Snake Oil, Superstars and Me” in 2007. He was inducted into the Atlanta County Music Hall of Honor for his contributions to music in 2008.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Daniel and Cleo Head; his first wife, Floy Felker Head; his second wife, Mary Pittman Parris; brothers, Euelle, Floyd, Basil, William, and Dewey Head; sisters, Ruby, Edith, and Betty.

He is survived by his sons, Kenneth O. Head of Atlanta, Chris Davidson of Dalton, Judy (John) Hayes of Dalton; sister, Alise Cline of Palm Bay, Florida; grandchildren, Holly and Keith Rollins, Shana and Jim Medlen both of Dalton, and Glen and Danette Head of Memphis, TN; seven great-grandchildren; special niece, Connie Long; step-children, nephews, nieces; long time friends, Randall Franks, Don and Pam Poteet, Deborah Jones and listeners also survive.

The funeral service to honor the life of Mr. Head is Friday April 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm at the Pleasant Grove Chapel of Julian Peeples Funeral Home with Minister Brother Doyle Partin and Randall Franks officiating. Burial will be in Varnell Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the following: Central Church of Christ building fund, PO Box 1527 Dalton GA 30720 or the Share America Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 42, Tunnel Hill, Ga. 30755 ( or the American Cancer Society.

Tags: Otis HeadObituarySilent StringsShare America Foundation

"Reno's Old Time Music" Hosts Steve Wariner Saturday

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 22:45

Nashville, TN -- Country music legend Steve Wariner will make his debut appearance on “Reno’s Old Time Music” on the RFD-TV network this Saturday, April 12, at 7:00 PM/EDT (6:00 PM/CDT). Wariner will sing some of his greatest hits on the program. The show will re-air on Sunday, April 13 at 2:30 AM/EDT (1:30 AM/CDT).

Wariner performed two of his biggest hits on the show: his No. 1 hit “Holes in the Floor of Heaven,” which was named both CMA and ACM Song of the Year in 1998, and one of his signature songs: the No. 1 hit “Life’s Highway.” He also performed “Arrows at Airplanes” and “’48 Ford” from his current album It Ain’t All Bad, and his instrumental “6120” from his classic GRAMMY Award-winning Steve Wariner c.g.p….My Tribute to Chet Atkins CD which was recently added to the music catalog available at all Cracker Barrel Old Country Store locations. Talented instrumentalist Jimmy Mattingly joined Wariner for most of the performances.

Ronnie Reno has been an entertainer for over 35 years, having first started with his father, the legendary Don Reno and then playing many years with The Osborne Brothers and Merle Haggard. It is this heritage, along with his own talent, that enables Ronnie to book the biggest names in both the acoustic and bluegrass fields.

Each show begins with a performance by Ronnie and his band, The Reno Tradition, followed by a performance and a short interview from the weekly guest. The guests then return to the Main Stage for more performances, leading into the Super Pickers segment. In following Ronnie's long held tradition, he then joins his guests back on the Main Stage for a sterling close out performance.

Needless to say, this fast-paced format, along with the quality of Ronnie's guests and their performances, are why "Reno's Old Time Music" consistently garners huge television audiences on a weekly basis! To find RFD-TV in your local viewing area, visit

Catch Wariner on tour this Spring:

  • April 26 | Cartersville, GA | The Grand Theatre | (special solo acoustic show)
  • May 8 | Alexandria, VA | Birchmere Music Hall
  • May 9 | Lancaster, PA | American Music Theatre
  • May 16 | Cleveland, OH | Cleveland Masonic Auditorium

For additional dates, visit

Tags: Reno's Old Time MusicSteve WarinerEventBroadcast

Donna Ulisse on WSM Station Inn Sessions Today

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 22:55

Bluegrass singer-songwriter Donna Ulisse and her band The Poor Mountain Boys will take the stage at the world famous Station Inn at 402 12th Avenue South in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday, April 10, 2014 as part of the popular WSM-650AM show The Station Inn Sessions. The show is free and open to the public and is hosted by Mike Terry. Ulisse's performance will feature much of the music from her current release Showin' My Roots as well as some of her chart toppers from her six previous releases.

The show runs from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. with the interview segment taking place at 5:00 p.m. and the music starting at 6:00 p.m. The show is also broadcast live over WSM 650 and can be listened to on the radio dial in the Nashville area or online at

The first thing you're likely to notice when you listen to Donna Ulisse - whether live or on a recording - is the voice. Variously described as "rapturous and angelic," strong, supple, warm, rich, companionable and crystalline, that voice commands your attention, adapting readily to whatever song she is singing, wrapping itself around the lyrics and imbuing them with just the right emotion needed to bring the song home.

Ulisse (pronounced You-liss-ee) also has been called "one of the best singer-songwriters in bluegrass." Which leads us to the pen. Nominated as the International Bluegrass Music Association's Songwriter of the year for two years running, Ulisse has been blessed to have her songs recorded by the Del McCoury Band, Claire Lynch, Darin and Brooke Aldridge, The Bankesters and Nu-Blu, Diana Jones, Natasha Borzilova and Louise Mosrie among others.

Ulisse has released seven well received albums for Hadley Music Group, each incorporating traditional and contemporary bluegrass, gospel and country: Walk This Mountain Down (2009), Holy Waters (2010), An Easy Climb (2011), All The Way To Bethlehem (2012), the gospel compilation I Am A Child of God (2013) and Showin' My Roots (2013). Her 2012 release, All The Way To Bethlehem, a stunningly original song cycle relating the story of Christ's birth, drew rave reviews, including: "may be the best Christmas story-related country album of 2012" (Country Standard Time) ... "a work of art" (The Bluegrass Special) ... "a masterpiece" (Bluegrass Unlimited) ... "a grand adventure told in song" (CMT. com).

Interestingly enough, Ulisse's latest album, Showin' My Roots, is one in which her own songwriting takes a back seat to the compositions of some of her greatest influences including Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn. Merle Haggard and Carter Stanley. Her performance on the Station Inn Sessions will feature much of the material from the new release which is currently climbing several bluegrass and roots music charts.

For more information about Donna Ulisse visit

Tags: Donna UlisseWSM-AM 650BroadcastStation Inn SessionsEvent

Tower Hill Club hosting JamGrass SpringFest

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 22:54

Laconia, NH -- Weirs Beach - The Tower Hill Club, located at290 Lakeside Ave, Laconia, New Hampshire will host the inaugural JamGrass Spring Festival and canned food drive on Friday, April 11 and Saturday, April 12, from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m. on both nights.

A half a dozen bands from across New England will get that spring feeling in the air, and will make even the coldest winter is a distant memory. Bluegrass music regularly features banjo, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and stand-up bass, dobro, and tight vocal harmonies. Bands will be performing both traditional and original tunes.

This event doubles as a canned food drive to benefit Strangers Helping Strangers, a unique organization that provides support and resources to care for those less fortunate by setting up food drives at local concerts and festivals, after which supplies are delivered to local food banks, pantries and shelters.

JamGrass is an affordable event, $8 for a one day pass and $14 for a two day pass 21+ or all ages with a parental guardian. Concessions, beer, wine and liquor will be available. The festival is housed indoors and will be a rain or shine event, there are several places to stay in the area. For hotel or motel reservations visit

The JamGrass Spring Festival is held at the Tower Hill Club, located on the 2nd floor above Tower Hill Tavern. Parking on Weirs Beach is free for this event. For more information, contact Jay Santagate at (603)366-9100 or visit

Tags: JamGrass SpringFestMusic FestivalBenefitFood Drive

Music City Roots Will Move To Factory At Franklin In July

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 22:52

After nearly five years of memorable shows at the Loveless Cafe Barn, Music City Roots is making plans to move, at the start of its Summer 2014 season on July 9, to the historic Factory At Franklin, six blocks from the square in Franklin, Tennessee.

The nationally distributed weekly live radio show and annual series on American Public Television has set a new benchmark for quality production and talent discovery in Nashville’s historically resonant Americana music scene. The Factory, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been dubbed by its owners as “an environment conducive to creativity” with learning centers and innovative purveyors of art and food. It also houses the Americana Music Association, Sugar Hill Records, Dark Horse studios, and several other organizations in the music community, so Music City Roots looks forward to being part of a growing enclave of arts and culture that contributes to the life of both Williamson and Davidson Counties.

“Music City Roots is the perfect flagship for our vision to highlight Americana music and regional art and food culture here at The Factory at Franklin,” said its events manager Tami Pryce.

Most Wednesdays, Roots will be staged in The Factory’s Jamison Hall, a 10,000 square foot room that’s both exciting and intimate. When even more capacity is necessary, MCR will move to the larger Liberty Hall. The show will continue to be broadcast live over local radio partner Hippie Radio 94.5 FM and webcast via its own website at And in a major development for MCR’s streaming service, will build a broadcast booth in The Factory’s main hall, opening up opportunities for live programming and interviews alongside its regular 24/7 stream of great Music City Roots performances.

John Walker, executive producer of Roots, says: “We’re excited about these wonderful facilities that allow us to retain the intimate local vibe of our show, while offering new opportunities to expand our brand and synergize with other visionaries in this new era of music and media.”

The staff of Music City Roots makes this move with fond memories and anticipation of future growth and opportunity, says the show’s co-executive producer and creator Todd Mayo. “We have loved our home out ‘on the edge of Music City’ at the Loveless Cafe and deeply appreciate the magical musical moments we created together at the Loveless Barn…and we look forward to continuing the tradition at the historic Factory.”

"Loveless Cafe is pleased to have been the original setting for Music City Roots,” says Jessica Charlton, Loveless Cafe Brand Manager. “We celebrate the show’s growth and look forward to continued partnership opportunities.” The final MCR “Spring Season” at the Loveless Barn will run April 9 through June 18.

While MCR will bid farewell to its beloved Loveless Cafe chicken and biscuits, it will continue to pair authentic roots music and local cuisine by partnering with its new neighbors Saffire Restaurant & Bar for catering and hospitality.

Music City Roots is a weekly live radio show and HD webcast featuring the finest roots and Americana music based in or passing through Nashville. Since going on the air in October 2009, Music City Roots has broadcast the authentic sound of today’s Music City, embracing the traditional and the progressive in equal measure. Every Wednesday night at 7:00 pm Central, four or five guest artists perform to an intimate audience of 300-600 people, with a live broadcast to the world via and flagship radio partner Hippie Radio 94.5 FM. Veteran Grand Ole Opry announcer Keith Bilbrey emcees with help from musical host, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale, and interview guy Craig Havighurst. Thirteen episodes per year are edited for distribution by American Public Television via flagship PBS-affiliate WNPT in Nashville. A syndicated version of the radio show is also broadcast on a growing network of terrestrial radio stations nationwide.

Roots Radio is an Internet radio station featuring live cuts and interviews from the great catalog of recordings captured at Music City Roots since 2009, streaming 24/7 at and via free iPhone and Android apps.

Tags: Music City RootsFactoryBroadcastBusiness

Why I Don't Turn On the Radio Anymore

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 22:50

This so-called "Modern Sensitivity," "Political Correctness," or, more accurately, Censorship is one of the reasons I never turn on a radio anymore. I haven't for years. My family also got rid of TV and its propaganda, high-volume ads and junk programming about ten years ago. I politely listen to the music I want to hear from my own collection of music. Thare are No commercials and No politically correct modern sensitivity censorship in my music. I am free to listen to any music I desire and, I do so in absolute freedom. From "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette" by Commander Cody & His Lost Planets Airmen to David Allen Coe's "Rodeo Song" to a whole lot of bluegrass about killing, moonshine, whiskey and more including "Copper Kettle" about joys brewing 'shine.

Without radio, I can listen to what I want, when I want and by whom I want. I don't smoke but a song about cigarettes isn't offensive to me. I don't kill or abuse women and Lord knows there's enough in bluegrass of that to go around. In fact there are probably more sins in bluegrass than I can count but, I still listen to all of it and enjoy the music. Whiskey Before Breakfast anybody?

I am sure that every song written will offend somebody and I hope we don't stop making music because somebody's ears may get offended or somebody actually takes the lyrics of a song seriously instead of just being a song. Maybe radio will cease because they can no longer air any music in trembling fear that a song may actually offend just one person. My problem is that the noose around acceptability's throat keeps getting tighter and tighter. Common sense died years ago along with any sense of humor or other traits that made people human. There doesn't appear to be any slowing down and it won't end till the Politically Correct Police are at the end of their rope. Then what? Silence? Back to the Speakeasy days of music being performed in back rooms to Invitation Only crowds? I certainly hope not.

It is a lot like the legislature. Every time Congress writes a law, they take away a bit more freedom and a bite out of liberty. There are very few laws that ever give some back. The same is true with our music. Every time we make a topic taboo or exclude another song from being performed, we are actually cutting our own throats until, in the end, either the music all sounds the same (because it is) or, there is nothing left to sing about and the music ultimately dies. Music would no longer have any soulful value to it because, it would no longer have any meat on the bone. Devoid of feelings, substance, real life and emotion, music wouldn't be worth listening to except in a box built by Otis. Elevator music for all and absolutely no lyrics.

Anyway, to each their own. I dropped radio because what I wanted to listen to and enjoy wasn't being played anymore. I didn't stop listening to the music, I just changed the medium that provides it. Radio refused to play what I wanted to hear so, I now listen to the iPod, my media server and CDs.

Tags: EditorialOpinionRadioBob Cherry

Top BBQ Pitmasters Compete at BBQ & Blue Grass Bash

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 22:48

Venice, FL -- On April 19th thousands will descend on Venice Municipal Airport for the 5th Annual Suncoast BBQ and Bluegrass Bash. The highly anticipated event is proud to host this year’s Florida Barbecue State Championship and will attract 60 world renowned BBQ Competitors to compete for a $15,000 purse and automatic inclusion to the Food Network’s World Food Championship in Las Vegas, NV. The event also hosts a nationally recognized chili cook-off that the winner also receives a cash prize and entry to the World Food Championship. “We’re honored to host the FBA State Barbecue Championship this year and also to be one of only a few events in the country where both our BBQ and Chili winners get automatic entry to the World Food Championship,” says Don Fisher, founder and organizer of the event.

Attendees will not only get a chance to sample the best in barbecue and chili, but also entries into a dessert bake-off, all while enjoying “An Afternoon of Bluegrass”. Slated to perform is the Grammy Nominated act, The Boxcars and top bluegrass chart toppers and IBMA award winners, Balsam Range. “Bluegrass and BBQ are a natural fit,” says Fisher, “and as another first, both bands will close out the concert by playing together, that we are calling the Appalachian Reunion of Friends.”

More than just great food and music, there are also a host of other events and activities. There is an American Cornhole Association Cornhole tournament, a kiss the pig contest and a Kids Park that features face painting, bouncy houses, rides, the Honey Bear hot air balloon and visits from friendly dogs of the Venice Police K-9 unit and Sarasota Sheriff’s K-9 for kids.

There is also the Community Corner featuring educational exhibits from area civic and governmental groups and an Outdoor Living area where attendees can learn more about a variety of outdoor living activities and see exhibits about products. Plus, there are lots of fun festive food vendors, a variety of craft beer and quality event related vendors.

For those who want to enjoy the event a little early, The Suncoast BBQ and Blue Grass Bash will be holding a Sporting Clays competition on Friday April 18th at the Sarasota Gun Club followed by an event kick off party with food and entertainment where people will get a chance to meet the nation’s top BBQ Pit Masters competing in the event this year.

The public is encouraged to participate in our fun contests. To register please visit

Tags: BBQ & Blue Grass BashBBQContestBoxcarsBalsam Range

Chance to Win Dailey & Vincent Nashville Experience Package

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 22:17

Nashville, TN -- Calling all Dailey & Vincent Fans -- The bluegrass duo is making it a little easier this year for one lucky winner and a guest to make it to the stage that Dailey & Vincent was born, The Ryman Auditorium. Our friends at Springer Mountain Farms are helping us give away an action packed weekend, including transportation to-and-from Nashville, a hotel room for four nights, two Music City Backstage Attraction passes (free access to museums, backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, meet & greet passes to the Dailey & Vincent Ryman show, and more!). As always, Dailey and Vincent are excited to be playing at the Ryman Auditorium, but they're even more excited to be able to be a part of giving someone and a guest this once in a lifetime experience! CLICK HERE TO ENTER.

For those of you that want to purchase tickets now, CLICK HERE.

Dailey & Vincent is one of the top Bluegrass bands in America. From the very beginning of their partnership in late 2007, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent quickly established themselves as fresh voices in their genre. The concoction of their fantastically powerful vocal blends, 4 award-winning studio albums, and heavy touring schedules has gained them well-deserved attention from bluegrass, country, and gospel critics and fans alike.

Dailey & Vincent has been recognized as 3-time IBMA Entertainer of The Year, 3-time IBMA Vocal Group of the Year, 2-time Grammy nominee, and Dove Award winners. Equally at home with material from any of the aforementioned genres, Jamie and Darrin continue to expand on the possibilities of what kinds of music can become “Dailey & Vincent" music.

The band has also become a perennial favorite on the touring and festival circuit: they play over 115 shows per year to sold out crowds in the United States and have developed a strong international following.

Springer Mountain Farms is a Mt. Airy, Ga.-based poultry producer built on strong family values that promises the healthiest, most flavorful and top quality chickens on the market. The family-owned business was the first poultry company in America to be certified by the American Humane Association for the humane treatment of chickens. Springer Mountain Farms’ chickens are raised on a pesticide-free vegetarian diet without the use of antibiotics, steroids, growth stimulants or hormones. To learn more, visit or mobile at Find us on Facebook, Twitter @springermtnfarm and Pinterest

A National Historic Landmark, Ryman Auditorium was built as a tabernacle by Captain Thomas G. Ryman in 1892, served as the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943-74, and was completely renovated in 1994. The Ryman is open for tours during the day and at night offers a wide variety of entertainment performances, just has it has for over 120 years. The venue was voted the 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 Pollstar Theatre of the Year. Ryman Auditorium is owned by Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc. (NYSE: RHP), a Nashville-based REIT that also owns and operates the Grand Ole Opry, and 650 AM WSM. For more information, visit

Tags: Dailey & VincentNashville ExperienceContestRyman Auditorium

Lloyd Loar's Hometown Bluegrass Festival Initial Lineup Announced

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 22:14

The annual Lloyd Loar's Hometown Bluegrass Festival is shaping up. The initial lineup has been announced and includes “Brink” Brinkman, Bill Robinson & Friends, Purdy River Band, Herschberger Family, Heartbreak Mountain with Andy Hatfield, Orpheus Mandolin Orchestra, Crooked Creek, Almost live, and Jim Betts Trio. More updates will be forthcoming.

The free annual Lloyd Loar’s Hometown Bluegrass Festival to be held at Marigold Meadows 1212 N. Cedar Street in Lewistown, Illinois June 27-29, 2014 is on. Why Lloyd Loar? Lloyd Loar's parents moved to Lewistown, IL in 1889 when Lloyd was three years old. Lloyd attended Lewistown High School from 1899 to 1903 and began performing in local music programs. Loar went on to study harmony, music theory, orchestration and piano. According to various documents*, Loar returned to his hometown later in life and established an Acoustical Research Laboratory. While Bill Monroe may have been “The Father of Bluegrass", the sound we associate with Monroe’s mandolin came from Lloyd Loar.

As one of the most fabled names in American instrument making history, we have dedicated this festival to the memory of Lloyd Allayre Loar. Lloyd Loar's Hometown Bluegrass Festival is held annually in Lewistown, IL, the last full weekend in June. As one of the most fabled names in American instrument making history, this Bluegrass festival is dedicated to the memory of Lloyd Allayre Loar.

There will be Bluegrass jamming all weekend along with workshops and performances throughout the day. Primitive camping is available and there's always plenty of jamming in the campground. The show goes on - Rain or Shine! Bring your own lawn chairs and umbrellas.

As acoustical engineer and instrument designer for Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co., Loar designed the 1923 Gibson F-5 model which was Monroe’s trademark instrument. Loar’s design and development of the “Master Model” instruments revolutionized the tenor banjo of its day and laid the foundation for Earl Scruggs and Bluegrass music, 20 years later.

Lloyd Loar's legacy lives on. Loar’s contributions to string musical instruments rank among other musical geniuses such as Antonius Stradivari, Orville Gibson, Leo Fender and Christian F. Martin. Today an original Loar mandolin is valued at $175,000 to $200,000 — a true sign of appreciation for the work of this master designer. The result of his years of research and passion for his craft is a legacy of durable instruments and designs that have truly stood the test of time. -

Get more information and keep up to date on new developments at the festival's Facebook page.\

Tags: Lloyd Loar’s Hometown Bluegrass FestivalLineupBluegrass FestivalMandolinEvent

Bluegrass Innovator and Pioneer George Shuffler has Died

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 22:22

Bluegrass Hall of Fame Recipient, George Shuffler passed away yesterday, April 7th, just shy of his 89th birthday. Shuffler was born in Valdese, North Carolina on April 15, 1925. Affectionately known as "The Third Stanley Brother" performed on many of bluegrass music's most historic recordings. George toured 20 years with the Stanley Brothers where he developed his unique cross picking guitar style that has been a big influence to many musicians. He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame in 2011 and was a recipient of the North Carolina Heritage Award in 2007. In 2011, Shuffler was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association's Hall of Fame along with Del McCoury. George Shuffler’s influences in bluegrass are as an innovative bass player, guitar stylist and featured vocalist and humorist, primarily as a sideman in some of the most important bands in the music’s history.

Many bluegrass artists just released a tribute album The Boy from Valdese - A Tribute to George Shuffler honoring one of bluegrass music's innovative pioneers. The tribute recording of the title song features old friends and long-time collaborators Buddy Melton (Lead Vocals) and Milan Miller (Guitar, Baritone Vocals), with special guests Terry Baucom (Banjo), Carl Jackson (Tenor Vocals), Ron Shuffler (Upright Bass), and Adam Steffey (Mandolin). Shuffler was one of the most beloved and influential sidemen of Bluegrass’ first generation. His contributions to the bluegrass music include his “walking” style of playing the bass, and even more significant, his cross-picking style of guitar playing.

In 2011, Shuffler was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association's Hall of Fame along with Del McCoury. George Shuffler’s influences in bluegrass are as an innovative bass player, guitar stylist and featured vocalist and humorist, primarily as a sideman in some of the most important bands in the music’s history. This video includes one of Shuffler's stylistic breaks.

The IBMA noted...

"Shuffler grew up in a large family near Valdese, North Carolina, learning his first guitar chords at age 10. Young George listened to many of the groups performing live on various 50,000-watt radio stations around the country, and Merle Travis was his idol. In the early 1940s Shuffler was working in a local string band with a regular $20-a-week job at a bakery. Filling in as bass player with Charlie & Danny Bailey and the Happy Valley Boys at a theatre and several other venues in Granite Falls, N.C., Shuffler accepted a $60 a week job with the Baileys and left with them for Nashville and The Grand Ole Opry, his first professional job.

After the Baileys quit the business, Shuffler worked with a comedy team for a while, returned to Valdese and got married and worked with several bands playing guitar and singing. Carter Stanley called Shuffler on December 28, 1950 and said he and Ralph were leaving Bristol to move to WVLK in Versailles, Kentucky, and he asked Shuffler to join the Stanley Brothers to play bass—an offer George accepted. Following WVLK, Shuffler worked with The Stanley Brothers in numerous markets. His “walking style” of bass playing, introduced on the Stanley Brothers’ 1953 Mercury Recordings, would imprint itself on a number of younger players, including Hall of Fame member Tom Gray. Primarily a bass player, Shuffler was in and out of the Stanley group many times until the early 1960s, when it got down to just Carter, Ralph and George.

Inspired by Bill Napier, Shuffler perfected his signature style of cross-picking that would be widely emulated. Following Carter Stanley’s death December 1, 1966, Shuffler stayed on with Ralph for several months. He then worked with Don Reno and Bill Harrell until 1969, recording several albums with them on bass. For a number of years he also led The Shuffler Family gospel group, which recorded more than a half dozen albums.

Bluegrass artists and fans have shown a great outpouring of love for Shuffler since his passing was announced. Several performed with him and others learned from him. Always cheerful, Shuffler was a gifted artist who love the music and its people. The bluegrass people also loved him. He will be remembered for his contributions to the music he loved so much.

Tags: George ShufflerObituarySilent StringsGuitarStanley BrothersHall of FameIBMA

MerleFest Announces Midnight Jam Lineup, Other Collaborations

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 22:19

Wilkesboro, NC -- MerleFest – presented by Lowe’s and slated this year for April 24-27, 2014 – has released the full lineup of confirmed performers for the festival’s Midnight Jam, the Saturday after-hours hootenanny that has produced artistic collaborations and one-of-a-kind superstar jams that have become legendary in the festival’s history. Additionally, the festival has provided a listing of many of the special collaborations expected at MerleFest 2014, pointing out the many “must see” artistic combinations that have made the yearly gathering in Wilkesboro, N.C., so legendary.

Participants in this year’s Jam, hosted for the second year in a row by festival favorites Scythian, include Keller Williams, Nora Jane Struthers and The Party Line, Peter Rowan, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, Steep Canyon Rangers, Della Mae, Moore Brothers, The Steel Wheels, Donna the Buffalo, I Draw Slow, The Waybacks, Pete and Joan Wernick, The Deadly Gentlemen, Jim Lauderdale, SC Broadcasters, Mandolin Orange, Mark Newton and Steve Thomas, Town Mountain and Lynda and Pattie.

The Midnight Jam, which this year will bear the stamp of The Bluegrass Situation, is a popular hub for everything central to the modern roots community. It is considered one of the more anticipated events at the yearly festival. As in years past, the Midnight Jam will take place in the Walker Center; a separate ticket is required and available for purchase by four-day ticket holders and Saturday-only ticket holders.

MerleFest 2014 attendees can also anticipate the following onstage collaborations:

  • Steep Canyon Rangers have announced that they will have several “special guests” as part of their set on Saturday night (April 26) on the Watson Stage.
  • Also on the Watson Stage, Ricky Skaggs and Jim Lauderdale will join Dr. Ralph Stanley during his performance on Saturday.
  • On the Hillside Stage on Saturday, fans can catch a performance with Keller Williams and Larry & Jenny Keel.
  • Keller Williams’ performance on the Watson Stage Friday night will feature The Travelin’ McCourys.
  • In addition to Friday’s BanjoRama event, a “BanjoRama, Part Two” will take place on Saturday afternoon at the Creekside Stage, with many of the all-star performers from the previous evening.
  • And who can forget the surprise lineup created by The Waybacks every year for Hillside Album Hour.

“MerleFest fans already know about some of this year’s special ‘MerleFest moments’ we have planned, which include Friday’s BanjoRama event, Dailey and Vincent’s special performance with Statler Brother Jimmy Fortune and Alan Jackson’s Thursday night performance of his recent all-bluegrass album, featuring some heavy hitters in the bluegrass world as part of his band,” said Steve Johnson, Events Artist Relations manager for the festival. “And so many of the special collaborations that have become part of MerleFest legend weren’t planned; they came together mere minutes before the artists hit the stage!

“However, we became aware of so many interesting combinations and groupings this year that we didn’t want our fans to miss a single one, so we’re giving attendees an early ‘heads up’ regarding the ones we know about, so that they can use their MerleFest mobile app to plan ahead,” Johnson added.

Ticket purchases for MerleFest 2014 may be made on the web at or by calling 1-800-343-7857. With more than 130 acts performing on 13 stages during the course of the event, MerleFest is an excellent entertainment value.

MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, is an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the late Eddy Merle Watson, son of the late American music legend Doc Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of "traditional plus" music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles. The festival hosts over 130 artists, performing on 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.

Tags: MerlefestLineupMidnight JamEventPeter RowanFrank Solivan and Dirty KitchenSteep Canyon RangersDella Mae

Trinity River Band Unveils New Album Artwork and Release Date

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 22:17

Nashville, TN -- Trinity River Band is proud to unveil the new cover art for their highly anticipated new album titled Better Than Blue releasing April 22, 2014. The artwork was designed by Anthony Ladd of Kneelindesign who named the image “faire demi-tour” from the French meaning “turn around.” The group features band members Sarah Harris (Lead & Harmony Vocals, Mandolin); Mike Harris (Guitar, Lead & Harmony Vocals); Lisa Harris (Bass, Harmony Vocals); Josh Harris (Banjo, Dobro, Harmony Vocals); and Brianna Harris (Fiddle, Harmony Vocals).

Trinity River Band recently signed with Orange Blossom Records who released their new single “Better Than Blue.” The song is available to radio stations worldwide at and for digital purchase at iTunes, Amazon, and more sites.

“Better Than Blue” was written by Larry Cordle and Lisa Shaffer. "Fantastic singing and playing from a band that I'm really loving. They really got the spirit of the song and I'm so proud of this cut of it! Remember their name folks because you're going to be hearing a lot more from them,” said Cordle. Many others agree this is a perfect song to launch Trinity River Band's highly anticipated new album set for release later this spring:

“Love the new single from the Trinity River Band. Sarah Harris is the real deal…she has become one of my favorite new singers. Written by two of my favorite people in Nashville, Larry Cordle and Lisa Shaffer, this song is a perfect fit for Sarah’s powerful voice. The future is extremely bright for the TRB, and I’m one of their biggest fans!”
  - Bradley Walker

The band is busy on their national tour performing at over 100 major events and festivals this year. Fans can get a complete tour schedule and learn more about their brand new Fan Club at, Facebook and Twitter. alt=re going to be hearing a lot more from them,” said Cordle. Many others agree this is a perfect song to launch Trinity River Band

Tags: Trinity River BandBetter Than BlueLarry CordleLisa ShafferOrange Blossom RecordsCD Release

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Putting Together a New Project

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 22:46

Doyle Lawson announced that he's been in the studio putting a wrap on the next Crowe, Lawson and Williams CD. They had a bit of final tweaking to do and now, the project is good to go. There isn't a release date established yet but stay tuned as Crossroads will announce it soon.

Doyle commented saying, "It really is hard to believe that it's 35 years later and I'm running full steam as DL&Q. I had no idea how long it would last or if it would even get off the ground at all. I remember telling Jimmy, Lou and Terry that I wanted a group that could do more than one thing in music. If we wanted to do contemporary bluegrass, good. If we wanted to do smack down hard driving traditional bluegrass, YES!! And I wanted to have a quartet similar to what my dad sang in when I was growing up."

He continues with "I believe that was the key to longevity for DL&Q and I still feel that is the way for me to present music. I want to give a huge thank you to Jimmy Haley, Lou Reid and Terry Baucom because they understood where I was coming from and hopped aboard and away we went full speed."

Doyle says, "So many great musicians have passed through and I thank each one one for their contribution and interpretation of what I heard in my head regarding the music. Folks ask me all the time how I've managed to keep the DL&Q sound pretty much intact. The folks that come in to fill the position have to change and adapt for me. My first boss said it best, " If I let everyone who comes to work play whatever, pretty soon I'd be just a guitar picker up there with a bunch of guys and no direction". I am quick to tell anyone who comes here that I wouldn't ask him to sing or play something if I didn't think they could."

Doyles closes with, "Thank you friends, fans, promoters and record companies for allowing me to continue to follow my dream.

With nearly 40 albums to their credit, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver have multiple Grammy, Dove, ICM, IBMA and SPBGMA Award nominations, and are 7-time winners of IBMA’s Vocal Group of the Year. Lawson is reigning SPBGMA Mandolin Player of the Year, and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver are the reigning Inspirational Country Music Association (ICM) Vocal Group of the Year, crowned in October 2012 at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center, on the heels of Lawson’s induction into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.

Tags: Doyle Lawson & QuicksilverStudioCD ReleaseCrossroads

Don Rigsby & David Thom Recording New Duet Project

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 22:44

Don Rigsby and David Thom are currently in the studio working on a duet recording that will feature some very different material for both of these musicans. "I'm excited about it," says Rigsby. "David and I come from very different schools, yet when we explore what we both consider 'new territory' there seems to be a lot of common ground. And that's where we got the title, New Territory, from."

While there will be some bluegrass standards on the CD from the Stanley's, Flatt and Scruggs and Reno and Smiley, but will break new ground with songs like Dan Seals' Everything That Glitters (is not Gold), Bob Seger's Night Moves and Dan Fogelberg's Same Auld Lang Syne. "The goal is to make a great sounding record that can still be performed live by the duet," says Don. There are plans for supporting the record with tour dates in the f

"I flew out to Don's place in Kentucky to record for 4 days straight and we got a lot done on that trip. He's coming out for the Walker Creek Music Camp in early April so we'll have some more time to track then," says David Thom, California front-man and guitarist. "We've also cranked up a crowd-funding effort over at and we're offering some great rewards for folks that want to contribute to the production of the CD."

Visit for more info.

Tags: Don RigsbyDavid ThomCD Release

Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame Celebrates 15 Years

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 22:42

The Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame & Museum marks its 15th anniversary this April at Dollywood. “The museum currently houses more than 3,000 artifacts and honors 155 members of the Southern Gospel music community,” said Southern Gospel Music Association President Arthur Rice. “The museum continues to grow.” The Southern Gospel Music Association is a non-profit organization that maintains the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame, for the historic preservation of the accomplishments of the music and its people.

Since April 17, 1999, the museum just inside the gates of Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. has provided a wonderful opportunity for the park’s average 30,000 visitors per month to learn more about Southern gospel music. Gospel legends Dr. Jerry Goff, James Blackwood, Eva Mae LeFevre, Eldridge Fox, Les Beasley, J.G. Whitfield and Bill Gaither cut the ribbon 15 years ago to open the only facility of its type solely dedicated to honoring a specific genre of Christian music.

“That was the day that the dreams, hard work and prayers of hundreds of people came together,” said Danny Jones, SGMA executive director. “Cherished memories are kept alive through the work of the SGMA staff. While the Hall of Fame does bring back some great memories, the museum is also a vital part of building the future of our music as we honor the legacy of artists and promote today’s music through an expanding marketplace and a new generation of music lovers.”

Museum hours match those of Dollywood and admission is included with park ticket. Donations are tax-deductible and individuals or businesses may also donate to assist with honoring inductees with special bronze plaques that are displayed in the Hall of Fame. For more information about the museum or its inductees, visit

“We’re honored that Dollywood continues to recognize the significance and importance of Southern Gospel music, and as both the SGMA and Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame & Museum we are grateful for their support and willingness to showcase this great music,” Rice said.

Tags: Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame & MuseumSouthern Gospel Music AssociationAnniversary

Backstep Old Time Band Entertains Carter Family Fold

Sun, 04/06/2014 - 22:40

Hiltons, VA -- Backstep performs old time stringband music in the “Round Peak style” native to Mount Airy, North Carolina. Known for its driving rhythms and prominent melodies,Round Peak music is just the thing to make you kick up your heels and dance. Back Step features Chester McMillian (a founding member of the band) on guitar and his son Nick McMillian on fiddle (he also plays banjo and bass). Saturday, April 12th, 2014, at 7:30 p.m., the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, will present a concert by the Backstep Old Time Band. Admission to the concert is $10 for adults, children 6 to 11 $1, under age 6 free.

Chester McMillian, one of the band’s founders, was born in Carroll County, Virginia, into a musical family and community. He has played traditional old time Round Peak style music since his childhood. By the time he was eleven or twelve years old, he was living in Surry County and taking an active part in the Round Peak music community. In 1962, Chester married into Dix Freeman’s family, and the two began playing a lot of music together. Chester played guitar with Tommy Jarrell for fifteen years, and he developed his guitar style specifically to play with Tommy. He also played and recorded with Dix Freeman, Kirk Sutphin, and Greg Hooven – with whom he founded Back Step.

Nick McMillian was raised in the Round Peak community surrounded by music. He is truly of the tradition, bringing a whole family history into his banjo, fiddle, and bass playing. He first learned to play banjo from his grandfather, Dix Freeman, whose style he can closely imitate. He also plays Round Peak style fiddle. Steeped in music from an early age, Nick made his first recording – Backstep – at age eleven. He has performed in public since the ripe old age of eight. He also recorded with the New Pilot Mountaineers on fiddle and banjo. Nick’s musical mentors include Fred Cockerham, his grandfather Dix Freeman, and his father, Chester McMillian.

Backstep has performed at the Fold in years past, and they came back for a concert last year. The Fold is proud to welcome them back. They have the highest recommendation from Dr. Mark Handy of the Mountain Park Old Time Band. Fans of groups like the Mountain Park Old Time Band and the Whitetop Mountain Band will love the the Back Step Old Time Band. Backstep has won first place in the old time band competition at the Mount Airy Fiddler’s Convention and the Fiddler’s Grove fiddler’s convention. The group was featured on Mike Seeger’s Old Time Banjo Styles instructional video featuring Kirk Sutphin on banjo.

Be sure to bring your dancing shoes, and be ready for a night of down home fun. Nothing gets you out of your seat and on the dance floor faster than a rousing old time band. Don’t miss the Backstep Old Time Band at the Carter Family Fold! For more information on the group, go to:

Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Incorporated, is a nonprofit, rural arts organization established to preserve traditional, acoustic, mountain music. For further information on the center, go to Shows from the Carter Family Fold can be accessed on the internet at

Carter Music Center is part of the Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail. You can visit the Crooked Road Music Trail site at Partial funding for programs at the center is provided by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. For recorded information on shows coming up at the Fold, call 276-386-6054. The Fold is on Facebook – page Carter Fold – and Twitter – @carterfoldinfo.

Tags: Backstep Old Time BandCarter Family FoldConcertEvent

Ash Breeze in Merlefest's Chris Austin Songwriting Contest Top 3

Sat, 04/05/2014 - 22:19

Willis, VA -- North Carolina's Ash Breeze is off to a solid start with the word that their song "Without Love" has made it into the finals of the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest for Merlesfest 2014. The song is 1 of 3 finalists in the Inspirational/Gospel category.

The band has also made it into the Top 5 in the Gospel category in the Great American Song Contest, a national competition spotlighting songs from aspiring songwriters and a judging panel of industry professionals. The band has also been chosen as a 2014 showcase band for the SERFA Conference (Southeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference) in Asheville, NC later this month.

This native North Carolina family band (formerly The Smith Family) introduced the bluegrass and Americana worlds to their exciting new sounds with the release of their self-titled debut album on Mountain Fever Records in February. The first single from the album, "Without Love," produced by Aaron Ramsey (Mountain Heart) released to radio several months ago.

Interestingly, the band is classically trained and stayed devoted to that world until switching to bluegrass in 2010 when these versed musicians took their musical expertise and applied it to this genre that they love. Consisting of father Allen on bass, daughter and powerhouse singer Nellie on fiddle, and three sons, Corey on guitar and vocals (also Producer of Generation Bluegrass documentaries, a video bluegrass project that is drawing a great deal of attention), Luke with his steady and polished style on banjo and Cajon, and Eli on vocals and mandolin, offering up a speed and finesse that belies his years. The band’s sound is distinctive, fresh, creative and mature.

It’s apparent that the band is heavily steered by their love of a variety of musical genres including folk, jazz, bluegrass, classical, blues and gospel influences. What you will hear is a distinctive sound strong on instrumentation and intertwined with tight, melodic family harmonies. "Our (music) is different," says patriarch Allen Smith. "It's really acoustic Americana with a gospel influence. It could be played on folk stations, as well as Christian and bluegrass. I don't know what it is, but I think it's good music.''

Daughter Nellie is gaining a name for her distinctive and soulful singing style along with her smooth, melodic, and award winning fiddle playing that has been greatly influenced by greats like Stuart Duncan and Andy Leftwich. Her sound, both vocally and instrumentally, is unique and adds to the promising musical menu of what Ash Breeze brings to the table.

Don't judge the group by their age, but by their identifiable sound that is fresh and sophisticated.

Tags: Ash BreezeChris Austin Songwriting ContestMerlefestSongwriting

Volume Five Riding High With Release of The Day We Learn To Fly

Sat, 04/05/2014 - 22:18

Volume Five, the Mississippi group that started as a casual jam band in 2008, has grown into one of bluegrass music’s most unique new acts. March 25th marks their first gospel and 4th overall release on Mountain Fever Records with the well crafted Southern gospel tinged bluegrass album, The Day We Learn To Fly.

While each member comes to the table with a strong pedigree, having served tenure nationally with such well-known artists as Marty Raybon and Full Circle, Randy Kohrs and The Lites, The Roys and Tony Rice, these five musicians together truly blend into a band with staying power.

The release of The Day We Learn To Fly takes the band to a new level. It is the band's 4th release on Mountain Fever and lives up to the quality that the band releases time and time again. The album however is full-tilt gospel, a true love for each band member. The title cut "The Day We Learn To Fly" was written by long time friend and fellow musician Stacy Richardson.

Volume Five features the talents of ring-leader Glen Harrell on fiddle; Harry Formby Clark on mandolin; Jeff Partin on guitar, Patton Wages on banjo, and Chris Williamson on bass; and while Volume Five is considered a traditional band, their earthy, soulful singing, spot on harmonies, and precision picking set them apart from others.

Fans are already familiar with the band from their heavy festival touring schedule. The constant performing has provided the band with the time and experience to hone their craft to perfection and has given this unit the time and stage experience to entertain just about any crowd.

One thing fans can count on with Volume Five is that they will never be let down with their live performances and that those live performances will transcend the live show and be just as impactful on their recorded music. The Day We Learn To Fly maintains that same level of quality musicianship and has been making an impact at radio.

"I love these guys," says Mark Hodges of Mountain Fever. "They have a signature sound and their music says something. You know who they are in the first two or three notes and that's a rarity with bands today. They play quality bluegrass."

Volume Five's souful singing and tight harmonic structures are worth seeking out. After critical acclaim and top charting positions on their last several records, the band is ready to keep climbing up.

Tags: Volume FiveDay We Learn To FlyCD Release

John Hartford Memorial Festival Tickets On Sale Now

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 22:05

Bean Blossom, IN -- Come join the genre busting, musical celebration of the life, music and legacy of John Hartford, one of America's most beloved musician/songwriters, at the 4th Annual John Hartford Memorial Festival, “The Most Laid Back Festival in America”. The festival schedule is ready for your planning with Peter Rowan, Pokey LaFarge, Jamie Hartford, The HillBenders,The Freight Hoppers, Haunted Windchimes, Pert Near Sandstone, Bawn in the Mash, The Keels, Betse Ellis and many more! 50 bands in all!

Single day tickets and full festival tickets are available now at our new dynamic and user friendly website! But you’d better hurry, our current discounted ticket prices will go up starting May 1st. Full 3 day tickets will go up from $100.00 to $115.00, $125.00 at the gate, single day tickets will increase from $50.00 to $55.00, $60.00 at the gate so order now and save! You can win tickets, cash and more as a contestant in our Songwriting and Old Time Fiddling Contests! Visit for all the info to get you and your family to the 4th Annual John Hartford Memorial Festival, May 29th-31st, Bill Monroe Music Park, in beautiful Brown County, IN.

Heading into its fourth year, the John Hartford Memorial Festival is on a mission to preserve and continue the legacy, music, and ideals of John Hartford; one of America’s most beloved songwriters, performers, and musicians. The 4th Annual John Hartford Memorial Festival, taking place May 29-31, 2014 at the Bill Monroe Music Park and Campground in Bean Blossom, IN.

The John Hartford Memorial Festival is a 3-day family-friendly music festival that takes place in beautiful southern Indiana at the historic and legendary Bill Monroe Music Park & Campground in Bean Blossom, IN, with performances on 3 stages from late morning until the wee hours with 24/7 campground jamming, a songwriting contest and an Old Time Fiddle contest too! Our unique festival is offering a genre busting line-up like no other festival with a list of performers whose music is varied, different, fresh and original, and rooted in the Spirit of John Hartford! To read more about the festival click here.

Some things that set the John Hartford Memorial Festival apart from other festivals is the meaning, mission, living history, and sense of family at the event. “I see all these young pickers, more and more, showing up every year and that is encouraging both for John’s legacy and the state of roots/acoustic/bluegrass/Americana music,” said Chad. “John’s spirit, the festival grounds at Bean Blossom, the people and the bands that turn out every year for this gathering are my favorite things about being involved with this festival,” he said.

New to this year’s festival will be John Hartford Storytelling. John’s friends will share their memories and stories with the audience. While this informally happens every year, it will be an organized event held under the Boogie Tent at specific times. There will also be a Chompdown pitch-in breakfast with live music on Friday, May 30 from 10 am – Noon for all to participate in, and a Children’s Tent with planned activities. Pickers and players are encouraged to participate in the Old-Time Fiddling Contest and the John Hartford Songwriting Contest with cash prizes and more.

“This is an early summer event that’s not to be missed,” said Chad. “It will set you on a path of happiness for the rest of the season. The friends you will make there and the fun you will have will be unrivaled by anything else you do all summer! Show up early and stay late, you won’t regret it,” he concluded.

Tags: John Hartford Memorial FestivalMusic FestivalEvent

Chris Austin Songwriting Finalists Announced

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 22:04

Wilkesboro, NC -- Finalists have been selected for the annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, hosted by MerleFest 2014. Now in its 22nd year, the contest is an extraordinary opportunity for aspiring writers to have their original songs heard and judged by a panel of music industry professionals, under the direction of this year’s volunteer contest chairperson, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale. MerleFest 2014 takes place from April 24-27 on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

Each of the twelve finalists will enjoy admission and lodging for three nights at MerleFest and receive a mentoring session with Lauderdale. In addition, the first place winners will receive a performance slot on the Cabin Stage on Friday night of the festival.

Writers of the following twelve songs, selected from over 567 entries, will compete on the Austin Stage at MerleFest on Friday, April 25:

  • Bluegrass
    • Josh Crews (Boone, N.C.) – “Crossties”
    • Paul Harrigill (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Amber Nugent (Ferriday, La.) – "I’m Blue"
    • Chelsea McBee of The Random Assortment & the Christian Lopez Band (Shepherdstown, W.Va.) – "Gone-A-Rye"
  • Gospel/Inspirational
    • Gary Alan Ferguson (Alexandria, Va.) – "Time To Praise the Lord"
    • Frank Hurd (Raleigh, N.C.) – "Light"
    • Allen Smith and Corey Smith of Ash Breeze (Robbins, N.C.) – “Without Love”
  • Country
    • Dan Buehner (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Ben Childs (Oxford, Miss.), both of Hollering Pines – "Cadillac"
    • Kelsi Robertson-Harrigill (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) – “If You Never Let Me Go.”
    • Becky Warren (Nashville, Tenn.) – "Call Me Sometime"
  • General
    • Clint Alphin (Dunn, N.C.) - "Nobody Knows My Name"
    • Sarah Potenza and Ian Crossman (both of Nashville, Tenn.) – “My Turn”
    • Joseph Terrell of Mipso (Chapel Hill, N.C.) – "Angelina Jane is Long Gone”

The first-round judges were: Singer/songwriter/musician Tift Merritt, Claire Armbruster of Planning Stages, Ashlee-Jean Trott of Music City Roots, John Tumminello of Musicians Corner/Music City Unsigned, Judy McDonough of JEMMedia, Megan McNair of Sugar Hill Records and Whitney Holmes of the Americana Music Association. Tift Merritt won MerleFest’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest in 2000 and served as a second-round judge at MerleFest 2013.

Distinguished songwriters Darrell Scott, Charles Humphreys III (Steep Canyon Rangers) and Niall Toner will be among the second-round judges that determine this year’s winners.

Judging is based on a song¹s originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential. The contest is open to those whose primary source of income (50 percent or more) is not derived from songwriting or publishing.

Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest help support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception the scholarship has awarded over $38,000 to 79 deserving students.

For more details about the contest, visit

MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, is an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the late Eddy Merle Watson, son of American music legend Doc Watson who passed away May 29, 2012. MerleFest is a celebration of “traditional plus” music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles. The festival hosts over 130 artists, performing on 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.

Chris Austin, from Boone, North Carolina, worked as a sideman for Ricky Skaggs for three years, singing and playing guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle. During that time he was discovered by executives at Warner Bros. Nashville, who offered him a recording contract. While releasing singles including “Blues Stay Away From Me,” “I Know There’s a Heart in There Somewhere” and “Out of Step,” Austin also developed his songwriting skills, as evidenced in “Same Ol’ Love,” recorded by Skaggs in 1991. On March 16, 1991, Austin’s life was cut tragically short when the private plane carrying him and six other members of Reba McEntire’s band, as well as her tour manager, crashed in the mountains near San Diego. Pete Fisher, then of Warnersongs and currently general manager of the Grand Ole Opry, and Kari Estrin, then MerleFest consultant and “Pickin’ for Merle” video associate producer, initiated the songwriting contest to honor Austin’s memory.
Amber Nugent

Tags: Chris Austin Songwriting ContestMerlefestSongwriting ContestSongwritingEvent