John Cosby, Charlie Hall, and the Bluegrass Drifters/Gary Brewer and the Kentucky Ramblers (#308)

Two bluegrass bands whose music is deeply rooted in old-time country.


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The two bluegrass bands featured on this episode of Jubilee share more than the spotlight—they also share a brand of music deeply rooted in old-time country. The performances were taped at the Red Mule Bluegrass Festival in Berea, KY.

John Cosby, Charlie Hall, and the Bluegrass Drifters, from nearby Richmond, KY, warm up the audience with what Cosby calls “country bluegrass,” a selection of old ballads and sacred music sung with the vocal stylings more commonly found in traditional country music. Cosby plays guitar, Hall picks the banjo, and Harold Nixon and Elmer Burchett back them up on bass and mandolin, respectively.

The Bluegrass Drifters were formed in the late 1960s, when Cosby and a group of musicians from Richmond and Berea used to gather at his upholstery shop to play simply for the pleasure of playing. Eventually the group was invited to perform at a festival in Berea, where they played the only two songs they knew at the time. They have been performing for audiences ever since.

Next, Gary Brewer and the Bluegrass Ramblers, from Louisville, perform music heavily influenced by the songs Brewer’s family has played for five generations. The Ramblers include Brewer on guitar and old-time banjo, Larry Beasley on banjo and mandolin, Steve Day on fiddle and mandolin, Dennis Talley on bass, and Finley J. Brewer Jr. on guitar.

Brewer is proud of his musical heritage. His grandfather, who taught him his “old-style,” two-finger style of banjo playing, once played with the legendary Carter Family.