KET’s new documentary “Big Family: The Story of Bluegrass Music”, premieres this summer. The program features footage from around the world, interviews with legends and newcomers alike and – of course – incredible music. Below, watch past performances by some of the artists featured in Big Family.
Dale Ann Bradley is a five-time winner of the Female Bluegrass Vocalist of the Year award, presented by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA). Her storied career dates to her high school days and weekly gigs at Pine Mountain State Park in Kentucky with her first band, Backporch Grass. After a hiatus, Bradley returned to music and took up a musical residency at Renfro Valley, where she often performed on The Sunday Morning Gatherin’ and became a member of The New Coon Creek Girls. After recording four albums with this group, she was offered a solo deal and her first release, East Kentucky Morning,catapulted her into international media and airplay. In the intervening years, she has been nominated for and won numerous awards from the IBMA and the Grammys and has worked with such artists as Alison Brown, Vince Gill and Pam Tillis.
Sam Bush is a Grammy Award-winningmandolin player and founder of New Grass Revival. A native of Bowling Green, Ky., he purchased his first mandolin at age 11 after being inspired by his parents’ record collection and the performance of a young Ricky Skaggs at the Grand Ole Opry. Bush’s professional career began when he was asked to perform five nights a week in Louisville with the Bluegrass Alliance. Following the dissolution of that group in 1971, he and three of his bandmates formed the pioneering New Grass Revival, influence by jam and rock-&-roll music. During his career, Bush has released seven albums and a live DVD and, in 2009, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Americana Music Association.
Michael Cleveland is an award-winning fiddler and leader of Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper. Considered one of the premier bluegrass fiddlers of his generation, Mike picked up a fiddle at age four, and his talent was recognized early. In 1993, he was chosen to be part of the Bluegrass Youth All Stars at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) award show. Later that year, Mike made his Grand Ole Opry debut as a guest of Alison Krauss. After joining Rhonda Vincent and the Rage in 2000, he won his first Fiddle Player of the Year award and shared the Entertainer of the Year award with his group. Over the years, Cleveland has won a record-breaking 10 more Fiddle Player of the Year awards and established himself as a sought-after guest who has performed with Vince Gill, J.D. Crowe and the New South, Marty Stuart and more.
J.D.Crowe is a bluegrass legend who became entranced with the music the first time he heard Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys in his native Lexington, Kentucky,as a 12-year-old in 1949. He picked up a banjo shortly after and his musical career took off when Jimmy Martin heard Crowe playing on a local radio show and invited him to perform in Middletown, Ohio. The two continued to play together, on and off, until 1961, when Crowe returned to his hometown to work a “day job” so he could make a steady living.In Kentucky, J.D. teamed up with other local part-time musicians to work weekends in several taverns. They took the name The Kentucky Mountain Boys and later became The New South. The group would go on to perfect an acoustic sound and, after some key additions in 1974, became one of the most brilliant ensembles in bluegrass music. In addition to The New South, Crowe spent time with The Bluegrass Album Band and recorded six best-selling albums with the supergroup. A 2003 inductee into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame, Crowe remains active in the music industry.
Jeff Hanna is a founding member of the venerable Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which celebrated its 50thanniversary playing music in 2016.As a member of the band, Hanna played an integral role in its seminal Will The Circle Be Unbroken album which featured two generations of bluegrass and country artists, including Mother Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson.
Sierra Hull is a seasoned performer who made her Grand Ole Opry debut at age 10, performed at Carnegie Hall at age 12 and released her debut album just a year later at age 13. After winning an International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) award in 2010, Hull got back to work, releasing her second album and organizing a huge bluegrass festival in her hometown of Byrdstown, Tenn. By 2016, she was more mature, both in her life and art, and her third album, Weighted Mind, reflected that, blending progressive elements with traditional structure and earned her a Grammy nod. She is currently working on her next album which will contain all original songs.
Jim Lauderdale helped lay out the blueprint for the Americana movement of the 1990s, earning high critical marks for an eclectic series of albums that spanned hard country, slick pop, rootsy rock & roll, blues, folk, R&B, and bluegrass. Stylistically restless, Lauderdale’s roots were in hard country and bluegrass, but his first album to be released, 1991’s Planet of Love, was a savvy blend of rock, blues and traditional country influences. It scored rave reviews, as did its follow-up, 1994’s Pretty Close to the Truth. With 1999’s I Feel Like Singing Today, a collaboration with Dr. Ralph Stanley, he revealed he was also a first-rate bluegrass vocalist. Over the next two decades, Lauderdale would move back and forth between electric and acoustic projectsalways steeped in roots music, while he also built and estimable reputation as a songwriter. His compositions were recorded —often with considerable success —by several country stars, including George Strait, Patty Loveless, Vince Gill, Mark Chestnutt, Kathy Mattea and George Jones.
Laurie Lewis is internationally renowned as a singer, songwriter, fiddler, bandleader, producer and educator. She was a founding member of the Good Ol’ Persons and the Giant Street String Band and has performed and recorded since 1986 with her musicalpartner, mandolinist Tom Rozum. Lewis has twice been voted Female Vocalist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and has won the respect and admiration of her peers. She has recorded nearly 20 albums in several musical formats for such labels as Flying Fish, Rounder, Hightone, Sugar Hill, Kaleidoscope, and her own Spruce & Maple Music. Her latest album with her band, the Right Hands, The Hazel and Alice Sessions, was nominated for the Best Bluegrass Recording Grammy in 2017.
Del McCoury began performing with various bands in the 1960s, playing throughout the Washington, DC and Baltimore area and eventually came to the attention of the legendary Bill Monroe and joined his band, the Blue Grass Boys, in 1963. It was Monroe, the “Father of Bluegrass” who switched McCoury from banjo to guitar and first recognized that McCoury’s distinctive tenor was well suited for lead vocals.
Several years later, while working in the logging industry in Pennsylvania to support his family, McCoury formed his own band, theDixie Pals. For the next decade and a half, McCoury piloted the group through a part-time career of weekend appearances at bluegrass festivals and recordings for both specialty and roots music institutions like Arhoolie and Rounder Records.
In 1981, McCoury’s 14-year-old son Ronnie joined the Dixie Pals as mandolin player, followed five years later by banjo-playing younger brother Rob. In 1992, the group moved to Nashville. Armed with a relationship with Rounder Records and a few young members, the newly-named Del McCoury Band vaulted to the top of the bluegrass world.
By the second half of the 1990s, the Del McCoury Band was engaging in onstage jams with diverse bands such as Phish and performing on the road and in the studio with Steve Earle. The group also appeared on prime-time television, began an ongoing series of visits to popular late-night TV talk shows, toured rock clubs and college campuses, and performed at country and even jazz-oriented music festivals and venues.
McCoury and his band have recorded 16 albums and in 2006 won a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album for The Company We Keep. Named Male Vocalist of the Year for three consecutive years and winner of nine Entertainer of the Year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), McCoury has remained a nimble, inventive guitarist whose penetrating voice and compelling singing style serve as a bridge between the original generation of bluegrass artists and today’s contemporary players.
Joe Mullins is a southwestern Ohio native who has been a recognizable banjo player, vocalist and radio broadcaster for over 30 years. Mullins toured and recorded as a founding member of the band The Traditional Grass until 1995, when he purchased WBZI Radio in Xenia, Ohio. He recorded and performed with the band Longview, earning Song of the Year and Recorded Event of the Year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in the late 1990s. In 2001, he won the IBMA’s Instrumental Recording of the Year award for his workon Rebel Records’ Knee Deep in Bluegrass. Mullins was also one of many artists in 2006 that shared Album of the Year honors for Celebration of Life on Skaggs Family Records. Mullins now owns an Ohio network of radio stations —Real Roots Radio —and can be found on the air most weekdays from 1-3 p.m. featuring bluegrass and bluegrass gospel music.
Bobby Osborne was born in Southeastern Kentucky and grew up immersed in the mining songs and folk ballads of the Appalachian Mountains. He began his career with bluegrass greats including Jimmy Martin and Stanley Brothers, while his brother, Sonny,played banjo with the great Bill Monroe. The brothers formed a duo in 1953 following Bobby’s discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps. Their recording debut came in 1956 and featured Sonny signing lead in a high tenor. In 1963, The Osbornes signed with Decca Records and continued to make waves with adventurous arrangements and non-traditional instruments. The duo’s hit records included Rocky Top; Take Me Home, Country Roads;Tennessee Hound Dog and Ruby. In 1994, the brothers were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Hall of Honor.
Sammy Shelor is a five-time International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Award Winner for Banjo Performer of the Year, 2011 Award Winner for the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass and has received numerous other awards and recognitions during his impressive career.He currently leads the Lonesome River Band, which has been entertaining audiences for more than 33 years. Since becoming a member of Lonesome River Band (LRB), Shelor has been featured on dozens of successful recordings, both with LRB and as a guest player. His solo project, Leading Roll, is still a popular title in the Sugar Hill Records catalog and his work on Knee Deep In Bluegrass for Rebel Records helped that project earn the Instrumental Album Of The Year award from the IBMA in 2001.