‘Grandpa’s Cough Medicine’ to Bring Outlaw Bluegrass to Murphy’s on March 26

Published Monday, March 21, 2016 at 2:34 pm

By Bailey Faulkner

“Blazing tempos, outlaw attitude, foot-stomping intensity and acoustic wizardry” — that’s bluegrass group Grandpa’s Cough Medicine in a nutshell. The outlaws plan to get rowdy at Murhpy’s Pub on Saturday, March 26.

The band is filled out by:

Brett Bass (guitar, dobro, vocals)

Mike “Banjo Boy” Coker (banjo)

John Murphy (upright bass, vocals)

While the term “bluegrass” probably best describes the band’ sound, it doesn’t quite capture what Grandpa’s Cough Medicine is all about. Along with a unique take on bluegrass instrumentally, the band’s music is set apart by its “humor and dark subject matter.” That has a lot to do with founding member Bass’ childhood love of another genre: heavy metal.

Brett Bass

Grandpa's Cough Medicine. Outlawbluegrass.com.

Grandpa’s Cough Medicine. Outlawbluegrass.com.

Inspired to pick up the guitar after hearing Randy Rhoad’s legendary “Crazy Train” solo from Ozzy Osbourne’s debut solo album, Bass dedicated his younger days to vigorously learning the style. But by the time he was 17, Bass began noticing that many bluegrass players could play the guitar just as fast and intricately as his metal heroes.

Bass shortly found more guitar heroes to idolize, looking to Doc Watson, Bryan Sutton and Larry Keel for inspiration. While Bass’ playing now seems more reminiscent of his later guitar inspirations, subject matter and lyrical styles from metal have made their presence known in Grandpa’s Cough Medicine’s music.

Mike “Banjo Boy” Coker

Like Bass, Coker found musical inspiration from a very early age. At 11, his interest in music was sparked by Earl Scruggs’ banjo playing on the Beverly Hillbillies’ theme song. From that point on, Coker was hooked on bluegrass music.

After playing in a youth band for several years, Coker met Bass at a bluegrass jam. Before long, the two began playing and composing songs together. Once Coker entered the band, his youth and firery banjo skills earned him the nickname “Banjo Boy.” Since joining, Coker has upped the band’s tempo significantly, sculpting the band’s famous “blazing tempos.” 

John Murphy

Like his bandmates, Murphy first picked up his instrument in his youth, playing cello as a teenager. Since then, Murphy has played guitar and bass in several bands, sung in the Arizona Opera Chorus and graduated from the University of Arizona with a minor in music. He has also released a solo folk album.

Seeing a Craigslist ad reading “outlaw country band seeking members,” Murphy didn’t hesitate to jam with the other two members, joining the band after only one practice together. He originally played electric bass but made the tricky transition to upright bass once the band started heading down a more bluegrassy path. Now, Murphy’s upright bass seamlessly meshes with Bass’ guitar and Coker’s banjo.

Grandpa’s Cough Medicine

The band, now full of “flat-picked guitar, Scruggs-style banjo, upright bass and two vocals,” is becoming increasingly popular in the South and East Coast.

The group released their first album, Jailbird Blues, was voted as one of the “Top Ten Local Albums of 2011” in its hometown of Jacksonville, FL. Rolling with the success of their first album, the band quickly began working on its second studio effort, The Murder Chord, releasing the album in August 2012.

Another success, the album helped the band land a spot at 2014’s One Spark music festival in Jacksonville where the band was voted the top musical act. Awarded a sizeable amount of cash from the event, the band was able to use its winnings to finance its next album, 180 Proof.

Really feeling their success, the band was able to recruit huge names in the music industry for guest appearances on 180 Proof. Jason Carter, Aaron Till, Randy Kohrs, Isaac Corbitt and Hank Williams III all contributed to the band’s latest album.

More recently, the band had the honor to compete in the Rockygrass instrument contests in Lyons, Colorado. In true GCM spirit, Bass took home first prize in flat-picking guitar and placed second in the dobro competition, while “Banjo Boy” Cocker took home first in banjo.

The band is currently touring the South, making its way through Florida and the Highlands Brewing Company near Asheville before coming to Murphy’s on March 26.

If you feel like getting rowdy like a true outlaw, Saturday at Murphy’s is a must!

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