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Who’s On Stage at MusicFest N Sugar Grove? Band Biographies on Saturday’s Headliners

By Bailey Faulkner

The 19th annual Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove kicks off on the afternoon of Friday, July 15.

Read below for band biographies on Friday’s headliners or click over to musicfestnsugargrove.org to see the full lineup for the weekend and get details on tickets, directions and more.

Gates will open at the Historic Cove Creek School at 1 p.m. on Friday for the first day of music.

Stay tuned for band biographies on Saturday’s headliners. Gates will open for the second day of the festival at 10 a.m. that day.

Cane Mill Road

Saturday on the Main Stage: 11 a.m. to Noon

Cane Mille Road
Cane Mille Road

Deep Gap youth bluegrass group Cane Mill Road will kick off a day of entertainment at MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove on Saturday, July 16. In addition to performing at festivals and music venues around the High Country, the band has traveled internationally to show the world the music of the Appalachian region.

Playing a mix of “bluegrass, old-time Appalachia, newgrass and progressive bluegrass music,” the band is filled out by:

Liam Purcell (fiddle, vocals)

Kinsey Greene (bass, vocals)

Eliot Smith (guitar)

Trajan Wellington (banjo)

Cane Mill Road

While the members enjoy experimenting with many bluegrass subgenres, the band “specializes in preserving the traditional bluegrass music of the Blue Ridge Mountains.”

Luckily for the High Country, Cane Mill Road had the opportunity to represent the United States at 2015’s Iguazu en Concierto, an international youth music festival in Argentina. Cane Mill Road was the first bluegrass band featured in the annual event’s history.

Cane Mill Road has also been featured on National Public Radio’s Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour. In addition to playing MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove last year, the band has also performed at MerleFest, Houstonfest and many other regional festivals.

While younger than most musicians in the scene, Cane Mill Road’s members have established themselves as well-rounded old-time musicians.

Liam Purcell

A Deep Gap native, 13-year-old Purcell sings and plays fiddle, mandolin, guitar, bass, dobro and mountain dulcimer. While he considers the fiddle to be his primary instrument, Purcell has an interest in all things stringed.

In 2014, he won the Brian Friesen Award and was an official artist at the Wide Open Bluegrass Festival. Like every fan of MusicFest, Purcell looks to Doc Watson for inspiration.

“I’m from Deep Gap, Doc’s hometown, so naturally I play some music in his unique style. Doc embraced lots of music, though, and the festival continues to do that,” Purcell said.

Kinsey Greene

Hailing from Boone, 18-year-old Greene sings and plays bass and guitar. Greene is also an award-winning singer/songwriter. She performs regularly at fiddler’s conventions and folk festivals.

During her music career, Greene has performed multiple times at MerleFest and has shared the stage with bluegrass stars Pete Wernick and Adkins & Loudermilk.

Eliot Smith

A native of North Carolina’s mountains, 18-year-old Smith plays guitar, mandolin and fiddle. He is also a luthier, having already built a guitar and started on his first fiddle.

Smith has studied Suzuki violin and old-time fiddle with his grandfather since age 2. He has also studied at Boone’s JAM program.

Trajan Wellington

Sixteen-year-old Wellington is a bluegrass banjo player from West Jefferson. He studies banjo with Steve Lewis and Eric Hardin.

Wellington has won awards and banjo contests around North Carolina and Virginia. He recently won the 2016 Brian Friesen Award, which was presented at this year’s MerleFest.

Cane Mill Road will take the main stage at MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove on Saturday, July 16. The band will perform from 11 a.m. to noon.

“I think our sound goes well with the atmosphere at MusicFest. We have a strong traditional mountain bluegrass base but aren’t afraid to throw in some jazz, swing or country to the mix. We arrange all our songs and have some originals, too,” Purcell said.

Cane Mill Road will be busy playing festivals and concerts venues throughout the summer. You can check out the band’s summer schedule here.


Ashley Heath

Saturday on the Main Stage: 12:15-1:15 p.m.

Ashley Heath
Ashley Heath

Marshall, North Carolina’s Ashley Heath will take the stage at MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove this year to show off her take on Americana music. She will perform a solo set on the Solar Stage on Friday and take the Main Stage with her band on Saturday.

The guitarist, vocalist and Appalachian State University graduate released her debut album, A Different Stream, on May 27. Although the album marked her first studio release, Heath is by no means new to the North Carolina music scene.

Heath began singing as a small child at church. Later in high school and college, she expanded her musical repertoire by joining rock bands.

While she has always been interested in music, Heath did not pick up songwriting until her sophomore year of college. Since then, Heath has developed a style that encompasses a “wide range of Americana music.”

“I would describe my music when playing solo as Americana music. I play a lot of blues and the blues is my favorite, along with songs that tell stories,” Heath said.

In addition to her songwriting, Heath’s vocals and guitar playing set her apart from others in the genre.

“You can hear influences from Eva Cassidy to Bonnie Raitt in her velvety vocals and bluesy guitar playing,” her Facebook page’s bio reads.

Since placing second and being voted crowd favorite in Asheville’s Brown Bag Songwriting Competition in 2014, Heath has pursued the life of the professional musician, joining three bands and recently recording her first solo album.

Heath recorded her debut album at Echo Mountain Recording Studio and Sedgwick Recording Studios in Asheville. The album was produced by Ryan Burns and engineered by Clay Miller.

Including appearances from other local musicians, the album showcases Heath’s thoughtful songwriting and striking vocals and guitar playing.

The Asheville Music Hall hosted Heath and her band for an album release show on Friday, May 27. Caine McDonald and Patrick Dodd kicked off the night of music.

“The full band can have more of a rocking element to it. I call them ‘Ashley Heath and Her Heathens,’ and the band brings a lot of heat to the songs,” Heath said.

Taking the stage with her full band, Heath brought her full Americana sound to an excited crowd at The Asheville Music Hall. With the help of Casey Cramer (guitar), Elijah Cramer (bass) and Patrick Thomas (drums), Heath proved that her exciting music career is only beginning.

If you want to learn more about Heath and her music, you can visit her Facebook page here. You can also click here to visit her website. She has a summer full of exciting events, so make sure you check out her schedule!

Heath has attended MusicFest each year since she completed her college internship at the site in 2011. While interning, Heath had the chance to meet Doc Watson, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Kruger Brothers and many other famous bands and artists.

While this will not be her first performance at MusicFest, this year will mark her first appearance on the Main Stage. In addition to having met legendary musicians at MusicFest, Heath loves to see local musicians perform at the festival.

“I love seeing the local family bands. Some of those kids get up there and are 9 or 10 years old and just shred on their instrument. It’s incredible to see,” Heath said.

She is also happy to know that MusicFest is doing a great job of preserving the music of Doc Watson and the High Country.

“I enjoy walking around the museum and looking at the legacy Doc has left for us and heading down to the pickin’ parlor where anyone can go jam. The music fest works really hard at keeping the culture alive,” Heath said.

Fortunately for MusicFest goers, Heath will play two sets at this year’s event. Her solo set will take place on the Solar Stage on Friday from 4:15 – 5:15 p.m. Heath and her band will play the Main Stage on Saturday from 12:15 – 1:15 p.m.

Make sure you check out Heath’s CDs, T-shirts and stickers while you’re at the show!


Amantha Mill

Saturday on the Main Stage: 1:30-2:30 p.m.

Amantha Mill
Amantha Mill

“Community-oriented folk and bluegrass act” Amantha Mill will take the main stage at MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove on Saturday, July 16. The Boone-based band mixes traditional bluegrass, swing, cowboy, country and Americana and roots to make a sound that is distinctly Amantha Mill.

The band is filled out by:

Rebecca Eggers-Gryder (bass)

Bill Helms (guitar)

John Cockman (fiddle)

Kevin Eller (banjo, guitar)

Dustin Petrey (mandolin)

Tony Reece (dobro)

The band takes its name from Amantha, North Carolina, a small mill town and home to much of Eggers-Gryder’s family. Since forming, the band has formed a sound with “tight harmonies and an explosive, energetic sound that pays tribute to our mountain music heritage.”

Each member of the band is an experienced musician and vocalist. In addition to their music, the members are also established figures in the High Country.

Rebecca Eggers-Gryder

Born and raised in Boone, Eggers-Gryder has been an attorney in her family’s law firm for over 20 years. She was also appointed district court judge in the 24th Judicial District in January of 2015.

She has been interested in folk and bluegrass since childhood. Eggers-Gryder mixes elements of country, bluegrass and blues in her singing, playing and songwriting. Her unique voice turns her music into “gritty story songs about the human experience.”

Before Amantha Mill, she released a solo album with Steve Lewis, Randy Greer, Kim Stacy and Bob White.

Bill Helms

After hearing the banjo theme from the classic film Deliverance, Helms knew that he needed to learn guitar and banjo. Since his moment of inspiration, Helms has spent years playing guitar around the country and in Europe.

He spent seven years in France playing with Grammy award-winning artists The Moody Brothers. While touring with the group, Helms opened for Charlie Daniels and the Dixie Chicks and appeared on Disney television shows in Spain, Italy and Germany. He has also appeared on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee and ABC’s nightly news.

John Cockman

Cockman adds his “smooth, stylistic flair” on the fiddle. In addition to his fiddle, Cockman holds down the bass harmonies in the band’s vocal mix.

Cockman also has a doctoral degree in physics and teaches in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Appalachian State University.

Kevin Eller

Eller began playing the banjo as a teenager. Born down the street from legendary Doc Watson, Eller has had a life full of music. As part of Amantha Mill, he fills out the utility role, playing either guitar or banjo when needed.

In addition to playing banjo and guitar and singing lead and harmonies in the band, Eller is a member of his church’s worship team and has a doctoral degree in accounting from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Dustin Petrey

Petrey has been interested in music since early childhood. He grew up singing in church and at home, developing an acute ear for gospel and bluegrass music.

At 13, Petrey began learning the mandolin. Before long, he added guitar to his repertoire of musical talents. Petrey now works for Operation Heal Our Patriots and leads worship at his church.

Tony Reece

Reece is an award-winning dobro player from western Watauga County. In addition to winning the Resonator Guitar National Championship in 2004, Reece has played with the Krüger Brothers, Chris Thile and bluegrass band Buncombe Turnpike.

Starting out with the guitar, Reece quickly realized that his true musical passion was the dobro. Since first picking up the instrument, Reece has played for crowds around the High Country and beyond.

Noting the band’s wide-ranging, unique mix of styles, Amantha Mill’s website assures “there is something in each of our shows that will satisfy everyone.”

The band is especially excited to return to MusicFest this year.

“It’s a very intimate festival. It’s kind of like a family reunion for bands in the High Country,” Helms said.

The band’s sound will be an interesting take on the music that is generally played at MusicFest.

“Our music is a cross between folk and contemporary bluegrass and Americana,” Helms said.

Since its self-titled debut in 2003, Amantha Mill has released several albums. Last November, the band released Christmas with Amantha Mill.

The band is always interested in playing private parties, receptions, music festivals, concert series and more. More than anything, the band looks forward to having fun playing in and around the High Country this summer.

If you want to check out the band’s music, click here. You can also check out the band’s Facebook page to stay up-to-date on other upcoming Amantha Mill shows. If you want to learn more, directly contact the band by email at whelms2@bellsouth.net.


Jim Lloyd

Saturday on the Main Stage: 2:45-3:45 p.m.

Jim Lloyd
Jim Lloyd

Rural Retreat, Virginia’s Jim Lloyd will take his old-time guitar and banjo music to MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove this year. The returning artist will perform on Saturday, July 16.

Having “‘old bones’ with a knowledge and appreciation for the old ways well beyond his years,” Lloyd proudly carries on the old-time traditions of the Appalachian area.

Coming as no surprise, Lloyd comes from four generations of fiddlers, guitarists, dancers and singers from the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.

A musician since childhood, Lloyd took his talents to Nice, France as a contracted musician for the city’s Carnival festivities during the mid 1990s. After his time in France, Lloyd became a professional musician and joined The Konnarock Critters as the band’s guitarist.

Lloyd has also preserved the music of the Appalachian region as a radio DJ. He hosted “Blue Ridge Back Roads,” a live music show, while at WBRF in Galax, Virginia.

He also hosted the NPR show “Living Traditions” for three years during his time at The William King Arts Center in Abingdon, Virginia. The show was broadcasted on 50 stations across the country.

Lloyd has won prizes for banjo and guitar at the Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax and the Ole Time Fiddler’s & Bluegrass Festival in Fiddler’s Grove.

Reflecting on his long career as a mountain musician, Lloyd’s music gives listeners snapshots of life in the Appalachians.

“I like to take people on a journey with my music. They’ll laugh and cry and everything in between,” Lloyd said.

This year, Lloyd has had a busy summer full of shows and events. In September, he will perform at the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion along with other legendary mountain musicians.

In addition to his music, he operates Lloyd’s Barber Shop and Banjo Museum in Rural Retreat. More than simply a barbershop, the site hosts musicians, friends and community members as they share tunes and stories.

One event in particular — the Black Friday Jam — attracts enough musicians and music lovers to fill the entire barbershop. The 2013 Black Friday Jam brought around 70 people to Lloyd’s shop.

While his collection is always growing, Lloyd has already collected many rare banjos. “An encyclopedia of information about [banjos],” Lloyd enjoys preserving these musical pieces of Appalachian history — his banjo collection dates back to the 1840s!

You can learn more about Lloyd’s Barber Shop and Banjo Museum here.

Lloyd has also been teaching traditional music methods for years. You can check out a video of the “old soul in a younger body” with one of his students here.

In addition to giving lessons at his shop, Lloyd also holds workshops for banjo and guitar players. He has lead workshops in Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, Minnesota and England.

If you are interested in checking out the banjo museum or setting up lessons, you can find Lloyd’s contact information here.

Like the other artists performing at the event, Lloyd is excited to return to MusicFest this year.

“The whole event is great. Everyone treats you very nice,” Lloyd said.

Lloyd, too, finds inspiration from the music and life of Doc Watson.

“I like traditional music, but I also like to make it mine. I think Doc Watson did the same thing. Doc is my role model on that,” Lloyd said.

More than anything, he hopes that people will come out and have a truly great time at this year’s MusicFest.


The Snyder Family Band

Saturday on the Main Stage: 4-5:15 p.m.

Snyder Family
Snyder Family

MusicFest veteran group Snyder Family Band will return to Sugar Grove this year to showcase its unique mix of Appalachian and southern styles.

The Snyder Family Band is filled out by:

Samantha Snyder (fiddle, lead and harmony vocals)

Zeb Snyder (guitar, mandolin, lead and harmony vocals)

Bud Snyder (upright bass)

The trio is also occasionally accompanied by:

Owen Snyder (banjo, guitar, vocals)

Laine Snyder (harmony vocals)

While its instruments may suggest that the group is solely an old-time or bluegrass band, the Snyder Family Band relies heavily on drawing from other southern genres. In addition to playing bluegrass, the band’s diverse interests have lead to original work inspired by southern rock, blues, Texas swing and newgrass, among others.

“We listen to all sorts of music,” Samantha said.

“Yeah, we play our own brand of music,” Zeb added.

Playing “a blend of family-friendly music that appeals to all ages and audiences,” the Snyder Family Band has become a regular act around the High Country and beyond. In fact, the band’s performance at MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove this year will mark the group’s ninth performance at the festival.

The band also has four full-length albums under its belt. First recording Comin’ On Strong in 2010, the band released its latest album, Wherever I Wander, last year. You can check out all of the Snyder Family Band’s music here. The band’s music is also available online on iTunes and Amazon.

Like The Grascals and The Boxcars, the Snyder Family Band records with Mountain Home Music Company. You can check out many of the other bands that record with Mountain Home Music Company here.

The Snyder Family Band is returning to the studio this August to record its fifth full-length album. You can stay up-to-date with the band’s upcoming music and events by checking out the group’s Facebook page here.

While certainly great as a whole, the Snyder Family Band would be nothing without each of its members’ outstanding talents.

Samantha Snyder

Now 17, Samantha has been a musician for the vast majority of her life — she began classical violin lessons at only three years old! Since first picking up the instrument, Samantha has become an award-winning fiddler and a “top notch singer and songwriter.”

In 2013, Samantha was selected as the fiddler and lead vocalist for the Youth All-Star Bluegrass Band that performed at the IBMA World of Bluegrass Awards Show in Raleigh, NC.

Now occasionally playing guitar and mandolin, Samantha has become an exceptionally talented songwriter and musician and an essential element in the Snyder Family Band sound.

Zeb Snyder

Like his sister, Zeb began classical music training at a very young age, picking up the guitar when he was seven years old. Before long, Zeb had become an extremely accomplished guitarist and musician, winning numerous guitar championships at various festivals and events during his youth.

Now focusing on performing, recording and writing, Zeb continues to hone his flatpicking, thumbpicking, fingerstyle and slide guitar playing. In addition to his main instrument, Zeb has also proven himself as an outstanding mandolin player.

In 2013, Grammy Award-winning artist Adam Steffey asked Zeb to join him as the guitarist for his album, New Primitive.

Zeb is now offering guitar lessons for players of all ages and skill levels. Tailoring each lesson for his students, Zeb uses his vast knowledge of guitar skills and techniques to help his students become well-rounded at the instrument. You can learn more about Zeb’s lessons here.

Bud Snyder

Father Bud Snyder “holds down a rock-solid upright bass rhythm” for Samantha and Zeb. An essential member of the trio, Bud excels at adapting to the wide range of styles found in the band’s original music and covers.

Returning this year for its ninth performance, the Snyder Family Band knows that MusicFest is more than just a bluegrass and old-time festival.

“Doc’s spirit and the culture he made are still there,” Zeb said. “He mixed a lot of genres without really labeling them, and I think that’s what we do.”



Saturday on the Main Stage: 6:45-7:45 p.m.


“Straight-ahead bluegrass” band ClayBank will return to MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove for its second performance at the festival. The quartet will take the Main Stage on Saturday, July 16.

The youthful bluegrass group is filled out by:

Zack Arnold (mandolin)

Jacob Greer (guitar)

Tyler Thompson (banjo)

Gary Trivette (bass)

Taking its name from its practice spot on Claybank Road in West Jefferson, ClayBank, as the name suggests, focuses on capturing the essence of the High Country in its music and events.

Drawing inspiration from the music-rich Blue Ridge Mountains, ClayBank is “living proof that raw, young talent combined with a wealth of musical experience and expertise can prevail.”

While steeped in the bluegrass and old-time traditions of the Appalachian area, ClayBank also finds inspiration in other related genres, at once playing “hard-driving bluegrass songs only to move on to a’ cappella gospel ballads with ‘impressive harmonies.”

In the relatively small amount of time that the band has been together, ClayBank has already made a name for itself around the High Country and beyond. Assembled in January 2015, the band proved it belonged at MusicFest, playing the event after less than half of a year together as a group.

The band recently released its first single, “Up on Claybank.” You can check out the song here.

Each of the band’s members has been a lifelong fan of bluegrass and the musical traditions of the Appalachian region.

Zack Arnold

Now 15, Arnold began singing before his second birthday. Before long, he developed a love for bluegrass and began singing harmonies.

Originally taking lessons on the mandolin, Arnold eventually found that he was most interested in learning to play the guitar. Since ClayBank’s formation, Arnold has picked up his former instrument, honing his “hard-hitting mandolin style.”

In addition to his impressive mandolin playing and accomplished flatpicking skills, Arnold has developed powerful vocals that contribute heavily to the band’s overall sound.

Jacob Greer

Now 17, Greer also began his musical training at a young age, picking up the electric guitar when he was eight. After a few years of playing electric, Greer was introduced to bluegrass music, which he immediately loved.

Moving away from the electric guitar, Greer has now spent “countless hours studying the techniques of guitar greats Tony Rice and Kenny Smith.”

In 2012, Greer was asked to join bluegrass and gospel band Heritage. After four years of playing with the band, Greer joined ClayBank, refining his style to fit in perfectly with the group’s other members. His “dynamic rhythm and impressive lead guitar playing” are essential elements in ClayBank’s style.

Tyler Thompson

Born in Watauga County, Thompson was also introduced to bluegrass at a very young age. Inspired by his bass-playing father, Thompson began guitar and banjo lessons when he was 10.

Shortly after he started lessons, Thompson became a remarkably talented musician, winning awards for both his guitar and banjo playing. Now focusing on his banjo playing in ClayBank, he is also an accomplished songwriter and singer.

In addition to his musical career, Thompson is also a paramedic and a United States Army veteran.

Gary Trivette

Growing up in Watauga County during the ’60s and ’70s, Trivette is ClayBank’s most experienced member of the band. He was born to a very musical family, leading him to pick up bass playing at the age of eight.

With prominent local musician Auborn Trivette as a father, Trivette has deep ties to the High Country’s music scene. Inspired by The Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene, Trivette spent 17 years as the banjo player for his bluegrass band Southern Accent. After his time with the band, he also spent several years as a member of Carolina Crossing.

With his rock-solid bass playing, wide vocal range and impressive songwriting abilities, Trivette provides a firm foundation for the rest of the band’s members.

ClayBank is excited to continue High Country musical traditions at MusicFest this year.

“It’s an extra special honor to play at a festival in memory of Doc and Rosa Lee Watson. I got to meet Doc when I was 12 years old, and he was such an encouragement to me. Plus, the audience is great to play for — they are always so enthusiastic,” Greer said.

With its classic bluegrass sound, ClayBank will surely please the MusicFest crowd this year.

“Our music is a fun fit for MusicFest because we play the acoustic music that this area is known for, but with our own exciting, energetic twist,” Greer said.


The Grascals

Saturday on the Main Stage: 8-9:30 p.m.

The Grascals
The Grascals

“Cutting-edge modern bluegrass” group The Grascals will show MusicFest its take on traditional Appalachian and country music this year. The band will take the Main Stage to headline Saturday’s show.

“Forged at the intersection of personal friendships, shared professional resumes and an appreciation for the innovative mingling of bluegrass and country music,” The Grascals take inspiration from tradition while injecting a modern flair to their sound.

The group is filled out by:

Terry Eldredge (guitar, vocals)

Danny Roberts (mandolin)

John Bryan (guitar, vocals)

Terry Smith (acoustic bass, vocals)

Kristin Scott Benson (banjo, guitar)

Adam Haynes (fiddle)

“With a deep knowledge of, and admiration for, the work of [bluegrass’] founding fathers,” The Grascals have tapped into the essence of the genre, having earned three Grammy nominations and two Entertainer of the Year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

The band has also appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Fox & Friends, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and CBS’ The Talk. In addition to over 150 Grand Ole Opry appearances, the group has also performed twice for former President George W. Bush and for President Obama’s inaugural ball.

The Grascals also have the uncanny ability to “Grascalize” songs, taking tunes from other genres and putting their spin on them. The Grascals can easily trick listeners into thinking that covers like The Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville” are Grascals originals or traditional bluegrass tunes.

The Grascals’ ability to assimilate other genres into its traditional bluegrass base is perhaps one of the group’s greatest strengths.

“Our sound is very much traditional, but it has a new feel. It’s new air breathed into an old sound,” Bryan said.

Each member in The Grascals’ lineup brings years of bluegrass and country music experience to the table.

Danny Roberts

Roberts first picked up the guitar to back up friend and Grascals founding member Jimmy Mattingly during their childhood in Leitchfield, Kentucky. Before long, Roberts began to win his first awards for guitar and mandolin.

In 1982, he cofounded New Tradition, a “dynamic, ground-breaking bluegrass and gospel group” that toured around the country for around 20 years, releasing 10 studio albums along the way.

In 2000, Roberts capitalized on the chance to work as the plant manager of Gibson’s Original Acoustic Instruments luthiery. He has also hosted workshops with legendary Sam Bush, Chris Thile, Bobby Osborne and many more.

Terry Elderidge

Indiana native Elderidge brings his “soulful vocals and easygoing stage presence” to The Grascals’ mix. Known by thousands for his bluegrass expertise in The Grascals, Elderidge was also the front man of the Sidemen, the legendary recurring act at Nashville’s famous Station Inn.

Elderidge also made a name for himself as the bassist for longtime Opry stars Lonzo and Oscar. Also a former member of the Osborne Brothers, Elderidge was nominated for the IBMA’s Bass Player of the Year award while with Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time in 2003.

In addition to his other previous projects, Elderidge has performed with Dolly Parton’s Blue-niques.

Terry Smith

Also a veteran of the Osborne Brothers, Smith grew up in North Carolina, later moving to Nashville as a teenager. With a songwriter and renowned country music journalist as a mother, Smith was destined to play the music that fans now associate with The Grascals.

First playing with his family’s band, Smith and his brother recorded a 1990 album that rose to #1 for country music videos during the early days of CMT. In 1999, the brothers released Voices of the Mountain, which contains songs now played regularly by the Del McCoury Band and the Lonesome River Band.

Smith has also worked as a staff songwriter for EMI and Major Bob Music.

Kristin Scott Benson

Four-tine IBMA Banjo Player of the Year Benson grew up in a musical family in her home state of South Carolina. She was given her first banjo for Christmas when she was 13, later spending her teen years studying styles ranging from Earl Scruggs to Bela Fleck.

After graduating summa cum laude with a BBA in Marketing and a minor in Music Business from Nashville’s famous Belmont University and spending the next 13 years in the city, Benson moved back to the Carolinas with her family.

Featuring some of the most respected musicians from Nashville, Benson’s latest solo release, Second Season, has been extremely well received by the bluegrass and country music community.

Adam Haynes

Hailing from Wakeman, Ohio, Haynes is The Grascal’s resident fiddler. At 13, he began playing fiddle under his father’s guidance.

Now, Haynes cites his father as his greatest musical influence. Getting his musical start playing fiddle and banjo and singing in his family band, Haynes went on to perform with artists such as Melvin Goins, David Parmley and Continental Divide and Larry Stephenson.

He has also recorded with James King, Dailey & Vincent and Grasstowne prior to joining The Grascals.

John Bryan

While each of the band’s members has deep familial ties to bluegrass and country music, Bryan’s connection to the genres is especially interesting for MusicFest fans.

Bryan’s great grandfather was banjo player Willard Watson — first cousin to Doc Watson. Bryan’s other great grandfather played guitar and sang, so Bryan was born to play the music of the Appalachian region.

He began playing bluegrass music at 14. Now, he has honed his skills on guitar and banjo, playing both clawhammer and old-time styles. Before joining The Grascals, Bryan played guitar and sang with Larry Efaw and The Bluegrass Mountaineers in addition to his Boone-based band Surefire, Bryan’s band from his teen years.

Young and full of energy, Bryan has already traveled across the United States and Canada performing the music he loves.

“Timely yet timeless,” The Grascals will undoubtedly embody the essence of MusicFest.

“Our music fits MusicFest perfectly because we have a strong traditional — yet in some ways new — feel to our sound, which, in my opinion, is exactly MusicFest,” Bryan said.

Given his upbringing and family history, Bryan knows that MusicFest holds a special place in his heart.

“MusicFest has always been my hometown festival. I used to play the event with one of the first bands I performed with. It’s one of the first festivals that I cut my teeth on,” Bryan said.

The Grascals will take the Main Stage on Saturday, July 16. They will perform in the headlining spot that night from 8 – 9:30.

If you love The Grascals and want to help a great cause, you should check out the band at their upcoming performance at the Musicians Against Childhood Cancer Bluegrass Festival (MACC) taking place July 20 – 23. You can learn more about MACC here.

Make sure you don’t miss out on this opportunity to see one of the most fitting bands in MusicFest history!