Bluegrass mandolin master Roland White has played in some of the most influential and popular groups in the music’s history, and has played a notable part in creating that history. Springing from a large family of musicians, Roland and his younger brothers Eric and Clarence first played together as youngsters in their native Maine. Moving to southern California in 1955, The Country Boys (later to become The Kentucky Colonels) won talent contests, appeared on local television shows and even landed appearances on The Andy Griffith Show. They toured the country during the folk music boom of the early 60’s, creating a sensation among coffeehouse, festival and college audiences with their instrumental virtuosity, traditional brother vocal harmonies and rhythmic innovations. The Kentucky Colonels’ influence far exceeded the band’s short tenure as an active band. Their “Appalachian Swing” album remains one of the most important albums of that era, a landmark in the history of bluegrass.
Moving from The Kentucky Colonels into a position as guitarist for Bill Monroe in the late 60’s, Roland absorbed the traditional feel and repertoire from his mentor, the Father of Bluegrass, which remains a strong element in his music today. From Monroe’s band, Roland joined that of another bluegrass pioneer, Lester Flatt, playing mandolin and recording several albums as a member of The Nashville Grass from 1969-1973. In 1973 a short-lived reunion of The White Brothers was brought to an untimely end due to Clarence White’s tragic death. Of this brief reunion came two concert recordings that capture the excitement of the White Brothers’ sound fully matured, after Clarence’s excursions in country rock with the Byrds and Roland’s studies with the Monroe and Flatt.
After Clarence’s death Roland began a thirteen-year tenure with the progressive west coast group Country Gazette, first playing guitar and then mandolin, with such bluegrass luminaries as Byron Berline, Alan Munde, Joe Carr, and Roger Bush. In 1989 Roland joined Nashville Bluegrass Band, who distinguished themselves as the premier bluegrass band of their generation, winning two Grammy Awards and Grammy nominations on all of their albums. Roland has been honored by SPBGMA and IBMA for his achievements and contributions to bluegrass music, but he has no plans to retire–Roland and his band continue to perform and teach around the world.