The Boston Bluegrass Union (BBU) is pleased to announce the BBU Heritage Awards. The awards are presented each year at the festival by the BBU to honor those who have made substantial contributions to furthering bluegrass in New England. To see the winners for any given year, click on the plus sign on the right of any year.
Heritage Award Artist Winner
Dr. Richard Brown
Accomplished Monroe-style mandolin player, Dr. Richard “Richie” Brown has been a bluegrass fixture in the Boston area for many years. He’s extensively involved as a performer, music instructor, and as a board member for numerous regional and national bluegrass organizations.
Growing up in Mt. Vernon, NY, Richie found folk music through his high school folk club and was introduced to bluegrass through a friendship with Steve Mandell. He started taking guitar lessons from Steve and quickly became enmeshed in the burgeoning New York City bluegrass scene, eventually landing on mandolin as his main instrument. He came to Boston to go to Boston University, and then went on to Tufts Dental School, and graduated from Tufts in 1973. By this time, he had met Stan Zdonik, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, and Dave Dillon, and was fully involved in the Boston area bluegrass scene.
Over the years, Richie has performed in several prominent regional bands, including The Rainbow Valley Boys with Bob and Grace French (1966 to 1968), Apple Country with his wife Margaret Gerteis (1974 to 1981), Stoney Lonesome (1983), and currently sings and plays with The Reunion Band with longtime mates Margaret, Dave Dillon, Catherine “BB” Bowness, and Laura Orshaw.
Richie is an active and in demand Mandolin instructor at many regional and national festivals and music camps, including the BBU’s Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, Mandolin Camp North, and is a former associate director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum’s Monroe Style Mandolin Camp.
Lastly, he’s actively participated in many bluegrass organizations, was a founding board member of the BBU, served on the board of directors of the International Bluegrass Music Museum, and is presently on the board of the IBMA Foundation. Richie continues to run his own dental practice and is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Harvard Dental School.
Heritage Award Industry Winner
On the air for over thirty years, Tom Banyai hosts radio show The Bluegrass Junction each Tuesday evening on Worcester’s WICN 90.5 FM. The station is an NPR affiliate and reaches 50,000 listeners daily through its radio signal and worldwide Internet streaming.
Tom grew up in Connecticut and early on, was drawn to folk music. He counts as an early highlight his attending the 1966 Newport Folk Festival. He was attracted to the burgeoning folk scene found in coffee houses, small clubs on college radio throughout New York City and Connecticut. Tom and his family relocated to the Worcester area in 1976. His introduction to Bluegrass was fittingly a radio tribute on WGBH to Joe Val. Shortly thereafter he attended the 1985 Winterhawk Bluegrass Festival and was captivated by the music.
At the same time, he also discovered that local Worcester radio station WICN hosted a Saturday morning folk show that played bluegrass music. Soon thereafter, the station started a Tuesday night bluegrass show which continues to this day. Early hosts included Gene Petit, Nancy Talbott, Cousin Isaac Page, Paul Pannaccione, and the late Mike Kropp, himself a BBU Heritage Award Winner. Tom replaced Mike Kropp in 1989 and has been the consummate host since then.
Each Tuesday, Tom treats listeners to a well-programmed range of music, including themed segments, birthday tributes, selections from the Bluegrass Unlimited “Top 30 Countdown.” He also features guests and in-studio performances. The show is a family affair, with Tom’s wife Debbie keeping track of the song play list and handling performance logs for BMI and ASCAP each Tuesday. And, Tom keeps his listeners well informed of upcoming bluegrass events such as concerts, jams and festivals.
2019 Industry Heritage Award
Russell and Susan Marsden
The BBU recognizes Russell and Susan Marsden for their commitment and contributions to the bluegrass community for starting and running the Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival, running for 26 years, always on the first weekend in August. The first festival was held in 1993 at the Branch Brook Campground in Campton NH and ran for 18 years and then relocated to the Sugar Shack Campground in Thornton NH for another 8 years. Over this period of time thousands of people visited the beautiful Pemi Valley region, enjoying the variety of activities and businesses in the area.
Russ and Sue were both born and raised in Massachusetts, met in 1960 and married in 1965. Russ was a real estate/insurance broker, and Sue was a secretary. In 1977 they moved to Thornton NH, purchasing and running the Gilcrest Motel. Russ became president of the area Chamber of Commerce and realized the need to bring more families to the area and have a family friendly event for visitors and residents.
They started to plan for the first Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival. As Sue describes Russ, he was the catalyst and driving force behind Pemi Valley. He hired the bands and planned the event and salesman he was, put together the program with the help of many local advertisers. Sue kept the records, paid the bills and coordinated the large group of volunteers.
Along with running Pemi Valley, Russ and Sue attended most New England festivals and many bluegrass concerts and picking parties as well as many festivals in Florida, always searching for talent they knew their attendees would appreciate. Russ passed in 2011 after years of health issues, still always loving bluegrass. Sue and her new partner, Bob Dunlap, also love bluegrass music and the bluegrass community, attending many festivals, concerts and picking events.
The BBU Heritage Award is presented each year to honor those who have made substantial contributions to furthering bluegrass in New England. You couldn’t find a more appropriate couple to receive this award.
2019 Artist Heritage Award
Stacy Phillips was a musical force of nature. His appetite for music of all cultures was insatiable, his intellectual curiosity about all things aesthetic and scientific was boundless, his drive and commitment unstoppable. Unstoppable that is until a heart attack ended his life. It’s emblematic of Stacy’s life that he died while driving from a gig with an avant-garde world-music ensemble to another with a traditional straight-ahead bluegrass band.
Born Melvyn Marshall, he grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City, attending a Jewish day school, Yeshiva University High School, and eventually The Polytechnic Institute where he studied to be a chemist. During his junior year, one of his friends got a guitar and taught himself to play. Amazed that such a thing was possible, Stacy followed his example and quickly discovered that music was his calling. Attending a Flatt and Scruggs concert cemented his connection with Dobro, fiddle, bluegrass, and old-time music. Following the example of Burkett Graves (Uncle Josh) and Beecher Ray Kirby (Bashful Brother Oswald), Mel Marshall took the stage name of Stacy Phillips. How that came about is a story in itself.
Swept up in the folk revival of the late 60s, he soon found himself in The Golden Nectar Good Time Band, a zany jug band that was booked at the Newport Folk Festival. The band was invited to a private folk festival/party in Connecticut where Stacy met Kenny Kosek. He and Kenny hit it off immediately and soon formed the legendary bluegrass band Breakfast Special with Tony Trischka, Andy Statman, Jim Tolles, and Roger Mason. At first, their unorthodox material and iconoclastic delivery was somewhat underappreciated. Stacy used to say that the beginning of their festival set was usually greeted by the sound of lawn chairs snapping shut. Breakfast Special’s meteoric rise in popularity was followed by an equally meteoric disappearance but they had shattered the grass ceiling, and the individual members went on to become household names in the bluegrass world.
In 1975, Stacy joined with Jack Tottle, Bela Fleck, Robin Kincaid, and Paul Kahn to form Boston-based favorite Tasty Licks. Tasty Licks dissolved in 1979, and once again the individual members pursued successful solo careers. Stacy went on to a succession of adventurous musical associations, including a salsa band, a traveling folk revue, a brief stint with groundbreaking eclectic string band Last Fair Deal, the multicultural ensemble Afrosemitic Experience (blending music of the African and Jewish diasporas), The Stacy Phillips and Paul Howard Duo, The Heroes of Tradition, Hawaiian trio Three-Finger Poi, contra-dance orchestra The Fascinating Swivets, and numerous other duets and ensembles. He earned a Grammy in 1994 for his participation in The Great Dobro Sessions, where his advanced chordal technique was featured. In 2011, Stacy came full circle, returning to his early love of bluegrass by forming Stacy Phillips and His Bluegrass Characters. The band continues to carry on Stacy’s mission of bringing traditional bluegrass to urban audiences. As a performer, Stacy set the bar high… very high. He pushed his bandmates hard. He pushed himself harder.
In addition to performing, Stacy was a dedicated teacher and a prolific author of instruction books and historical collections of meticulously transcribed traditional fiddle tunes. The wry sarcastic wit that was part of his stage persona often found its way into his writing. His Dobro method book has a photo of various fretting bars that includes the previously unknown muting bar. A closer look reveals that it’s a hot dog. In all, Stacy authored more than thirty fiddle and Dobro books including those on bluegrass, Western Swing, Irish, Klezmer, Hawaiian, French Canadian, and contest tunes.
Stacy’s good friend Peter Salovey, bluegrass bass player and President of Yale University said of Stacy, “He was the most gifted musician I have known. On both Dobro and fiddle, his virtuosity could be appreciated in so many different genres and styles. Stacy was a generous teacher and advisor to so many Yale students, converting them from classically trained violinists to creative and improvisational Appalachian fiddlers.”
Beneath his sometimes-gruff exterior, Stacy was a caring and concerned mentor, especially to young players. His teaching sessions were devoted entirely to his students. For people who studied with him, it’s as a mentor and guide to his broad grasp of musical forms and their histories that he should be remembered.
Stacy was sly and funny, sweet and sensitive, passionate and edgy, and a loyal friend. His contributions to the world of music, especially bluegrass fiddle and Dobro, and especially in New England, are immeasurable.
2018 Heritage Award Winner
Roger Williams was born to traveling musicians Gerry Lee and Curley Williams, who were on the road performing with Ray Bradley and His Tennessee Champions (Gerry on upright bass and vocals, and Curley on Dobro and vocals). At that time, they were working in northeastern Maine in the town of Presque Isle. By the time Roger was a month old, Gerry realized that being on the road constantly wouldn’t allow her the time to be the mom she wanted to be. So she returned to her hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts where Roger spent his formative years. Although she no longer toured, music continued to be a vital part of her life and those of other family members, and she passed her passion on to Roger. From an early age he learned to sing the harmany parts to Gerry’s vast repertoire of old country songs.
Roger started playing the resophonic guitar in 1963, when he was just a young teenager. Within the first year, he had already debuted with The Lilly Brothers and Don Stover at the Hillbilly Ranch in Boston, Mass. where they had performed for nearly two decades. Since then he has gone on to perform and/or record with many well respected bluegrass and folk acts on the national and international circuit, including Don Stover, White Mountain Bluegrass, Hazel Dickens, Joe Val, Bill Harrell, Wyatt Rice, Delia Bell & Bill Grant, Southern Rail, Ray Legere, The New England Bluegrass Band, Amy Gallatin and Stillwaters, and others. Career highlights include thirteen overseas tours with various artists, including a performance at the prestigious Dobro Festival in Slovakia, and teaching workshops during Bluegrass Week at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, WV. Roger has recorded two solo projects, ‘Fireball’ and ‘Rt. 2 To Amherst’, and three collaborative efforts entitled ‘River Of No Return’ (with long-time friend and musical associate Ray Legere), ‘Williams Squared’ (with son JD Williams), and ‘Something ‘Bout You’ in Nashville (with partner Amy Gallatin). Roger has also been involved in CMH label’s ‘Pickin’ On’ series, where different musical genres are interpreted in the bluegrass vein. About Roger, Bluegrass Unlimited magazine has said: “Williams, like all great acoustic slide players, can be mellow and lingering or crisp and jaunty. He’s also a very fine singer (with) more than a little of Merle Haggard in voice and emotion.”
2017 Industry Award Winner
Since she was a child, Candi Sawyer has been immersed in the Vermont bluegrass community. For over twenty-five years, her grandfather, Fernan Parker, hosted the Weston Playhouse Concert Series. Candi continues this legacy as an active area concert presenter and host of the very popular Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival, held the last weekend in June at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds in Tunbridge, VT. Now in its 17th year, the festival has grown to become one of the premier events on the national bluegrass calendar. Candi and her husband Seth, are also very supportive of other activities throughout the region and can be found on the bluegrass trail performing as the Seth Sawyer Band. Candi is a beloved member of the bluegrass community and it gives the BBU great pleasure in presenting her with the 2017 Heritage Award.
2017 Artist and Industry Award Winner
Born in New York, where he learned to play banjo and took part in the folk music scene in the 1960s, Mike Kropp, went on to become one of the leading performers, teachers and music industry professionals in the Northeast before his untimely passing in 2015.
Mike was a long time Rhode Island resident with his wife Janet and their beloved dogs. He worked in the music business his whole life, starting out with Columbia Records in the late 1960s. There he collaborated on projects with John Hammond, José Feliciano, and Carole King. Following that, he had his own music store in Connecticut, before embarking on a career as an independent manufacturer’s rep, calling on music retailers in New England for Fishman, Remo, Hughes & Kettner, Modulus basses, and NS Design.
He was also a serious performer on the banjo, and a teacher of some note. He performed as a member of Northern Lights for seventeen years. They were at the forefront of progressive bluegrass in the 1980s and recorded several albums for Flying Fish and Revonah Records. He went on to lead two other bands, the Pegheads and The KroppDusters. Mike most recently was a part owner and director of Guitar & Mandolin Camp North and Banjo Camp North. He passed away on Nov. 10, 2015. He leaves behind a multitude of friends and admirers from all of his various efforts in the music business.
The Press Release for the 2016 Heritage Awards is here.
2016 BBU Award Artist Winners
The Lilly Brothers
Bluegrass music has many acclaimed heroes, but there are a legion of lesser known and unsung musicians who ventured from the heartland of bluegrass to far flung regions, and established new bluegrass beachheads. Much like Vern Williams and Ray Park on the West Coast, the Lilly Brothers brought bluegrass music to the Boston area and established a music scenes of the highest order. In the process, they influenced generations of musicians that would follow.
The Lilly brothers, Everett and “B” were born in Clear Creek, W. Virginia; B on December 15, 1921 and Everett on July 1, 1923. Steeped in the brother-duet tradition of the early 1930s, they began to perform professionally in 1938 over local radio and in area performances. B sang lead and played guitar; Everett played the mandolin and fiddle, and complimented his brother with his high tenor. The pair was soon joined by neighbor and banjo player Don Stover, and their band became popular locally and throughout the South.
By 1948, they landed a job with WWVA, in Wheeling, West VA, working with fiddler Tex Logan for Red Belcher, and later on their own. In the early 1950s, Everett spent two years playing mandolin and singing tenor with Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs.
Then, in 1952, the Lilly’s learned of a radio station opportunity from by then MIT graduate student Tex Logan at Boston’s WCOP Hayloft Jamboree. There, the Lilly Brother and Don Stover joined forces with Tex, and as the Confederate Mountaineers, performed as many as seven nights a week in local bars including the Plaza Bar, Mohawk Ranch, and at the Hillbilly Ranch.
With their presence in New England, the Lilly Brothers educated generations of musicians, including such notables as Jim Rooney, Bill Keith, Joe Val and Peter Rowan. Joe Val once said of their influence the local music scene, “Those guys hit on like a bombshell. Nobody’d ever heard anything like that before”. Certainly they were the ‘real deal’ and can be credited with establishing roots and culture of bluegrass music in New England, an appreciation that endures to this day.
In 2002, the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame. Don Stover passed away in 1996, at age 68. B Lilly passed away in 2005, at age 83. Everett Lilly continued to play and perform with his sons until his death in 2012.
2016 Heritage Award Industry Winner
A mainstay of the Boston area folk scene, performer Geoff Bartley wears another hat as longtime host of Tuesday Bluegrass Night at The Cantab Lounge in Central Square, Cambridge, MA Started in 1993, these evenings have hosted national and regional artist on stage, and served as a regular gathering place for the local bluegrass scene.
Through his tireless work (booking bands, hauling sound equipment, manning the sound system) to expand the bluegrass audience locally, Geoff has become a leader in the Bluegrass Industry in New England. He’s hosted many national-level artists including: The James King Band, Jim Hurst & Missy Raines, Tony Trischka, Dale Ann Bradley, Darol Anger, David Grier, Chris Jones,, and more. Geoff has also been responsible for many local bluegrass musicians “cutting their teeth”, including members of The Infamous Stringdusters, Crooked Still, Della Mae, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, The Gibson Brothers, Joy Kills Sorrow, The Steep Canyon Rangers, Town Mountain, The Deadly Gentlemen, Tim O’Brien’s band and many more. And the “after-show” jams are legendary.
The Boston bluegrass community has benefited greatly from the efforts of Geoff Bartley, who has supported bluegrass in the area for decades even though it’s not his primary style of music.
The Cambridge Mayor’s Office, in conjunction with the BBU, proclaimed February 13, 2004 to be “Geoff Bartley Day”, in recognition of his contributions with his music nights at the Cantab. The BBU is now proud to honor him with the Industry Heritage Award and we thank him for his long and untiring support
Heritage Award Industry Winner: Berklee College of Music
Since the 1950’s, Boston has been a northern hub for bluegrass music, a city where transplanted Southerners, as well as locals fascinated with the musical style, studied at the feet of the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover. Boston’s golden age of bluegrass spawned such artists as Bill Keith, Jim Rooney, Peter Rowan, and Joe Val plus local radio shows and a host of presenters showcasing the music at area venues.
Today, the Boston area is enjoying another golden age for bluegrass and old time music nurtured by the presence of Berklee College of Music. The accredited four year college, has drawn new influx of young roots music musicians, and has become an epicenter for another generation of creative bluegrass artists.
Under President Roger Brown’s leadership, Berklee College of Music has expanded campus-wide resources to provide all Berklee students with greater access to roots music education. With these efforts, students now have a curriculum that firmly embraces bluegrass, old time and early country music.
The bluegrass music you hear coming out of Berklee today started in 2002 when Professor David Hollender developed curriculum to include bluegrass music in Ensemble Department course offerings. It started with just one section. The success was immediate. In the summer of 2003 bluegrass was added to the Summer 5-week Program. By 2004 when Roger Brown arrived there were 3 Bluegrass Ensembles offered each semester and he specifically requested that bluegrass be included in the inaugural concerts given in his honor.
The next step occurred in 2005 when the college approved adding banjo and mandolin to the list of principal instruments that students could study. John McGann was hired to teach mandolin in the String Department and Dave Hollender developed curriculum for banjo. That same year The Boston Globe ran a front-page story about bluegrass at Berklee.
In 2009 Matt Glaser became director the newly formed American Roots Music Program.
That program has put on concerts, held a symposium and hosted a visiting artists representing old time, bluegrass, acoustic blues and other styles. Last year the college started offering students the chance to augment their degrees in Majors such as Performance, Songwriting, Music Business, Composition, Music Production and Engineering, Music Therapy, etc. with a “Roots Music Minor.”
As the interest in roots music has grown, so has the String Department faculty, which now includes the first student to graduate as a mandolin player, Joe Walsh, along with Darol Anger – violin, Wes Corbett – banjo, Jason Anick – mandolin and violin, and Maeve Gilchrest – Celtic harp.
Berklee built its reputation on teaching jazz, and later rock, pop, R&B and other contemporary styles. The goal of bringing bluegrass players to Berklee has been to give them access to information, techniques, concepts, and approaches generally only being taught to players and composers involved with other styles of music. What has also happened though, is bluegrass and old time music have added an exciting and meaningful dimension to Berklee, and by extension the community in Boston.
Heritage Award Artist Winners: The White Brothers
With roots in New Brunswick Canada and rural Maine, the White Brothers were influential bluegrass artists 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.
Roland (b. 1938), Eric Jr. (1942-2012), and Clarence (1944-1973) White (originally LeBlanc) were introduced to traditional and country music by their father, spending their early years in Lewiston and then in Bath, Maine. In the early 1950’s, the family relocated to Southern California. They started a family band with Roland on mandolin and guitar, Eric, Jr. on bass, along with their father and sister Joanne. The youngest, Clarence, joined in on guitar in 1954 at age 10. Eventually the three boys formed a group, and won a talent show as the Three Little Country Boys. They appeared on local television shows and even landed appearances on The Andy Griffith Show.
As the Country Boys, and then the Kentucky Colonels, they were among the best urban bluegrass group of the early 1960’s. During this period, Roland was drafted into the Army. At the same time, Doc Watson made his West Coast debut at the Ash Grove, and this had a profound effect on Clarence, listening intently in the audience. Already an accomplished guitarist himself, Clarence incorporated Watson’s use of open strings and syncopation into his own rapidly developing flat-picking technique. More importantly, Clarence began thinking in terms of the guitar being a lead instrument.
In 1963, following Roland’s return, the band released the landmark recording Appalachian Swing. By this time, the Colonels began to gather a following through their US tours, including appearances at both the UCLA and Newport Fold Festivals in 1964. However, with the burgeoning rock music scene, work for a full time bluegrass band was getting harder and harder to find, and coupled with Clarence’ interest in other forms of music, resulted in the band breaking up in November of 1965. 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. Roland then went on to play mandolin with Lester Flatt as a member of the Nashville Grass.
Meanwhile, Clarence established himself as a session artist in Los Angeles studio circles and then formed what many consider to be the first country-rock group, Nashville West in 1966. The same year, he began his legendary association with the Byrds, initially as a session musician before joining full time, , rejuvenating the group as a live performing band in the process.
A short-lived reunion of the White Brothers was brought to an untimely end due to Clarence White’s tragic death in November of 1973. 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 continued his own musical explorations, first with Country Gazette, then with Nashville Bluegrass Band, and finally forming his own band in 2000. He continues to perform, and the BBU is honored that he and his band will be with us for this year’s Joe Val Bluegrass Festival.
2014 Industry Award Winner
None this year.
2014 Musician Award Winner
Don Stover was one of bluegrass’ best-loved musicians and, along with the Lilly Brothers, is a key figure in the long and storied history of bluegrass in the Northeast. Playing nightly engagements at Boston’s Hillbilly Ranch from 1952 until 1970, the Lilly Brothers’ raw-edged, authentic sibling vocal harmony and Stover’s three-finger banjo and guitar work introduced generations to authentic bluegrass music, and set the standard of excellence and love for traditional bluegrass that continues to this day. Except for a short stint when he joined Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys in 1957, Stover performed with The Lilly Brothers at the club six times a week, 50 weeks a year, as well as on a daily radio show broadcast by WCOP. In his later years, he performed with a number of other artists, taught and served as an MC at area bluegrass festivals. While he passed away in November of 1996, Don is fondly remembered not only for his unique and engaging banjo work but for his humility and down home humor.
Don was born on March 6, 1928, in the coal mining company town of Ameagle, six miles northwest of the Lilly Brothers’ home place of Clear Creek, West Virginia. Although he initially played banjo in the claw hammer style that he was taught by his mother, Stover altered his approach after hearing a Grand Ole Opry broadcast featuring Earl Scruggs playing in the more melodic, three-finger style with Bill Monroe & the Bluegrass Boys. A traveling salesman coming through town in 1945 explained that Earl Scruggs was using metal picks; Don made his first ones from a Prince Albert Tobacco tin.
Don was earning a living as a coal miner when the Lilly Brothers convinced him to pull up stakes, and at the invitation of Tex Logan, and move with them to Massachusetts. There they linked up with Logan (their friend and a former bandmate of the Lilly’s at Wheeling’s WWVA) who was in graduate school at MIT and moonlighting in Boston’s lively country music scene. Starting in late 1952, the four worked every day on WCOP radio and in a string of nightclubs as the Confederate Mountaineers. The Lilly Brothers & Don Stover eventually landed a sixteen-year, seven-night-a-week, booking at the rough-and-tumble Hillbilly Ranch in downtown Boston. A stream of homesick southerners, servicemen, college students, and bluegrass aficionados from throughout the world
At WCOP’s Hayloft Jamboree, Don met Buzz Busby, Scotty Stoneman, and Jack Clement, who were performing there as the Bayou Boys. When Busby headed for Washington, D.C., and later the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport between 1954 and 1956, he took Don with him. With the Bayou Boys, Don recorded the original versions of “Lost,” and “Just Me and the Jukebox.” On another session during this period – in their wildly offbeat comedy alter egos – Buzz Busby was “Ham,” Pete Pike was “Scram” and Don Stover was “Spam.”
Don Stover played banjo with Bill Monroe for about six months in 1957, recording eleven tracks with him. Historian Charles Wolfe noted that Don was one of the few banjoists who came to the Blue Grass Boys of that era with any professional experience. His playing is heard to particular effect on the Decca records: “I’m Sittin’ on Top of the World,” “Out in the Cold World,” “Goodbye Old Pal,” “Molly and Tenbrooks,” and “In Despair” (which also features Don’s strong lead vocal on the trio).
In those years, rock ‘n roll had bluegrass and traditional country music in retreat. Don recalled that a call to work from Monroe might as likely involve plowing with a mule or loading hay bales as it would heading out on a show date. For a family man, the security of the Hillbilly Ranch was a better choice than the fleeting glory of the Grand Ole Opry. Although he went back north, Don disliked the atmosphere of Boston’s seedy “Combat Zone.” For a time, in 1958-1959, Stover co-led the band at Hillbilly Ranch with Bea Lilly and Chubby Anthony, while Everett Lilly went to Nashville for a second tour of duty with Flatt & Scruggs. It was this configuration that recorded for Mike Seeger on the ground- breaking Folkways album, Mountain Music Bluegrass Style.
In 1965, Stover moved to Washington/Baltimore to appear with Bill Harrell & the Virginians but in less than a year he returned to Boston, where the folk music boom was opening new doors for the Lilly Brothers & Don Stover in recordings and concert appearances. The boom also motivated a stream of paying banjo students, who added to Don’s still-marginal income as a working bluegrass musician. In
1968, Don was invited to accompany Doc Watson, Tex Logan, and Bukka White for appearances at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
During two decades spent in Boston, the Lilly Brothers & Don Stover recorded two sessions for Al Hawkes’ Event Records (re-released with additional tracks on the County label), an album for Folkways, and two albums for Prestige.
In early 1970, the Hillbilly Ranch era came to an end. After a farewell concert at Jordan Hall, Everett Lilly moved back to West Virginia, followed briefly by Bea. Don continued teaching banjo and organized his own White Oak Mountain Boys, mostly from the growing bluegrass community of New England. Don also emceed a number of bluegrass festivals in the northeast. In the 1970s, the Lilly Brothers & Don Stover reunited for occasional festival appearances (sometimes with Tex Logan), a gospel album on County, and two tours of Japan that produced three live LPs.
Don recorded an album on the Towa label with Everett Alan Lilly and three long-overdue albums under his own name, two for Rounder and one for Old Homestead. The title song from one of these – Don’s autobiographical Things in Life, has since become a bluegrass standard.
From 1978 until the mid-1990s, Don teamed with Bill Clifton and Red Rector (and after Red’s death, Jimmy Gaudreau) in the First Generation, which made a series of international tours and recordings on the Elf label. Don and Red Rector played at the World’s Fair in Knoxville during 1982
Struggling with health and resulting financial issues, Don relocated from Boston to his West Virginia childhood home in White Oak, a hollow adjoining the “town” of Artie, and then to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, where he could receive needed support from family and friends. In the latter years, Hank Edenborn’s White Oak Records produced cassette tapes, LPs, and CDs of Don Stover’s playing, supplementing his income and recorded legacy.
In November of 1994, a benefit concert was organized by the Boston Bluegrass Union to help Don with mounting medical bills. The event featured Bela Fleck, Tony Trischka, Laurie Lewis, Chesapeake, Bill Keith, and Jim Rooney and many others. A video of the event was subsequently released by Homespun Tapes.
On November 11, 1996 Don passed away at the age of 68 in Brandywine, Maryland. In 2002, the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame.
Thanks to Fred Bartenstein, Hank Edenborn, Tom Heathwood and Everett Alan Lilly for materials used here.
2013 Industry Award Winner
Executive Director of the New England Folk Music Archives and longtime fixture in the Cambridge music scene.
For more than half a century Betsy has been an integral part of the folk music scene, watching it rise from modest beginnings at the Golden Vanity, Café Yana, and Club 47 to a movement of international acclaim. In 1958, she arrived for her freshman year at Boston University. Her roommate was Joan Baez. As a waitress, gallery sitter and Sunday morning chef, Betsy found a community in the space of Club 47 and the musicians it collected.
Under the guidance of Betsy, Jim Rooney and others, the venue helped launch many careers and served as a home for regular visits from Doc Watson, Bill Monroe and others. In 1960, Betsy married Bob Siggins of the Charles River Valley Boys, another of our 2013 Heritage Award winners.
When Club 47 closed in 1968, Betsy went on to work with many nonprofits. In Washington DC, she assisted Ralph Rinzler with the Festival of American Folklife. In New York, she worked for over twenty years, founding programs and numerous public service organizations helping the disenfranchised.
In 1997 Betsy returned to Club 47’s successor, Club Passim, and for 12 years served as executive director, creating nonprofit programs such as Culture for Kids, an after-school program for underserved Cambridge students, the Passim School of Music, and the Passim Archives. Now, as founder of the New England Folk Music Archives, she has turned her energies to establishing a permanent home for the legacy of the folk music community in New England.
2013 Musician Award Winners
The Charles River Valley Boys
Pioneering Cambridge-Based Bluegrass Band
One of the first urban bands to play bluegrass and old time music, they helped spark the folk revival in the early 1960’s at venues such as Club 47. While their original repertoire centered on songs by Uncle Dave Macon, Charlie Poole and Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers, the group’s 1966 album, Beatle Country, marked one of the earliest examples of the British rock band’s songs being rearranged as country music.
The genesis of the Charles River Valley Boys began when Bob Siggins, a banjo player and student at Harvard University, and Ethan Signer, a Yale University graduate who came to Cambridge to study biophysics at M.I.T., met Eric Sackheim, a transplanted New Yorker who was a fan of old-timey music and had a large repertoire of songs and a crateful of rare recordings. Harvard’s WHRB DJ Lynn Joiner provided the band’s name, as a pun on the Laurel River Valley Boys and the band was ready to make their debut at Harvard University’s Lowell House. They continued to attract attention with frequent appearances on WHRB’s shows Balladeers and Hillbilly at Harvard. Tapes from these shows were released on the band’s self-produced debut album, Bringin’ in the Georgia Mail. Over the next few years, the group became regular performers at Tulla’s Coffee Grinder, a coffee house in Harvard Square as well as the Club 47.
In 1962, Paul Rothchild, a friend of the band who had worked as a record distributor in the Boston area, produced their second album on his own label, Mount Auburn Records. He then began working for Prestige Records, which reissued the album as Bluegrass and Old Timey Music (1962), and produced a further album on the label, Blue Grass Get Together, with Tex Logan, in 1964. By that time, the group comprised Siggins, Signer, John Cooke (guitar, vocals), and Fritz Richmond (washtub bass, vocals). Between 1963 and 1965, the group performed and toured on a full-time basis.
As the Charles River Valley Boys’ full-time group status became more solidified, the membership changed. By 1966, the band consisted of Siggins, Joe Val, James Field, and Everett Alan Lilly. The son of immigrant Italian parents, Val, who worked as a typewriter repairman, was a master of bluegrass mandolin and had an unforgettable high tenor voice. After sitting in often with the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover at the Boston’s Hillbilly Ranch, he met and formed a band with Bill Keith and Jim Rooney. When Keith joined Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys and Rooney went to Greece to study under a Fulbright scholarship, Val joined the Charles River Valley Boys. Guitarist and vocalist Field had been the lead singer of the New York City Ramblers, a group that featured mandolinist David Grisman. Upright bass player Lilly was the son of Everett Lilly of the Lilly Brothers.
After Elektra Records hired Paul Rothchild as an A&R producer, the Charles River Valley Boys sent him a demo tape of four songs, including bluegrass-style renditions of the Beatles tunes “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “What Goes On.” Impressed by what they heard, Rothchild and co-producer Peter K. Siegel conceived the idea of expanding the concept to a full-length collection of Beatles songs.
Augmented by California guitarist Eric Thompson, who had also played with the New York Ramblers, Nashville fiddler Buddy Spicher and West Virginia dobro player Craig Wingfield, the band recorded Beatle Country in Nashville in 1966. More than just the first rendition of the Beatles as country music, Beatle Country presaged Newgrass, which it antedated by several years. In that regard, it was a groundbreaking recording, demonstrating that material from outside the genre could be rendered as bluegrass. The album became a much-sought-after collectors’ item before being reissued on CD by Rounder in 1995.
2012 Industry Award Winners
The Crooker Family
Bringing National Bluegrass Artists to
Brunswick, Maine for Over 30 Years
In 1979, Pati Crooker presented the first Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival over Labor Day weekend at Thomas Point Beach Park—the seaside recreation area outside of Brunswick, Maine that her parents purchased in 1956. Through 2008, Pati hosted 28 editions of the Thomas Point festival, each featuring a range of established and upcoming talent in a relaxing beachside atmosphere, with ample camping and ‘round the clock jamming. Taking only two years off (she skipped year 13 for good luck, then took time another year to care for her elderly father), Crooker decided to conclude the festival’s run in 2008. She sealed a selection of memorabilia—along with all of her festivalrelated contact information and mailing lists—into a time capsule, to be opened and appreciated by some future generation.
After spending two years fundraising for the American Red Cross and caring for her ailing mother, Crooker felt the need to resurrect the Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival—this time in tribute to the memory of her now departed parents. “My parents loved this festival,” she told Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. “They were a huge part of it.” With all of her contacts inaccessibly locked in the time capsule, she started again from scratch, with the aid of her son Michael Mulligan. Despite having lost much of their prior information, the 2011 Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival featured their biggest pre-sales ever: A stunning affirmation of the Crooker family’s tireless dedication to presenting bluegrass music to New England audiences for over three decades. The festival continues its proud return in 2012.
2012 Musician Award Winners
Bill Keith & Jim Rooney
Pioneering Boston-Based Bluegrass Performers
Having grown up in Massachusetts—Bill Keith in Brockton,Jim Rooney in Dedham—this pair of visionary performers saw a place for bluegrass music amidst the urban folk music revival that swept Boston in the early 1960s.
Having met while both were undergraduate students at Amherst College, Bill Keith and Jim Rooney began in earnest as performers in 1962, when Keith was stationed at the Boston Army Base and Rooney was a graduate student at Harvard University. Entranced by the bluegrass they heard on records and by the area performances of the Lily Brothers and Don Stover, they started playing regularly at Cambridge’s Club 47 (later Passim).
Rooney was the congenial frontman and vocalist, while the quiet, focused Keith was a dedicated student of Earl Scruggs’s banjo style. Their shows helped to galvanize the nascent New England bluegrass scene, and their classic Prestige LP Livin’ on the Mountain—which celebrates the 50th anniversary of its release this year—is a timeless document of New England bluegrass and features Joe Val on mandolin, Herb Applin on guitar, Herb Hooven on fiddle and Fritz Richmond on bass.
Beyond New England, Keith revolutionized bluegrass on an international scale, as he developed a remarkable new melodic banjo style that enabled banjo players to play fiddle tones note-for-note and subsequently inspired such groundbreaking banjo mavericks as Tony Trischka and Béla Fleck. When the two went their separate ways, they continued to contribute to the spread of bluegrass and roots music.
Keith hit the road as featured banjoist with Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music, and demonstrated his technique to larger and larger audiences, before leaving to work as a solo artist, sideman, author, teacher, and builder (he designed and constructed the self-contained locking tuners favored by banjo players for quick changes of tuning). Rooney managed influential roots music venue Club 47 for a two and a half years, and continued to work as a solo artist, but eventually discovered his gifts were best suited to producing other artists. He has since helmed influential and acclaimed projects by such artists as Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, Townes Van Zandt, Hal Ketchum, Iris DeMent, and more.
2011 Industry Award Winners
WHRB – Hillbilly at Harvard
Radio Show Educates Generations of Listeners
Unlikely as it may seem, Bluegrass and Country music have had home a on the radio at Harvard University for over sixty years. First launched in 1948 by ￢ﾀﾜPappy Ben￢ﾀﾝ Minnich, listeners have tuned to WHRB (95.3 FM) each Saturday morning for the region￢ﾀﾙs longest running and most respected Country music radio shows.
Longtime hosts “Cousin Lynn” Joiner and “Ol’ Sinc” Brian Sinclair have created generations of music fans with their knowledge and deep love for the genre. They have shared this with the listeners through a wide ranging song selection, pithy commentary, and a who’s who of guest artists for live in-studio performances.
While “Ol’ Sinc” passed away in 2002, “Cousin Lynn” and a cast of “Fillbillies” continue the tradition for Boston area listener and now for listeners around the globe. Likely, there would not be a Rounder Records or a Boston Bluegrass Union if it were not for Hillbilly at Harvard.
“It’s time to remind you that you’re listening to the very best in that good old-time, down-to-earth country music, right here on hillbilly radio for eastern New England, WHRB, Cambridge Country.”
Longtime Connecticut Bluegrass Concert Producer and MC
In 1980, Glenn formed the Connecticut Friends of Bluegrass with Brian and Linda Fitzpatrick and others, presenting concerts for over twenty years. His work helped foster and create a vibrant bluegrass scene in Connecticut, and helped introduce many new bands to area fans. Bands he presented over the years included Del McCoury and the Dixie Pals, Jim and Jesse, The Osborn Brothers, Joe Val, Ralph Stanley, The Country Gentlemen, Nashville Bluegrass Band, The Seldom Scene, The Dry Branch Fire Squad, the Johnson Mountain Boys, as well as countless regional bands.
Glen also has and continues to serve the bluegrass community as an MC at regional bluegrass festivals including Winterhawk, CT River, Hebron, and thirty-two years as the lead MC at Strawberry Park.
2011 Musician Award Winner
Longtime Rhode Island and Maine Bluegrass Pioneer
Sam has been a mainstay of the Rhode Island and Maine Bluegrass Scene for the past fifty years. In 1968, along with Fred Pike, he formed the Kennebec Valley Boys, and for over 25 year, performed all along the East Coast, doing TV, festivals, fairs and country music shows. In 2007, the International Bluegrass Music Museum recognized Sam as one of their “Pioneers of Bluegrass.”
2010 Industry Award Winners
The Founders of Rounder Records
Ken Irwin, Marian Leighton Levy and Bill Nowlin
In 1970, three Boston-area students – armed with a passion for traditional music and little else – embarked on an odyssey that now spans forty years and over 3,000 albums. Celebrating its fourth decade in 2010, Rounder Records has remained a bastion of independence in the increasingly corporate music industry. Along the way, they have released a staggering number of classic bluegrass, folk, and stringband albums, bringing American roots music to an audience that spans both dedicated enthusiasts and curious newcomers. In doing so, they have helped to insure the music’s survival and continued growth. In their first decade alone, Rounder issued influential recordings by the likes of J.D. Crowe, Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerard, Tony Rice, Norman Blake, Tony Trischka, David Grisman, New England’s own Joe Val, and many, many others, alongside essential archival releases. In 1987 they issued the debut album by Alison Krauss, then a humble young fiddler from Illinois, who eventually became the genre’s most popular and decorated act. The past decade has seen Rounder survive industry-wide turmoil to become not only the leading roots music outlet in America, but the premier independent label across the board, dealing in an eclectic array of sounds and styles, from contemporary pop to traditional music from around the world. They have been home to an astonishing percentage of today’s top bluegrass stars, including Krauss, Dan Tyminski, Claire Lynch, Rhonda Vincent, the Grascals, Blue Highway, IIIrd Tyme Out, NewFound Road, and Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, and Rounder tirelessly continues to scout out and develop new talent, such as Michael Cleveland, Dailey and Vincent, Sierra Hull, Danny Paisley, and the Steeldrivers.
2010 Musician Award Winners
White Mountain Bluegrass
Mac and Hazel McGee, transplanted southerners residing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, started White Mountain Bluegrass in 1970, and have since lead it through myriad incarnations and endless gigs. From modest beginnings in coffeehouses and pizza parlors to prestigious festival slots and European tours, the McGees have proudly spread their musical heritage via a uniquely soulful music that blends strong bluegrass roots with touches of vintage country, gospel, and Appalachian balladry. Mac and Hazel’s performances are marked by an understated charm and warmly informal demeanor, and through their winning personalities and musical gifts, they have helped introduce bluegrass music to new audiences both in New England and around the world.
Bassist Eric Levenson is a Boston bluegrass fixture, whose good nature, rock-solid timing, and warm tone has graced innumerable recordings, jam sessions, club shows, and festival slots. As a member of the pivotal ensemble Joe Val and the New England Bluegrass Boys for eight years, Levenson toured extensively both at home and abroad, and was heard many times on NPR’s Prairie Home Companion program. Other artists he has performed or recorded with include Hazel Dickens, Bill Grant and Delia Bell, Jack Tottle, Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops, Boston City Limits, the Charles River Valley Boys, and many others. He is a regular at the Bluegrass Picking Party at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, MA, which has evolved into a crucible for young bluegrass talent. Outside of music, Levenson is an award-winning theatrical set and lighting designer, and a scenic artist for films.
2009 Industry Award Winners
Musician, entertainer, record label owner, and collector Al Hawkes has contributed to bluegrass and country music in nearly every possible capacity. In 1956 in Westbrook, Maine, he founded Event Records and released early recordings by such key artists as The Lilly Brothers and Don Stover, Charlie Bailey (of the Bailey Brothers), Dick Curless, and many more. Born in 1930, Hawkes formed his first band in high school, singing and playing an array of stringed instruments. To this day, he continues to be an active performer, and has received over 25 awards. In addition to releasing a number of important recordings on Event, Hawkes is one of the foremost record collectors in New England, whose archive includes over 40,000 45s, 78s, and LPs.
Since 1970, Sandy’s Music and its proprietor Sandy Sheehan have been essential lynchpins in the Boston area’s traditional music scene. First captivated by folk, old-time, Celtic, blues, and bluegrass music in the 1960s, Sheehan established Sandy’s as a one-stop shop where one could peruse (and pick) a diverse range of stringed instruments, browse through new and old traditional music LPs and CDs, have instrument repairs done, take a music lesson, and get advice from the laconic, chain-smoking, banjo-picking owner. Sandy’s quickly became a hub for the traditional music community, with Sheehan hosting (and continuing to host) weekly Monday-night jams at the store and occasional old-time nights at Johnny D.’s. Since 1986, Sheehan has also hosted the popular Traditional Folk program on WUMB.
2009 Musician Award Winners
The Original Members of Joe Val and the New England Bluegrass Boys
Founded in 1970, Joe Val and the New England Bluegrass Boys featured Joe Val on mandolin and vocals, Herb Applin on guitar and vocals, Bob French on banjo and vocals, and bassist Bob Tidwell. With Val’s stratospheric tenor leading the way, the New England Bluegrass Boys worked tirelessly to bring traditional, hard-driving, Monroe-derived bluegrass to New England audiences. Through their riveting performances and a series of albums on the Cambridge-based Rounder label (beginning with Rounder’s third release, 1971’s One Morning In May), they helped to develop a fervent, dedicated audience for bluegrass and stringband music in New England – a community that still thrives today and gathers annual at the award-winning festival that bears Val’s name.
2008 Industry Award Winners
George Hauenstein has been the affable host of “Sunday Morning Country” for the past twenty-nine years and a welcome visitor to homes across the region each and every Sunday Morning. He’s been an ardent supporter of the local and national scene, providing on-air performance opportunities for local bands, and fitting i concert announcements between a great selection of bluegrass and country music. At the close of 2007 George announced he was stepping down as host and has accepted a new job at WILL the NPR affiliate at the University of Illinois, Urbana.
Thanks George for your many years of service to the community and we wish you all the best. Sunday Morning Country will xontinue on the airwaves as Kate Walker has stepped in to cover the controls and spin the disks.
2008 Musician Award Winner
Dave Dillon has been a leading member of the Boston bluegrass music community for over 40 years. He played with such greats as Frank Wakefield and Don Stover, but is perhaps best known for his seven year stint as lead singer and guitarist for Joe Val and the New England Bluegrass Boys with whom he recorded four albums for Rounder Records. Dave’s solid lead with Joe’s soaring tenor and Paul Silvius’ deep baritone gave the New England Bluegrass Boys their signature sound. Dave is one of the most respected rhythm guitar players in all of bluegrass music. He is a world-class musician who has helped to shape the Boston bluegrass scene. We recognize and honor his achievement by awarding him with one of this year’s Heritage Awards.