Johnson Mountain Boys

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Johnson Mountain Boys
Origin Maryland and Washington, D.C., U.S.A.
Genres bluegrass
Years active 1978–1988, with some "reunion" shows from 1989 to 1996.
Labels Rounder
Past members Initial line-up:
Dudley Connell - lead vocals, banjo, guitar
Richard Underwood - vocals, banjo
who recorded on the first three discs including Rounder 0135 Self Titled The Johnson Mountain Boys David McLaughlin - vocals, mandolin, fiddle, lead guitar
Eddie Stubbs - vocals, fiddle
Larry Robbins - bass
Other Members:
Tom Adams - vocals, banjo, mandolin (joined 1986)
Marshall Wilborn - vocals, bass (joined 1986)
Earl Yager - bass
Warren Blair - not a band member but played fiddle on the album Blue Diamond.

The Johnson Mountain Boys were a popular bluegrass band throughout the 1980s from the Washington, D.C. area. Their style favored a more traditional approach to bluegrass than some of their contemporaries. They released ten albums and toured widely, playing venues such as Madison Square Garden, The White House, the Lincoln Center and the Grand Ole Opry in the United States. Other tours took them around the world to England, Japan, and Africa. The group was frequently recognized with nominations for Grammy Awards, International Bluegrass Music Association awards, and awards from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America.[1][2] Many of the band's members are still active in other musical groups and settings.

History[edit]

Early years[edit]

The first incarnation of the band, initially known as "The Johnson Boys", formed in 1975 as a duo featuring Dudley Connell on banjo and Ron Welch on guitar and Eddie D'Zmura on mandolin. The band was renamed, "The Johnson Mountain Boys" after learning of another folk band already using the "Johnson Boys" name. The name The Johnson Mountain Boys was suggested by George Connnell, Dudley's father; this band is a tribute to George Connnell who was a true gentleman and a great banjo player as well and a wonderful person. There is no such place as "Johnson Mountain" in Montgomery County, Maryland from which many of the band members come.[1][2] The group was a full five-piece band by 1978 that featured Connell on guitar, Franny Davidson on banjo—replaced by Richard Underwood after the band's first recording session--[Eddie D'Zmura] (musician), Eddie Stubbs on fiddle, and Larry Robbins playing bass.[3] The groups self-titled first album won considerable acclaim.[4] Subsequent albums made the group young standard bearers of traditional bluegrass in the 1980s. In 1986, there were two personnel changes. Marshall Wilborn replaced Larry Robbins on bass and Tom Adams replaced Richard Underwood on banjo.[5][6]

Initial break-up and "reunion shows" (1988–1996)[edit]

In 1987, the Johnson Mountain Boys announced their plans to disband after a farewell concert in Lucketts, Virginia.[7] The February 20, 1988 concert was recorded and released the following year as a double live album, At the Old Schoolhouse. Critics hailed the release as one of the group's finest moments and it was ultimately nominated for a Grammy.[6][8] It may have been the success of this album that prompted the band to book a couple of "reunion shows" at festivals starting in 1989 and ultimately to reform into a part-time band. The longest-running lineup of this "part-time" version of the band consisted of Connell, Stubbs, McLaughlin, Adams and the group's newest member, Earl Yager on bass.[3][6][8] The group even released another album, Blue Diamond, in 1993 (nominated for a Grammy), but called it quits for good following their performance at the bluegrass festival in Myrtle Beach, SC in November 1996.[1][9][10]

Since the final break-up (Since November 1996)[edit]

The band's various members independently continued to pursue active careers. Dudley Connell became the guitarist and lead singer of the Seldom Scene and became the head of the mail-order division of the Folkways Record Collection at the Smithsonian Institution and later an archivist for the National Council for the Traditional Arts.[1][11] Eddie Stubbs relocated to Nashville where he continued to play fiddle for acts such as Johnnie Wright and Kitty Wells. Stubbs also became a DJ on WSM-AM and announcer for the Grand Ole Opry. He has won Broadcast Personality of the Year awards from the Country Music Association (2002) and from the International Bluegrass Music Association (1996, 2002).[1] David McLaughlin formed a duo with Josh Crowe, has worked with several other bands, and operates a recording studio in Winchester, VA.[1] Tom Adams has worked as a banjo player in the Lynn Morris Band, Blue Highway, and in bands headed by Rhonda Vincent and Dale Ann Bradley. Adams was awarded Banjo Player of the Year three times (1992, 1993, 2002) by the International Bluegrass Music Association. He was most recently (July 6, 2009 - May 9, 2011) the guitarist and lead singer for Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper. Marshall Wilborn, bassist, singer and songwriter, was most recently (Fall, 2007 - May 9, 2011) a member of Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper.[1]

Discography[edit]

Compilations[edit]

  • Favorites (1987, Rounder)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Wayne Rice, "BluegrassBios: I - J", 1988-2007
  2. ^ a b Richard Harrington, "Singing the Blues for Bluegrass;As interest in The Music Fades, Even the Award Winning Johnson Mountain Boys Seek Out Alternative Careers ", Washington Post, March 6, 1988
  3. ^ a b Johnny Loftus, "Biography: The Johnson Mountain Boys", Allmusic
  4. ^ "Overview: The Johnson Mountain Boys (1981)", Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
  5. ^ Mark A. Humpphrey, "Review: Working Close", Allmusic 4.5/5 stars
  6. ^ a b c Thom Owens, "Review: At the Old Schoolhouse", Allmusic 4/5 stars
  7. ^ Richard Harrington, "Bittersweet Bluegrass Finale;On WETA, Highlights From the Johnson Mountain Boys' Farewell", Washington Post, June 8, 1988
  8. ^ a b Mike Joyce, "Johnson Boys' Bluegrass Return", Washington Post, January 4, 1991
  9. ^ Thom Owens, "Review: Blue Diamond", Allmusic 3/5 stars
  10. ^ Mike Joyce, "The Boys Are Back In (Lots of) Tunes", Washington Post, February 26, 1993
  11. ^ Penny Parsons, "Dudley Connell: Making Magic with Music", Bluegrass Unlimited, 35:3, September 2000, p.30-36

External links[edit]