Scott Vestal

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Scott Vestal
Born (1962-05-08) May 8, 1962 (age 60)
Duncan, Oklahoma
GenresBluegrass music, Country music, jazz music
Occupation(s)Musician, recording engineer
Years active1971–present
LabelsPinecastle Records

Scott Vestal is an American banjoist, songwriter and luthier, known for his innovative approach to playing and designing the banjo.


Early years[edit]

The older of two children, Scott Vestal was raised in Duncan, Oklahoma in a musical family. His Grandfather Famon Self was a country fiddler who taught Vestal his first guitar chords. Scott and his brother Curtis played and sang with their grandfather at bluegrass festivals and other events.[1]

Music career[edit]

Vestal acquired a 5-string banjo at age 13 and by age 15 was playing with T. J. Rogers’ family band. At age 18, Vestal performed and recorded with Larry Sparks for a year. At age 19, Vestal moved to Texas and with his brother Curtis and Russell Moore formed the band Southern Connection, which toured the Midwest and East Coast for 3 years.[2]

In 1985, Vestal, Russell Moore, and Scott Vestal joined Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, replacing Terry Baucom.[3] Vestal stayed with Quicksilver for four years and five albums.[4][5]

Vestal then formed his group Livewire with mandolinist Wayne Benson, guitarist and vocalist Robert Hale, and bassist Ernie Sykes.[6] Vestal toured Japan with an acoustic jazz ensemble, and starred in Phyllis McBride's original musical production Cowboy Cafe.[3][7]

In 1994, Vestal moved to Nashville and formed a band with Harley Allen and David Parmley. When Allen decided to focus on songwriting, the band became David Parmley, Scott Vestal, and Continental Divide. Over the next 5 years, the band recorded three albums and toured the US and Canada.[8] Vestal left Continental Divide in 1998.[9]

Vestal produced, engineered, and played on an annual series of instrumental albums for Pinecastle Records. The initial project started as a solo album for Mountain Heart guitarist Clay Jones. When Jones went another direction, Vestaal salvaged the project as an instrumental album.[10][11]

The “Bluegrass Annual” series), which won the IBMA award for Recorded Event of the Year in 1996. This series of recordings continued from 1995 through 2001.[3]

Scott played on Johnny Staats’ mandolin project with John Cowan. From 1998 until 2003, Vestal and Cowan were in the John Cowan Band, and recorded two albums together. Vestal had the opportunity to incorporating a solid body electric MIDI banjo into their recordings and performances.[12]

In 2006, Vestal worked with David Lee Roth to promote the CMH Records Van Halen bluegrass tribute Strummin' with the Devil: The Southern Side of Van Halen, appearing on late night and daytime talk shows and at a concert at the Nokia Theater in New York City.[13]

Starting in 2006, Vestal recorded and toured with the Sam Bush Band along with Stephen Mougin (guitar), Todd Parks (bass), and Chris Brown (drums).[14][15]

Recording and session work[edit]

As well as being a session player in Nashville, Vestal built Digital Underground, a recording studio where he engineers, produces, and performs on various projects.[16]

Vestal has worked with Bill Monroe, Tim O'Brien, Jim Lauderdale, Shawn Camp, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, Vassar Clements, Chris Thile, Hank Williams III, Kenny Chesney, Del McCoury, Dierks Bentley, Billy Ray Cyrus, Alan Jackson, Dolly Parton,[17] Dwight Yoakam,[18] and others.

Vestal and his wife, jazz singer Alice Newman Vestal, recorded the album Goin’ To The Dance. Steve Thomas (fiddle), Chris Brown (drums), Jeff Autry (guitar), Byron House (bass), and Randy Kohrs (resophonic guitar) assisted.[3][19]

Solo career[edit]

Vestal wrote nine of thirteen songs on his first solo album In Pursuit Of Happiness and nine of twelve songs on his album Millennia.

On Vestal's 1992 album In Pursuit Of Happiness, the personnel are Curtis Vestal (bass), Jeff Autry (guitar), Wayne Benson (mandolin), and Greg Luck (fiddle).[20]

On Millennia, released in 2000, Vestal is joined by John Cowan on vocals, Reese Winans on keyboards, Pasi Leppikangas on drums, Jeff Autry and Jim Hurst on guitars, and Stuart Duncan, Kati Penn, and Rickie Simpkins on fiddle.[21]

Stealth Banjos[edit]

Vestal's banjo company Stealth Banjos sells instruments he has designed and developed. It features an innovative hidden 5th string and a streamlined neck and headstock.[22]


Scott was awarded Banjo Player of the Year in 1996 by the International Bluegrass Music Association (co-winner with Sammy Shelor), and 1998 Banjo Player of the Year by the Bluegrass Now Magazine Fan's Choice Awards.

In 2017, Vestal was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.[23]


Solo albums[edit]

  • 1992: In Pursuit of Happiness (self-released)
  • 2000: Millennia (Pinecastle)[24]

ASV (Scott Vestal and Alice Newman Vestal)[edit]

  • 2006: Goin' To the Dance (Bless Your Heart Music)[25]

With Larry Sparks[edit]

  • 1981: Ramblin' Letters (Acoustic Revival)

With Southern Connection[edit]

  • 1984: Southern Connection (Peach's)

With Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver[edit]

  • 1986: Beyond the Shadows (Sugar Hill)
  • 1987: The News is Out (Sugar Hill)
  • 1987: Heaven's Joy Awaits: A Cappella Quartets (Sugar Hill)
  • 1988: I'll Wander Back Someday (Sugar Hill)
  • 1988: Hymn Time in the Country (Sugar Hill)
  • 2004: A School Of Bluegrass (Crossroads)

With Livewire[edit]

With David Parmley and Continental Divide[edit]

  • 1995: David Parmley/Scott Vestal and Continental Divide (Pinecastle)
  • 1996: On the Divide (Pinecastle)[27]
  • 1998: Feel Good Day (Pinecastle)[28]

With John Cowan[edit]

With Sam Bush[edit]

Bluegrass Annual series[edit]

  • 1995: various artists - Bluegrass '95 (Pinecastle)
  • 1996: various artists - Bluegrass '96 (Pinecastle)
  • 1997: various artists - Bluegrass '97 (Pinecastle)
  • 1998: various artists - Bluegrass '98 (Pinecastle)
  • 1999: various artists - Bluegrass '99 (Pinecastle)
  • 2000: various artists - Bluegrass 2000 (Pinecastle)
  • 2001: various artists - Bluegrass 2001 (Pinecastle)
  • 2020: various artists - Bluegrass 2020 (Pinecastle)

As engineer / mixer[edit]

As producer[edit]

  • 2007: Scott Anderson - Rivers (Mato Music)
  • 2012: Robert Hale - Pure & Simple (Pinecastle)

Also appears on[edit]

197? - 1999[edit]

  • 197?: Pickin' Tymes - Bluegrass Past - Present - Future (Jackalope) - exact release date unknown
  • 1996: Barry Berrier - First Time with Feeling (Pinecastle)
  • 1996: Barbara Lamb - Tonight I Feel Like Texas (Sugar Hill)
  • 1996: Aubrey Haynie - Doin' My Time (Sugar Hill)
  • 1997: Chris Thile - Stealing Second (Sugar Hill)
  • 1998: Richard Bennett - Long Lonesome Time (Rebel)
  • 1998: Paul Craft - Brother Jukebox (Strictly Country)
  • 1999: Jeff Autry - Foothills (Pinecastle)
  • 1999: Phil Leadbetter - Philibuster (Rounder)
  • 1999: Nancy Moore - Local Flowers (Pinecastle)
  • 1999: Jon Randall - Willin' (Eminent)
  • 1999: Marshall Wilborn - Root 5: Bass and Banjo (Pinecastle)

2000 - 2009[edit]

2010 - present[edit]

Music instruction[edit]

  • 1995: Acutab Transcriptions, Vol. 1 (Acutab)
  • 1998: Acutab Transcriptions, Vol. 2 (Acutab)


  1. ^ Donald Nitchie (September 1, 2017). "Callous Thumb". Banjo Newsletter. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  2. ^ Sean Daly (July 1, 2000). "Scott Vestal". JazzTimes. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Scott Anderson (June 1, 2010). "Scott Vestal". Banjo Newsletter. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  4. ^ Erlewine, Michael (1997). All Music Guide to Country: The Experts' Guide to the Best Recordings in Country Music. ISBN 9780879304751. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  5. ^ Weisberger, Jon (April 30, 1999). "Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver - The Original Band". No Depression. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  6. ^ Bay, William (Dec 10, 2015). Master Anthology of Mandolin Solos, Vol. 1. ISBN 9780786693733. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  7. ^ "Ernie Sykes to Present Two Workshops". Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association. November 10, 2009. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  8. ^ Duckman, David (October 19, 1995). "David Parmley, Scott Vestal & Continental Divide..." Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  9. ^ Evans Price, Deborah (February 12, 2000). "Parmley Takes Act Back to Bluegrass". Billboard. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  10. ^ Lawless, John (February 13, 2007). "More Ultimate Pickin from Pinecastle". Bluegrass Today. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  11. ^ Evans Price, Deborah (October 5, 1996). "McCoury Leads IBMA Awards". Billboard. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  12. ^ Michelle Nikolai (June 23, 2003). "The Long Journey Back: John Cowan Returns to His 'Grass' Roots". CMT. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  13. ^ John Lawless (June 6, 2006). "David Lee Roth – TV update". Bluegrass Today. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  14. ^ Edelstein, Art (March 31, 2016). "'Father of newgrass': Sam Bush". Rutland Herald. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  15. ^ "John Cowan". The Amplifier. July 3, 2012. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  16. ^ Jim, Moulton (June 4, 2010). ""Crying Heart Blues" - Audey Blaylock and Redline - A Review". No Depression. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  17. ^ Lawless, John (May 15, 2014). "Dolly Parton talks Blue Smoke". Bluegrass Today. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
  18. ^ staff (August 2, 2016). "Dwight Yoakam to Release New Bluegrass Album, "Swimmin' Pools, Movie Stars," on Sept. 23". KIIM. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  19. ^ Jason MacNeil (October 3, 2006). "ASV: Goin' To The Dance". PopMatters. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  20. ^ David Duckman (November 16, 1995). "Scott Vestal In Pursuit Of Happiness". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  21. ^ Jonathan Colcord. "Scott Vestal: Millennia". Country Standard Time. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  22. ^ Casey Henry (February 1, 1998). "Stealth Banjo Review". Acoustic Magazine. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  23. ^ Libbey, Peter (July 30, 2017). "Scott Vestal Wins Steve Martin Banjo Prize". The New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  24. ^ George Graham (March 22, 2000). "Scott Vestal: Millennia". The Graham Weekly Album Review. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  25. ^ Gutch, Frank Jr. (June 19, 2015). "ASV - Goin' To the Dance". No Depression. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  26. ^ "Livewire - Wired!". Rounder. March 1, 2011. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  27. ^ "David Parmley, Scott Vestal and Continental Divide: On The Divide". Bluegrass Unlimited. June 1, 1997. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  28. ^ Roy Kasten. "Continental Divide: Feel Good Day". Country Standard Time. Retrieved September 8, 2017.

External links[edit]