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Uncle Dave Macon Days Trailblazer Awards

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Tennessee Mafia Jug BandThe Uncle Dave Macon Days Trailblazer Award is presented to an artist, musician, or individual who have developed old-time musical performance styles and techniques that blaze the trail for others to perpetuate, emulate, refine, and follow into contemporary genres.This year’s Trailblazer Award winners are Leroy Troy, Roland White, and The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, collectively. The award recipients were recognized on stage Friday night, July 11th.

The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band performed with Roland White, another honoree for the award. The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band was one of the headlining performers Friday night at this year’s Uncle Dave Macon Days festival.

From the pastoral hills, hollers, shopping malls and interstate highways of Goodlettsville Tennessee, home of Bill Monroe, Bashful Brother Oswald, Stringbean, Grandpa Jones, Keith Whitley and some living country music performers, comes the most entertaining “blast from the past” since Lester Moran and the Cadillac Cowboys. They’re the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band– five guys and a scrubboard, with roots like wisdom teeth.

The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band have shamelessly stolen a feature of the old Roy Acuff Show – a bit known as “Pap & the Jug Band“. There’s only so many graveyard numbers or raunchy love songs that even the most rabid country audience can sit through without some kind of relief. This frolicking fivesome brightens up the stage with rib-tickling old time tunes. Even better, they have an utter lack of self-consciousness (and some might say any sense of decorum). The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band not only know the music, they wear the costumes, tell corny jokes and even do slapstick gags that throw a cable-tv-numbed audience into hysterics. Grown women have lost control of internal organs when the Jug Band entertains … tears a’ runnin’ down both legs!

Leroy Troy was another of the headlining performers Friday at this year’s Uncle Dave Macon Days festival.

To begin, Banjoist & Songster Leroy Troy is a true good ol’ boy from Goodlettsville Tennessee, which is now a northern suburb of metro Nashville. But long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, it was out-in-the-country home to a great number of Grand Ole Opry performers. Back then you couldn’t help but be a neighbor to Stringbean, Bashful Brother Oswald, Bill Monroe, Grandpa Jones, the Carlisles and many others of the first generation of country music. Leroy isn’t quite that old, but he is definitely SOAKED in that old time country entertainment spirit. He knew a number of these folks as neighbors when he was a boy.

‘Troy has been playing the old time banjo since he was a very young lad. His dad used to take him to musical “gatherings” at a local grocery store in Goodlettsville. 13 year old Leroy was taken by the fiddling, but his dad bought him a banjo. One of the participants in this weekly jam was none other than Roy Acuff, the King of Country Music. Acuff took a shine to young Leroy and filled his head full of stories about Uncle Dave Macon – the Dixie Dewdrop, the first true “star” of the WSM Grand Ole Opry. Young Leroy began playing the banjo in Grandpa Jones’ style, and then “graduated” to the more complex mix of entertainment skills that Uncle Dave was known for. Along the way he was taught the 19th century skills of a banjo man. These are the circus and vaudeville routines with clever, comical lyrics, and “monkeyshines” like twirling the instrument in time to the music. Leroy was fortunate to have been taught “how to cut a shine” by old Cordell Kemp of Defeated Tennessee. Cordell learned directly from Uncle Dave Macon. Uncle Dave himself learned from circus and vaudeville performers before 1900.

Just think for a minute how “dull” high school must have seemed when you’re palling around with old time entertainers like Roy Acuff and Cordell Kemp thinking about Uncle Dave Macon

Bluegrass mandolin master and recipient of this year’s Trailblazer Award, Roland White was also one of the headlining performers Friday at this year’s Uncle Dave Macon Days festival.

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. In 2000 Roland formed The Roland White Band, and they earned a Grammy nomination for their first recording, “Jelly On My Tofu”. The band, consisting of Roland on mandolin, Diane Bouska on guitar, Richard Bailey, banjo, Brian Christianson, fiddle and Jon Weisberger, bass, has just recorded a new album entitled “Straight-Ahead Bluegrass”. 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.

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