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Tim Stafford Receives 2015 National Alumni Association Award

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Tim StaffordJohnson City, TN -- The East Tennessee State University National Alumni Association presented its 2015 Alumni Awards Friday, May 8, during the association’s Awards Banquet and Annual Meeting, which is held as part of the university’s spring commencement weekend. Bluegrass artist and songwriter, Tim Stafford received Distinguished Alumnus in the Arts recognition.

Kingsport native Tim Stafford graduated summa cum laude from ETSU with a degree in history and English in 1981, when he was named the Outstanding Student in History. He also earned a master’s degree in history at ETSU in 1984. During his time teaching at ETSU and working in the university’s Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, he was a member of the first ETSU Bluegrass Band founded by Jack Tottle in what would become the world-renowned Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies program within the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Appalachian Studies. In 1990, Stafford and fellow ETSU bluegrass musicians Adam Steffey and Barry Bales joined Alison Krauss and Union Station and recorded the Grammy Award-winning CD, “Every Time You Say Goodbye.”

Stafford later formed his own band, Blue Highway, which has received two Grammy nominations, one Dove award and nearly 30 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards over the past 20 years. Also a songwriter, studio musician and producer, he has written over 175 songs that have been recorded by numerous artists and has performed on and produced recordings by such artists as fellow ETSU alumnus Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson, Jesse McReynolds and others. He has released two solo CDs, “Endless Line” and “Just to Hear the Whistle Blow,” and has twice been named Guitarist of the Year by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America. He has served two terms on the IBMA board of directors, including three years as vice chair.

Tim discovered bluegrass in the mid-1970s as a freshman at Ketron High School, becoming a banjo player. He switched to guitar in the late 70s and became a member of several groups, including Mountain Memories and The Boys in the Band. In the late 1980s, Tim formed Dusty Miller with Adam Steffey and Adam's wife at the time, Tammy Rogers (later a founding member of the Steeldrivers), Brian Fesler and Barry Bales. Alison Krauss hired Tim, Adam and Barry in 1990 and Union Station proceeded to record a Grammy-winning CD, Every Time You Say Goodbye (Rounder, 1992) and become one of the most influential bands in modern bluegrass history.

After leaving the band in 1992 to spend more time with his family, including his infant son Daniel, Tim worked odd jobs and taught at different colleges and universities until he formed Blue Highway in 1994 with Wayne Taylor, Shawn Lane, Rob Ickes and Jason Burleson. The band released its 10th recorded project, The Game in January 2014, which went on to spend six months at the top of the Bluegrass Unlimited National Radio Survey. Their 20 years together with the same members is a record in bluegrass history; the band is one of the most decorated and influential in bluegrass history as well, having been nominated for 2 Grammies, winning a Dove Award, and nearly 30 IBMA Awards.

Tim is a prolific songwriter and has written hundreds of songs. He was named IBMA's 2014 Songwriter of the Year. In addition, he is a sought-after studio musician, having recorded with over 75 artists in addition to Blue Highway, including Willie Nelson, Kenny Chesney, Jorma Kaukonen, Jesse McReynolds, Benny Sims, Marty Raybon, Joe Isaacs, Ronnie Bowman, Charles Sawtelle, Tony Trischka, Larry Sparks, Jim Mills and others. Tim was named SPBGMA Guitar Performer of the Year in 2001 and 2015. He has produced many award-winning records for various artists, including Kenny Chesney, The Infamous Stringdusters (IBMA 2007 co-album of the Year) , and Knee Deep in Bluegrass, the Acutab Sessions (IBMA 2001 Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year). Tim performed many times with Hazel Dickens, including the Lincoln Center in New York (2006), Sundance Film Festival, Park City, UT (2005), Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, San Francisco, CA (2010), Wintergrass, Tacoma WA (2003). He has taught at every major bluegrass-oriented camp, including Rockygrass Academy, Camp Bluegrass (South Plains College, TX), Augusta Heritage, Wintergrass Academy, Sore Fingers (UK), Bluegrass at the Beach, Nashcamp, Kaufman's Flatpicking Camp, California Bluegrass Association Camp at Grass Valley, St. Louis Flatpick, Resosummit, Summergrass Academy, Grand Targhee, Bluegrass Masters Weekend, and Nashville Flatpick and Songwriting Camp.

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