Larry Stephenson Band to play Bath Bluegrass Jamboree
There was a small sample of the Larry Stephenson Band, who you can hear quite a bit more from on Saturday Night at the Bath Bluegrass Jamboree. I spoke with Larry to get a little history, and to learn about what’s ahead.
Early childhood is ALL important, and I knew he had ties to this area, so we talked about that first.
“Well, my dad was born in Bath County Virginia in 1923. Edwin Stephenson was his name, so the Stephenson are all up through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I was born in Harrisonburg, and I remember as a kid going to like Covington and Clifton Forge. We had some aunts; my dad had some aunts and uncles around that area. We used to go out there when I was a little fellow, so yeah, got some roots out there a little bit.”
When I wondered what his earliest musical memories are, and if family had a lot to do with his current career, Larry replied,
“My dad taught me how to play. We were actually living over near Fredricksburg, Virginia, King George County Virginia, and he put a mandolin in my hands when I was five years old.”
My own earliest memory of a bluegrass festival was at Glen Maury Park in Buena Vista, and I don’t often think of the eastern part of the state as being full of mountain music, but Larry set me straight on that.
“Golly yeah, there was a lot over there. It was a wonderful area to grow up in. I graduated high school in 1976, so that gives you an idea of the time frame, and throughout the late 60s and 70s, Richmond Virginia, the Washington DC area, was just full of bluegrass music, not only people that were playing it, but it was on the radio, and a lot of live shows, all over Richmond, Warrenton, Virginia, Winchester, it was just a wonderful area to grow up in for this music, southern Maryland; we weren’t far from there. And then as I got older, and graduated high school I started drifting up to the Washington D.C. area, and it was huge up there, a lot of music being played up there.”
It follows that the largest metropolitan area near the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains could act as a hub.
“You know throughout the 60s and 70s a lot of the original bluegrass festivals started like in Berryville, which is just out west of WashingtonDC, and you had Warrenton, you had Culpepper, Virginia. You had Callaway Maryland, Take it Easy Ranch, and then all those wonderful country music parks in southern Pennsylvania and Maryland, and Washington DC when I went up there in the late 70s was kind of known as the capital of Bluegrass music. WAMU was playing, it was an FM station, they were playing bluegrass music six and eight hours a day during drive time.”
Now Larry is based out of Nashville, and has played often at the Grand Ole Opry. Still, there is no denying that the roots of bluegrass are in the mountains, and that’s why it’s especially fine to come play here, and raise money for Allegheny Mountain Radio. In part two of this story Larry Stephenson shares more about his current band and their music, and encourages everyone to come join in on Saturday evening from 6:00 to 9:00 at Bath County High School. For more information call your local station, or visit Allegheny mountain radio.org.