Authentic Unlimited to debut at Bluegrass First Class

Authentic Unlimited – photo © Laci Mack

Authentic Unlimited, the newest big thing in bluegrass, is slated to debut at Bluegrass First Class in Asheville on Saturday night, February 19, 2022.

“Mentored by one of the founding members of IBMA, Doyle Lawson, who has a long history of choosing the best musicians, this energetic band is on the cutting-edge of the bluegrass genre. They will leave the audiences wanting more,” stated Milton Harkey, promoter of Bluegrass First Class.

Authentic Unlimited derives its name from their authenticity and unlimited supply of original material. The band is comprised of three Quicksilver alums: Eli Johnston on banjo, Stephen Burwell on fiddle, and Jerry Cole on bass, joined by Jesse Brock, two-time IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year (2009 & 2015), and John Meador, the youngest, on guitar. The 21-year-old, who’s been singing since before he learned to walk, developed a relationship with several of his band mates while performing at Ole Smoky Moonshine in Gatlinburg. Each member attributes his musical development to years of field experience.

The trio from Doyle’s band is ecstatic over their new ensemble.

Johnston shared, “The best feeling is when you get the right group of guys together and you know the music you make together is going to be top of the line!! We are all very proud and eager to hit the road presenting our brand of bluegrass music to everyone!”

Burwell readily agreed. “I’m beyond excited for this new musical adventure! This group of guys already has a special bond with each other. We want to play and be the best we can for folks. We’ll work hard for them and keep it classy.”

“When I was hired by Doyle that was my ultimate goal, then he retired,” Cole reflected, but is pumped about the future. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the guys in the band. Each one is a skilled musician. They are all really good at what they do.”

A veteran with forty years in the music business, Jesse Brock is humbled to be a part of the powerhouse group, “Someone had to carry the baton for Doyle. We’ve all been friends and the band asked me to be that guy. I was happy in the band with Fast Track, but this opportunity came about and I couldn’t pass it up. What a benchmark for me!”

Newcomer, John Meador, is thrilled to be a part of this musical venture. “There’s not another band I’d rather play with than them. They are class acts with great character. Everybody respects everybody as musicians and gentlemen.”

Authentic Unlimited will bring a fresh, new image complete with a combination of years of musical experience to the stage. They plan to give a genuine East Tennessee feel to the bluegrass genre. The band is unique in the fact that they write, record, and produce their music. 

“We are keeping it original out of respect for Doyle. Our goal is to have our own sound and our own material,” shared fiddler Burwell. “We anticipate requests from previously recorded material, and we will do them if they are songs written by Jerry or Eli.”

Cole chimed in, “We’re no cover band. We’ll be doing our own original material.”

The bassist, alone, has already written 553 original songs himself.

Harkey concluded, “I am excited to have them on the schedule, along with the Dan Tyminski Band. I’m very glad that they formed in time for fans to hear them play their very first performance at Bluegrass First Class.”

The audience should expect a crisp, professional, and entertaining performance. In the coming months, look for this bluegrass band to skyrocket.

For ticket information on Bluegrass First Class, visit them online, or contact Milton Harkey at (828) 275-8650.

For more information on Authentic Unlimited, contact Eli Johnston: or 423-608-2592, or visit the band’s website. You can also search for Authentic Unlimited Band on Facebook and Instagram.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.