Big news from Outer Banks Bluegrass Fest

CherryholmesThe Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival has a wealth of amenities to brag about. I mean, an outdoor festival in October, in North Carolina’s beautiful Outer Banks, with a stage backed up to the water… Throw in top talent and a Boomgrass fireworks display on Friday night and you’ve got what it takes for a weekend of fun, sun, and bluegrass music.

Over the weekend the folks that manage the festival had two big announcements to share. First, that 2005 IBMA Entertainer of the Year Cherryholmes will reunite for a show at the festival next year! The family band were headliners throughout the first decade on the 21st century, with members now dispersed among a number of top touring acts. Having them all together again on stage after breaking up in 2011 is something to look forward to in 2015.

Cherryholmes got started in bluegrass by accident, so to speak. They were a close-knit, home-schooling family living in Los Angeles, CA when tragedy struck. In 1999, eldest daughter Shelly died unexpectedly, leaving a big hole in the hearts of Jere and Sandy Cherryholmes and their five young children. To try and brighten everyone’s spirits, they took the kids to a nearby bluegrass festival, and it occurred to Jere that starting a family band might be the perfect way to bring them all together in a joyful manner.

And so they did. 15 year old Cia Leigh took up the guitar, and B.J. (11) started learning fiddle, as did 7 year old Molly. Skip (9) worked on mandolin, as did Sandy, with Jere playing bass. Soon Cia switched to banjo, and  Skip moved to guitar. The oldest son, Tyson, was not involved as he he was pursuing a career in the US Air Force at the time.

The plan was to just do this for fun, but it turned out that the kids had natural musical ability, and quickly blossomed into capable pickers and singers. Next thing you know, they were in demand on the festival circuit, and in 2002 they sold the family home, bought a tour bus, and began traveling the length and breadth of the United States. After a couple of successful, self-produced records they signed with Ricky Skaggs’ label in 2005, and released four fine projects over the next five years.

Cherryholmes performing on the 2006 IBMA Awards show - photo by Tami RothDuring that time Cherryholmes pushed against the edges of bluegrass convention, both with their music which the young artists were turning towards a more modern sound, and with their stage presentation which involved more movement than was the norm in bluegrass, and the use of electrified instruments. Molly and Cia both developed a unique fashion sense which also helped give the band a contemporary look and feel.

But by 2011, the intense schedule was taking its toll on mom and pop, and the kids were yearning to move ahead in music on their own. Cia married and now performs in a singer/songwriter duo with her husband called Songs of the Fall. B.J. is playing fiddle with Dailey & Vincent, and Skip is a member of Lou Reid & Carolina and Sideline. Molly is working on her own style of electronic dance music, and occasionally playing second fiddle with B.J. in D&V.

But in October 2015, they’ll be putting the band back together for this one-time-only performance. You can bet that their many, many fans will be excited to learn this news. VIP tickets can be reserved now by calling (252) 473-3192.

Also announced is a second festival under the same management, the Norris Creek Pig Pickin’. It will debut over the 2015 4th of July weekend in Louisburg, NC, on the mainland not far from Raleigh or Rocky Mount. Details about the lineup, tickets, and directions can be found online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.