Dry Branch Fire Squad celebrate 35 years

The Dry Branch Fire Squad is celebrating 35 years of original entertainment this month.

Next month, November 25, the Birchmere, in Alexandria, Virginia, will be hosting a 35thanniversary show to mark this momentous achievement. The concert will feature only the current line-up: Thomason [mandolin, banjo, guitar], Brian Aldridge [guitar, mandolin], Tom Boyd [banjo, resophonic guitar] and Dan Russell [bass].

Formed and still led by mandolin player and raconteur Ron Thomason, Dry Branch Fire Squad has long held a prime spot on the bluegrass festival circuit. The band hosts the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, in Oak Hill, New York, and High Mountain Hay Fever in Westcliffe, Colorado, as well as playing dates throughout the United States.

Ever wondered how they got their name?  “The Rolling Stones was already taken,” is Thomason’s typically dry response.

They have a large catalogue of recordings, most of which were released by Rounder Records.

Thomason shares a bit of the band’s history and events leading up to the regular Fall concert ….

“The first DBFS show took place in October of 1976. The original plan was to put together a little band to play on Thursday nights in a little concert bar in Springfield, OH, called the Crying Cowboy Concert Saloon. (Even the building has been gone for a couple of decades.) On the second or third Thursday Bill Monroe dropped by and hired us for his Bean Blossom festival.  A couple of weeks later Ralph Stanley dropped in and hired us for his Memorial festival and, it seemed, we were off and running-which had not been my plan.

If I had expected anything to develop out of the original job I would probably have picked a better band name. We were not ready to expand our playing area, but we did our best.  We didn’t have a band vehicle of any kind.  A couple of the original members either would not or could not (conveniently) travel. Somehow we have sort of stuck with it for all these years, and these days I believe we have the best band I have ever been in.

On our traditional ‘Birchmere weekend’ this year the idea of a nice celebration of longevity actually came from the Seldom Scene which is celebrating its 40th year as a band. So instead of us both sharing the two nights (Friday and Saturday), we will be playing on Friday and they will be playing on Saturday. I believe that they will have some former members join them since several of those still live in the D.C. area. For us it is impossible. Even the four members of DBFS all live in different states now, separated by as much as 1,300 miles. There are only a few of the former members who have stayed in touch, and those live so far from D.C. that they could not make the trip, regrettably.”

More details about the show can be found by visiting The Birchmere online.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.