Ernie Thacker and Cumberland Gap Connection

Ernie ThackerIn the Spring of 2006, Ernie Thacker was an up-and-coming bluegrass singer and band leader from Virginia, noted for his soulful and expressive vocal delivery. He had already spent five years with Ralph Stanley as a Clinch Mountain Boy on mandolin, guitar and lead vocals, and recorded two albums as a solo artist.

But Thacker’s whole life changed when he was thrown from a vehicle during an auto accident in April ’06, one that kept him in intensive care for several months, and left him paralyzed from the waist down. At the time, he was finishing work on a third recording, which he eventually completed from his hospital bed. He made valiant attempts to tour in support of this project, The Hangman, but the strain of performing and traveling so early into his recovery was too much.

Ernie has done a few shows since, but none in the past two years. He is booked this month for a concert at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonburg, KY, and it appears that conversations between he and former bandmate Mike Bentley of Cumberland Gap Connection will give Thacker an opportunity to once again take his music to the fans.

Mike Bentley“I have been in touch a lot with Ernie lately concerning the Mountain Arts Center concert that we are both booked on. We offered to back him up that night also if he needed us, and he took us up on it.

The more we talked, the more it was clear to me that he was really wanting to get back out and perform, so I started thinking about the possibility of us teaming up for some shows. Evidently Ernie had been thinking about the same thing, because before I was able to ask him about it, he brought it up to me.

Our banjo player, Rod Smith, and myself, played in Ernie’s band in the past and are both really familiar with most of his music, and all the guys are looking forward to picking with him. Nothing will change as far as Cumberland Gap Connection is concerned, we’ll just be adding to what we already have, and Ernie won’t have to worry about all the stuff involved in running a band, so it’s a win-win situation.

I can’t even describe how excited we are to take the stage with Ernie! It’s been way too long since folks have had the chance to see him up there singing, and to see him ready to get back out there and share his voice with the crowds again is gonna be a lot of fun.

We’ve been friends for a long time and have always been fans of his music, so it’s an honor for CGC to be a part of this. We’re really looking forward to getting his music back out for everyone to enjoy!”

Mike said that anyone interested in booking the Thacker/CGC show should contact him by email.

For his part, Ernie is plenty psyched about singing again.

Ernie Thacker at the Musicians Against Childhood Cancer festival in 2008 - photo by Ted Lehmann“It’s gonna be a pleasure playing with these boys on May 18! They do a wonderful job and they play my style.

I’ve known Mike and Rod for years and years, and we’ve been friends for a long time. They’ve got a good bunch of boys playing with them, and I’m honored for them to back me up. They’ll be backing me up all summer at different festivals and whatnot, so folks should look out for Mike and Rod and Cumberland Gap Connection.

I’m really looking forward to playing with the boys, and I think folks will really enjoy what they hear, so come out and see us and be with us.”

Word of this new partnership has been making waves in the bluegrass community. Jason Burleson of Blue Highway was quick with praise…

“Ernie is one of my favorite singers on the planet! Don’t miss him with one of my favorite bands!”

… as was Adam Steffey from The Boxcars.

“The guys of Cumberland Gap Connection and Ernie Thacker teaming up can only mean one thing – awesome music! Ernie is one of the best bluegrass singers ever and coupled with a great band like this will certainly make for some real magic. I look forward to seeing this in person and hearing them together.”

It’s wonderful news that Ernie Thacker will be back on the circuit, and teaming up with Cumberland Gap Connection looks like a perfect fit. Details about these shows will be posted on the CGC web site as they are scheduled.

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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.