Fretliners win 2023 RockyGrass band contest

Last month’s 51st annual RockyGrass festival in Lyon’s CO included their long-running band and individual instrument competitions, which also started back in 1973. The festival draws a good many entrants as prizes include brand new instruments as well as cash.

The Fretliners pulled off an unusual two-fer, having won both this year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival contest and at RockyGrass as well. This four piece group from Denver features Tom Knowlton on guitar, Taylor Shuck on upright bass, Dan Andree on fiddle, and Sam Parks on mandolin. They have also been nominated for the IBMA’s Momentum Band award this year.

Here’s a look at their first round performance.

The Fretliners took home a $750 prize, plus a main stage set on the 2024 RockyGrass festival.

Second place band Pretend Friend from Wichita, KS won a $500 prize, and 3rd place finishers ALBAND from Denver got $300. All three also received a package of strings from RockyGrass sponsors.

Previous winners have gone on to become quite prominent in the bluegrass world. Steep Canyon Rangers, Chatham County Line, Town Mountain, Blue Canyon Boys, Front Country, The Railsplitters, RapidGrass, The Wooks, Meadow Mountain, Never Come Down, and The Wildmans have all placed first at RockyGrass.

Instrumental category winners get big prizes as well, in the form of new instruments from noted builder like Deering Banjos, Thompson Guitars, and Collings Mandolins.

And those winners are:

Banjo – prize Deering John Hartford model banjo

  1. Luciya Sullivan
  2. Corey Clark
  3. Elijah Donovan

Guitar – prize Preston Thompson D-MA guitar

  1. Michael Furry
  2. Philipp Keck
  3. Soraya Sullivan

Mandolin – prize Collings MT-2 mandolin

  1. Ethan Batan
  2. Luke Lovejoy
  3. Jack Dunlevie

Fiddle – prize Thomas Verdot Paragon fiddle

  1. Celeste Johnson
  2. Mei Lin Heirendt
  3. Jackson Earles

Dobro – prize $1,000 cash

  1. Summers Baker
  2. Brian Eyster
  3. Dan Buller

Congratulations all!

Information about entering the 2024 RockyGrass competitions will be posted soon 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.