The tribute band is nothing new to bluegrass music or to any other genre of music, for that matter. “Beatlemania” was the first one I was ever aware of, but I know the concept is much older than that.
Sometimes there’s a fine line between a tribute band and the band itself, as when a band is touring and recording with no original members but maintaining the name and material of the original band.
The Earls of Leicester are the most recent tribute band in bluegrass music, and what they do is pretty impressive: they not only pay tribute to Flatt and Scruggs in a way that shows their reverence for Lester and Earl’s music, but they also have the ability to pull it off expertly and faithfully.
To call them a Flatt and Scruggs tribute band, though, is really too general. They have a more specific focus than that: they are seeking to recreate the period of Flatt & Scruggs’ music from the mid-1950s through the early ’60s, the time during which Paul Warren and Uncle Josh Graves were in the band together (Paul Warren’s son Johnny is the Earls’ fiddle player).
It got me to thinking, is there room in bluegrass music for more tribute bands like that, perhaps ones that are even more specific than The Earls of Leicester are?
Here are some possible tribute bands you might consider forming yourself if you have any interest in these particular niches within bluegrass music:
Oh Brother! – A band devoted to the music of brothers who hated each other’s guts (many albums worth of potential material there)
Country Boy – A tribute band to the mustache period of Ricky Skaggs’ career
Two or Three Highways – A tribute band honoring Alison Krauss & Union Station’s period of unstable personnel from 1989 to 1993
The Little Georgia Roses – An all-female band playing only Bill Monroe songs about the women in his life
Recovering Bluegrass – A band performing nothing but covers of other bands’ covers of other bands’ material
Pickin’ On Berry Pickin’ – A band devoted exclusively to playing instrumental versions of Jim & Jesse’s recordings of Chuck Berry songs from their album Berry Pickin’ in the Country
Monroe Crossing Over – A tribute band playing nothing but songs from Bill Monroe’s recordings with drums and various other instruments and sounds outside the traditional bluegrass norm, from electric guitar to vibraphone, to nature sound-effects, e.g. Highway of Sorrow, The Prisoner’s Song, and My Last Days on Earth.
The Goodbye Earls – A band doing material exclusively from Flatt and Scruggs’ last few years together (sometimes referred to as Lester and Earl’s “They Recorded What?! Era”), especially drawing from the Nashville Airplane album, including songs such as Like a Rolling Stone, and Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.
Quicksilvers Ride Again – A band devoted to the period in the 1980s when there were two Quicksilvers touring simultaneously, while not being on the best of terms
Long Handle Rewind – A tribute to bluegrass bands with long and cumbersome names, doing some of the best known material by Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper featuring Audie Blaylock, Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, David Parmley Scott Vestal and Continental Divide, and The Legendary Bobby Atkins and The Fabulous Countrymen