Having a Coffee with ……………. Missy Raines 

This is fun series in which we ask bluegrass music personalities, some famous, some not so famous, about some of their interests as well as about the music that they love.  

Missy Raines was born in Short Gap in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia and the location of Stewart’s Tavern, a wonderful example of late 18th century architecture and one of the oldest two-story log buildings standing in Mineral County. 

Her parents were big bluegrass music fans, going to shows before Missy was born. She remembers going to festivals when she was as young as five or six years of age. As well as being exposed to live music at shows, she enjoyed listening to local musicians who would come to her home too. 

This led to her getting the music bug early and she soon started playing piano and guitar. “A few years later, my dad bought an acoustic bass, just for fun.” Although the instrument was intended for her father to learn, Missy Raines just started playing it, building on an already-established musical bent. At that point she was about 11 or 12 years old. 

Throughout her teenaged years her parents encouraged and supported her as much as they could, and gradually she taught herself to play bass, learning by ear listening to records and playing at festivals with other people, mostly those of her own age. 

Another who encouraged Raines is legendary bass player Tom Gray, whom she met when she was 12 years of age. She is proud to admit, “I subbed for Tom Gray with the Seldom Scene in 1985 at the Birchmere Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia.”

While a senior at high school (1978) she played regularly in Washington DC with the Stars and Bars band, after she impressed playing bass in a pickup band in a western Maryland pizza restaurant. Raines remembers, “I started playing with Stars and Bars when I was about 16 or 17 years old. I was still in high school and lived about 2 1/2 hours away from Washington DC where the band was based. My father drove me down to play with them, or sometimes Stars and Bars banjoist, Joe Zauner, would drive to Short Gap to get me. I played with them during my senior year in high school and by that time I often drove myself down for the weekend. We had a regular Thursday night gig at Captain Bob’s Seafood Restaurant in Rockville, Maryland.” She adds, “I loved playing with Joe, John Akin and Petey Salisbury.”

Following her graduation from high school, she moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, and got a job with Cloud Valley, a band with whom she is featured on two albums, one of which is Live in Europe. 

She found that her tenure with that band was quite challenging, as her fellow band members were more experienced musicians than her. As a consequence, she taught herself music theory. 

Subsequently, Missy spent about eight years playing bass with second generation bluegrass legend, Eddie Adcock, for the first time experiencing what it is like traveling as a full-time musician out on the road.  

After moving to Nashville, where she began getting calls to fill in with bands, she got her next job – playing with Claire Lynch, spending much of the next 12 years with her. 

In 2008 Missy Raines formed her own band the New Hip, so named due to her then-recent (2007) hip surgery. Since then she has recorded three albums – all for Compass Records – the latest of which is Royal Traveller, released in October 2018. With this CD Raines comes into her own as a vocalist and songwriter on a collection of songs that reflect the breadth of her musical vision. 

Missy Raines, who was dubbed the ‘First Lady of Acoustic Bass’ by Bluegrass Now magazine, is a seven-time winner of the IBMA Bass Player of the Year award, a singer, a songwriter and a teacher, as well as a band-leader. 

She is a member of the First Ladies of Bluegrass band, formed by the only female musicians to win an IBMA Player of the Year award.

What would you like to drink? 

I like coffee with coconut oil and/or butter in it. 

Do you want anything to eat as well? 

Avocado toast. 

What’s your favorite food? 

Hmmm, that is hard because I don’t just have one. Chocolate is definitely in the top five. Pesto, salmon, and chocolate, and bread, and sweet potato fries! 

And what would you have to drink with that? 

Red wine. I like very dry wine – full-bodied, rich wine. I like Malbec and Merlots. I don’t know enough about grapes or regions to say with confidence more than that. I do tend to enjoy red wines from Oregon and also from the Lodi region of California, Also Chile wines. 

What’s the nicest meal that you have ever had? 

I’ve had many – some of them I’ve made! hahaha There’s a restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I used to live, called the C & O, it’s a five-star restaurant on the top level (which I could only afford on special occasions), and a smaller bistro style bar with food next level and a listening bar below. I played many gigs there and saw tons of great local and national touring bands play there, and I STILL think about the food I had there. Usually a filet mignon with potatoes and bread, salad, and wine. Exquisite. But sometimes, it’s the company that makes the meal 😉 

Let’s talk bluegrass….. Where/when did you first hear bluegrass music? 

At home, growing up on the stereo. I don’t remember not knowing about bluegrass, so I’m thinking my first memories happened at age four or five years. My parents were way into music long before I was born. 

Which of your own songs do you have a particular liking for? 

I wrote an instrumental for my dad called Ides of March. I wrote it in honor of him, and tried to convey the pain of loss I’ve experienced in losing him (he died when I was only 20), and that one is pretty special because it’s like therapy every time I play it. 🙂 The song also is intended to convey that despite the loss, there is always a way to move on. Recently I’ve written a few tunes that are about where I grew up, my family, and even my faith so those all resonate with me. They are Allegheny Town, Royal Traveller, and one for my mom called So Good. These are all on my new album, Royal Traveller, produced by Alison Brown on Compass Records. The album is available now on Amazon.

What about a song written by someone else?

I do a song by Ed Snodderly called Basket of Singing Birds, and also a Bob Dylan tune, Buckets of Rain. They both lyrically mean a lot to me. And I’ve Endured, an old tune written by Ola Belle Reed. I just recorded I’ve Endured. Ola Belle was also a West Virginian (like me), and I think the lyrics in that song are so real and timeless. They speak to the struggles she obviously faced but there’s a real sense of hope attached to them as well.

Which particular album do you like best and why? 

Manzanita – Tony Rice. It probably means so much to me because I heard it when I was about 17 years old, and that’s an impressionable time. It changed my world. 

You play bass …. … what model is it? 

I have a 1937 Kay upright bass. It was one of the first made by the Kay company. It has real inlay (later models have decals) and engraved tuners. It was also ‘antiqued’ by its previous owners many years ago – so the lovely curly maple wood is covered by a dark brown stains and music notes, which have now become sort of recognizable as my bass. 

Of all the instruments that you have owned what’s your favorite instrument? 

My Kay bass. My father bought that bass in about 1972 or so to play himself. He was just learning. I was playing guitar and piano at the time. But since the instrument was in the house, I started to jam on it and quickly fell in love with. After a short while I stopped playing piano and guitar and concentrated on the bass. My father died very young, when I was only 20, so that bass is precious to me. His name is Bob, after my dad. 

What’s your favorite bluegrass memory? 

Listening to bands like the Osborne Brothers, The Seldom Scene, and everyone else at a bluegrass festival when I was a kid; particularly towards the end of the day as it’s just starting to get dark, sitting outside in a big crowd of folks, the stage lit up… Folks were preparing for the “evening show.” You could cut the anticipation in the audience with a knife. Carlton Haney put on a lot of festivals in those days and he along with Master of Ceremonies, Fred Bartenstein, had a way of building up the anticipation for the night shows. The sounds of the music mixed with the smell of summer’s hay, the river, even the festival food frying. There was a particular festival I love in Virginia called Watermelon Park. The stage area was right next to the Shenandoah River. It was absolutely magical. Those are probably my most favorite memories, every year at Watermelon Park. 

How do you keep fit and healthy when you spend so much time on the road? 

I always take workout clothes and shoes; I run and work out whenever I possibly can. I try hard to eat well and take snacks. I swim when I’m home. It’s really about having healthy options with you so you’re not trapped by what may not be available on the road. 

Are you a sports fan? Who do you follow? 

I like golf! That’s about the only thing I follow. And I can watch a good football game. 

What hobbies do you have? 

Gardening, reading, swimming, hiking in the woods in the winter, bike riding, cooking. 

What is the last movie film that you watched? 

The movie about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was great. 

What is your favorite film and why? 

Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell. It’s a classic. My brother, Rick, taught me an appreciation for classic Hollywood film making. That was one of our favorite things to do together was watching classic movies. I love Auntie Mame because the writing is so clever, and it’s about liberalism and free-thinking spirits vs. bigotry and racism, which, especially for the time, (mid 1950s?), I think it had to be a rare gem. I watch this movie at least once a year. I have several nieces and nephews and I would like to think I am the ‘cool’ aunt. Ha, ha. 

Do you get much time to watch TV? [What’s your favorite show?] 

I watch some, but mostly watch Netflix, Acorn, BBC, Britbox. My husband and I have an affinity for British mysteries and Nordic Noir. Right now, we are devouring The Outlander series. I read the books and loved them. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in bluegrass music? 

Probably running an animal shelter or fostering critters in need. 

Missy Raines lives in Nashville with her husband producer/engineer Ben Surratt.

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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.