In the realm of bluegrass, few bands survive more than 10-15 years. Even that is considered quite an achievement, especially among part-time groups whose members juggle work and family commitments to keep the music flowing. Bands that make it to 20 or 25 years are worthy of note, if only for the sheer determination to keep it going.
Out in California’s Bay Area, there is a very special celebration next month for a band that has been performing as a unit for 50 years! High Country was founded by mandolinist Butch Waller in 1968, and on August 18 at The Back Room in Berkeley they will celebrate the anniversary with a special show and party. Former members and special guests are invited and it should be quite an evening.
High Country has not only kept it going for 50 years, but stuck to the traditional bluegrass sound that initially attracted them to the music as well. Folks back east often describe California bluegrass as being folky or more experimental than the mountain sound of the Appalachian region, but not these guys. Their sound is hard driving and based on the Monroe mandolin sound that Waller prefers.
The band is completed by Butch’s brother, Bob, on guitar, Glen Dauphin on bass, Tom Bekeny on fiddle, Jim Mintun on reso-guitar, and Larry Cohea on banjo. Glen and Jim handle the bulk of the singing.
The August 18 show begins at 8:00 p.m. If you go, know that The Back Room doesn’t serve food or alcohol, so eat before you come. They do allow guests at the concerts to bring their own bottle if they wish.
It is a regular haunt for the band. Here’s a video collage from their New Year’s Eve show there in 2017.
Congratulations to High Country. Here’s to 50 more!