Johnson Mountain Boys tribute show at Lil’ Johns

David McLaughlin, Marshall Wilborn, and Dudley Connell with the Johnson Mountain Boys
at Nacogdoches Bluegrass Festival in Texas (July 4, 1987) – photo by Rick Gardner

Lil John’s Mountain Music Festival and their host band, Sideline, have come up with something special for this year’s event later this month.

On the festival’s opening night, Thursday May 23, the evening concert will feature a 90 minute tribute show to the Johnson Mountain Boys. Members of Sideline will support JMB founders Dudley Connell and David McLaughlin, on a set of favorites from the band who stole the hearts of bluegrass lovers throughout the 1980s.

Johnson Mountain Boys hit like thunder in 1978, and by 1980 they were becoming a staple on the festival circuit. It was something of a revelation during a time when bluegrass was besieged on all sides by other musical trends. Here were five young men who dressed like they had stepped out of the 1950s, playing and singing in the old time style that had been popularized by Flatt & Scruggs and The Stanley Brothers. They were an immediate hit.

By the mid-’90s the various members had all gone their own ways, leaving behind 10 treasured albums of revivalist bluegrass. People still talk about seeing the band in their prime, with Eddie Stubbs on fiddle, Tom Adams or Richard Underwood on banjo, and Marshall Wilborn on bass.

The Lil John’s tribute show will give Dudley and David a chance to remember those days by performing a good many of those old songs they had recorded.

Steve Dilling of Sideline, tells us that when a full reunion wouldn’t work, they went for the next best thing.

“The JMB were arguably the most popular band in our music throughout the 1980s, and there have only been a few reunion shows done since they retired. It was going to be hard to do a reunion because of schedules, for example fiddle player Eddie Stubbs works for WSM and the Grand Ole Opry, so we thought by getting two members and filling in around them, that this would work. It is billed as a tribute show. The three members of my band, Sideline, are so thrilled to be a part of this.”

In this video, Dilling, and both Dudley and David, talk a bit about the upcoming mini-reunion, and how much they are all looking forward to it.

Lil John’s Mountain Music Festival is located in Snow Camp, NC, about 15 miles south of Burlington at the Cane Creek Campground and RV Park. Full details can be found online.

Share this:

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.