Kentuckians of Michigan Bluegrass in the Park

Northwoods Ramblers at the 2023 Bluegrass in the Park – photo © Bill Warren

Saturday was a banner day for bluegrass music in southeast Michigan. The Kentuckians of Michigan put on the second annual Bluegrass in the Park at their Liberty Park venue in Romulus. 

Bluegrass in the Park is a showcase for local bands and musicians.

The morning was dedicated to the jammers who played and sang as the crowd filtered in.

The stage show kicked off at noon with John Coffey and Forked Run. The Coffey family has long been a mainstay in the Michigan bluegrass scene. John was joined by his grandson, Gavin Conley, also on guitar and vocals. The banjo player is a familiar name – Dana Cupp. Dana was Bill Monroe’s final banjo player. He also stepped into the banjo position with Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-Press. Banjo player Brad Campbell joined the band for a couple tunes. Brad did a stint with Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver a few years ago. 

The next band was the Northwoods Ramblers. Aaron Smith founded the band and is the guitar player and lead singer. He is joined by Darrel Fancier on mandolin, Sergi Boyakjon on banjo, and Tammy White Brescol on bass. Tammy is the granddaughter of Robert White who promoted festivals in Michigan and Ohio for many years. He also fronted Robert White and the Candy Mountain Express. 

They were followed by the Powder Mill Ramblers featuring Wendy Smith. The band was put together by banjo player Dave Russell and guitar player Jim LaPrad. Bluegrass fans remember Dave from his time with Hard Line Drive and Jim was one of the founders of the New Memphis Express.

Wendy Smith is the elder statesman of Michigan bluegrass. He will turn 90 years young in July. Most people remember him as the leader of Wendy Smith and Blue Velvet. Many familiar names have been members of Wendy’s band including Andrea Roberts and the late Gary Adams. Wendy is also a prolific song writer. The Lonesome River Band took his Caroline the Teenage Queen to number one.

Sky High and Rising is a southern style gospel band that put on a rousing set. They will return to the Park for the Kentuckians annual picnic on August 12.

The Band of Brothers is kind of the Kentuckians house band, made up of long time club members who play traditional bluegrass. Club president Burl Stevens is the dobro player. He is joined by Jim LaPrad on guitar, Marv Webb on mandolin, Tom Arbore on bass, and Tim Ellis on banjo. Tim played banjo for a time years ago with the legendary Jim & Jesse.

The day was closed out by the “newest old band” in the area, Cedar Creek. Delmer “Bosco” Hackworth founded the band about thirty years ago. It was on hiatus for several years and is now back with Hackworth on guitar, Billie Irvine on banjo, Dave Howard on mandolin, and Mark Prater on bass.

Congratulations to the volunteers who keep the Kentuckians as THE venue for bluegrass and traditional country music in southeast Michigan.

The club will have some more summer events and resume their indoor shows in September.

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