Marty and Robin Hays – a bluegrass wedding at Jerusalem Ridge

Robin and Marty Hays are married on stage at Jerusalem Ridge (9/7/23) – photo © Roger Black

This article is a contribution from Gina Story about a bluegrass wedding held at the 2023 Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration.

It’s a story about a man and a woman who fell in love, first with bluegrass music, and then with each other. So they decided to combine their loves by saying their wedding vows on stage at a bluegrass festival.

Marty Hays married his wife, Robin, Sept. 7, 2023, at the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Celebration in Rosine, KY. It was the first wedding held on stage there during a festival.

“I still haven’t internalized it yet,” Marty Hays said of his new marriage. It’s not only that they got married, but where they got married that he’s still trying to wrap his head around. “I’ve played music there ever since they’ve had music there.”

As many bluegrass music enthusiasts already know, Jerusalem Ridge is the birthplace and childhood home of Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass Music. Jerusalem Ridge also holds a special place in the story and lives of the Hays newlyweds.

Marty Hays has been a member of the band, David Davis & the Warrior River Boys, out of Alabama, for almost three decades. David Davis is the brother of Cleo Davis, who is widely considered to be the first Blue Grass Boy Bill Monroe hired when he started his band in the late 1930s. That special bond with the heritage of bluegrass music is just one of the reasons that make Bill Monroe’s homeplace a favorite performing venue for Marty Hays.

Robin Hays is a vocalist for the Southern gospel music band, Chosen Portion. She also plays the piano. Her love for Bill Monroe and his homeplace started in the 1980s when she attended and played the piano for a church in Hendersonville, TN, where several Grand Old Opry members attended, one of which was Bill Monroe. 

Several years ago, Robin, was learning to play the mandolin, and she attended the Jerusalem Ridge Bluegrass Festival with her mandolin instructor. That’s where she met Marty for the first time during a meet and greet for his band. He may not remember the meeting but she definitely does. A while after that she was scrolling through pictures on Facebook Dating and saw a something that stopped her in her tracks.

“I was just browsing through profiles, and lo and behold there is this face with the [Bill Monroe] homeplace in the background,” she said.

That was the beginning of a whirlwind courtship. The two dated for six months and were seriously considering marriage, but weren’t officially engaged. A job offer and a phone call changed all that.

Robin had been looking for property in the area near Jerusalem Ridge in Kentucky for a while, and had been visiting Bill Monroe’s homeplace to listen to music regularly. She became friends with Dennis Cook from the Bill Monroe Foundation. When he learned that she was interested in moving to the area, he made her an offer. 

“He said, ‘You’re looking for a house here. Would you consider being the caretaker for the Bill Monroe homeplace?'”, Robin said, adding that it sped up her relocation timetable quite a bit.

The job offer got Marty thinking too when during a phone conversation Robin told him she had accepted the position.

“She said she was going to be the caretaker, and I said, ‘Will you marry me?'”, he said. 

The couple had dated about six months and they jumped headfirst into not only planning a wedding, but also helping with festival planning while going about their day to day lives. 

“It never entered the scope of the reality I had last fall,” Robin said. “It’s all been so fast, but there have never really been any doubts.”

During their ceremony the couple sang Walk Through the World with Me to each other before the vows.

“It’s a dreamy song,” Marty said. “It’s not real specific to anybody, but it fits me and Robin.”

The lyrics that speaks to the couple say…

Walk through this world with me
Go where I go
Share all my dreams with me
I’ve searched for you so.

The couple is still working towards moving permanently into the caretaker housing at Jerusalem Ridge, and are looking forward to when they can sit out on the porch and look at the site where they got married.

In addition to just getting a few minutes of downtime, the Hayses are looking forward to doing their part in keeping the tradition of bluegrass music going strong for years to come.

“I hope that people say we made a difference, and we cared about traditional American music and its legacy,” Marty said. “To me it’s cool that, yes, it was the first wedding there on the stage during the festival, but I hope that it’s remembered that it was not just anybody. It was the caretakers that loved it so much that they wanted to start their lives together there. We could have gotten married anywhere we wanted, but it was an honor to have it there.””

His wife agrees.

“It’s a series of things of what we’ve been calling ‘God moments,'” she said. “Everything just fell into place.”

All photos by Roger Black.