Marty Raybon has announced that he is reuniting with his former Shenandoah bandmates for select dates during 2015. The band had a very successful run in country music in the late 1980s and early ’90s, with hits like Mama Knows, The Church On Cumberland Road, and Next To You, Next To Me.
The combination of their catchy songs with Marty’s grass-stained voice was irresistible to the country radio market at the time, and calls for a reunion tour have been getting louder since Raybon left the group in 1997. A first show is already scheduled for October 23, with many more on tap for 2015.
But Marty wants his many bluegrass fans to know that he isn’t giving up on bluegrass, the music where he got his start.
When we spoke last week, he was adamant on this point.
“I don’t want anyone to think that I’m turning my back on bluegrass. I grew up with this stuff, and I love it.
I have an opportunity to make some good money, and make a lot of people happy, and I’m going to take advantage of it. The truth is, the residuals from what we did in Shenandoah have had a lot to do with my being able to get back to bluegrass, where my heart lies.
Plus I think we might have a chance to turn some country fans on to bluegrass.”
I first met Marty in the early ’80s, when he was performing in American Bluegrass Express with his dad, Ken, on fiddle, and brothers Tim on bass, and Rick on lead guitar. Ron Rimmer was their banjo player and they had a dynamic show, largely Gospel, based around Marty’s distinctive voice and their tight family harmony. They worked the deep southeast, and were regulars at festivals in Florida and Alabama.
The first time I heard Shenandoah on the radio a few years later, there was no missing that sound, and bluegrass fans celebrated one of their own making it to the big time.
But Marty said the strain was brutal on all of them. There was tremendous pressure to keep touring while country radio was playing their music – and they were playing it plenty.
“We were away 317 days one year back then. It cost us a lot in our personal lives, and after 12 years, we were burnt out.
An opportunity came for my brother Tim and I, and we took it. There was never any animosity in the band, and we weren’t at odds with one another. I have stayed in touch with Jim Seals and Mike McGuire all this time, and when we got together to do a benefit for our bass player Ralph Ezell [who died recently], we started talking about actually doing a reunion tour before we all got too old.”
There is talk of a new album as well, but nothing has yet been confirmed.
All the Shenandoah dates, which are being booked as Shenandoah Reloaded, featuring Marty Raybon, are being arranged around existing commitments he has with his bluegrass band, Full Circle. Buddy Roberts is representing the band for this venture, with promotional assistance from Absolute Publicity.
Even though he’ll be riding in style for the Shenandoah Reloaded shows, he told us that he just bought Ronnie Reno’s old tour bus as an investment in his solo act, so you know he’ll be back to bluegrass.