On This Day #4: The Traditional Grass

On this day in 1983  ……

On December 5, 1983, The Traditional Grass was formed.

Joe Mullins, banjo player for The Traditional Grass,  retells the history of the group  …..

“We worked a Flea Market in downtown Dayton, Ohio, and it was a live broadcast for WPFB Radio, the station my Dad was heard on for about 25 years.

The first line-up was Paul “Moon” Mullins – fiddle and vocals, Mark Rader – guitar and vocals, Joe Mullins – banjo and vocals, Bill Adams – bass.

We had no clue the group would last 12 years! And we had few changes, mainly bass players. Glen Inman came to the group on bass in 1986, then Mike Clevenger in 1992. The only other member was Gerald Evans Jr, who joined in 1990 on mandolin, fiddle and vocals. Sadly Dad and Gerald have both been gone for a couple of years now.

When the group organized, I was only 17 years old! Mark Rader and I started jamming together in late Summer of 1983, and we even met Bill Adams at a local festival. I turned 18 in October that year, and by then, Mark Rader and I had developed a friendship that has now lasted 28 years. We would dig for songs and sing together two or three days a week! Dad was a very popular radio personality and fiddler, and we quickly had work throughout the region almost every weekend.

By 1989, we had released three independent recordings, and were coming into our own as a band. Dad and I both left full-time radio work in March 1989 and the band began booking a full time schedule. After Gerald Evans, Jr. joined in 1990, our sound and show really expanded and we soon signed with Rebel Records. We really hit the tour schedule full-blast in those days with everyone in the group writing and arranging, Mark taking care of the bus, I did the booking and promotion and Dad cooked for the band – best cornbread and fried chicken in the business!

All total, we did eight recordings in 12 years, four indies and four for Rebel. Three of the Rebel releases are still available. My current band, Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers, still carry the CD’s with us and we do a couple of the songs from those days. Other Traditional Grass tunes have been covered recently by Adam Steffey, Brandon Rickman, Mickey Harris and Dailey and Vincent.

I was blessed with an opportunity to buy my first radio station in 1995, and the Traditional Grass wrapped up with our final show September 17, 1995.”

Paul Mullins was the band’s direct link with tradition. In the 1950s he played fiddle with the Stanley Brothers and in 1974 he helped to form the Boys from Indiana.

Mullins passed away on August 3, 2008 at the age of 71.

He hosted a bluegrass radio program on WPFB in Middletown for more than 20 years, and won the IBMA award for Broadcaster of the Year in 2000.

The Traditional Grass worked extensively throughout the region due to the popularity of Paul and Joe’s radio programs. After they both resigned from the Middletown station in 1989, the band began performing, recording and touring full-time on a nationwide basis.

The Traditional Grass produced and recorded several albums, four of which were for Rebel Records.

Joe formed Town and Country Broadcasting in 1995 for the purpose of purchasing WBZI AM 1500 in Xenia, Ohio. With such a business demands led to The Traditional Grass disbanding in September of that year.

In 1997 Joe Mullins became part of the group Longview, then in Spring 2006 he formed Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers, originally put together to help to promote the radio station.


  • Paul Mullins and the Traditional Grass (1985)
  • A Touch of the Fifties (1987)
  • Traditional Favorites (1989)
  • A Lonesome Road to Travel (1990)

All have long been out of print, but The Traditional Grass did re-record the most requested tunes on the CD 10th Anniversary Collection, along with a new selection of tunes. That CD is still available.

  • Howdy Neighbor Howdy (Rebel 1698, 1992)
  • I Believe in the Old-Time Way (Rebel 1708,1993)
  • 10th Anniversary Collection (Rebel 1718, 1993)
  • Songs of Love and Life (Rebel 1721, 1995)

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.