Phil Leadbetter and Steve Gulley reminisce about the old days

It’s often been said, and it’s true, that you meet the most interesting folks in the bluegrass world. And you may see some of the most interesting things.

Tara Linhardt shot a video almost exactly five years ago at the 2013 Joe Val Festival, where she got Steve Gulley and Phil Leadbetter together in a room to share stories. Some of you may already know that these are two of the funniest guys you’ll ever meet, or that Phil is in the running for the jolliest joker of all times, but you can get a feel of it listening to these two old friends talk about their lives in bluegrass.

Phil spent many years on the road with J.D. Crowe & The New South, and was a founding member of both Wildfire and Grasstowne. More recently he has worked with Dale Ann Bradley, and these days is booking all-star bluegrass shows around the country with Claire Lynch and other top artists.

Steve came to prominence as the tenor singer with Doyle Lawson, as many a bluegrass star has done, but really got his start singing at Kentucky’s Renfro Valley park. There he met and started an artistic relationship with Dale Ann Bradley which continues to this day. Steve was also a founding member of Grasstowne, and has written songs for most everyone in the music. He now tours with his own group, Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle.

The point is that both of these boys have been around the block, and seen a thing or two. Enjoy their little reminiscence below.

Tara has posted other similar videos on her YouTube channel, Mandoliscious Music. She already has videos up for Akira Otsuka and Gene Gimble, and is in the process of adding more from her archives.

And speaking of Phil Leadbetter…

Alan Bibey, Claire Lynch, Phil Leadbetter, and Steve Gulley rehearse for their Joe Val show at SPBGMA 2018 - photo by Claire Ratliff

We had a very nice chat at SPBGMA, and he is excited about his string of all-star shows this year. Pulling from a core group of roughly a dozen top pickers and singers, including such names as Steve Gulley, Alan Bibey, Jason Burleson, Missy Raines, Adam Haynes, Claire Lynch, Paul Brewster, Cory Walker, Mike Bub, Tim Dishman, Ashby Frank, and Kenny and Amanda Smith. Phil will find out who is available for each show, and pull a set together with whomever he can get. Their next show is at Joe Val next week in the Boston area.

Phil had something else funny to relate at SPBGMA. After several years of severe health problems, dealing with a vigorous cancer now successfully at bay, he’s just found out that he needs a hip replacement. In his usually sunny way, he found the humor in the situation, acknowledging that the titanium joint he will receive is valued at $8,000.

“I told my wife than when I die, she should dig that thing back out and sell it before she puts me in the ground!”

Gotta love Uncle Phil.

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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.

  • Jose Mature

    I think I remember that World’s Fair venue they were talking about. Used to pass by it when I got off from working at the fair, most nights. If not mistaken, it was sponsored by Budweiser, open air, real rustic looking with gingham table cloths. Budweiser also kept a large team of Clydesdales on the fair site, for daily parades and such.
    If not mistaken, The Knoxville Grass was the “house band” there. Glenn Laney and the boys would sometimes be sitting at a table “cooling it” when I passed, after closing time, and could always be counted on for some friendly conversation. RIP, Glenn.