This year’s SPBGMA Band Championship in Nashville may have been the first time a lot of folks had seen Carolina’s Retro 78, but once they had won the competition all at the Sheraton Music City that weekend will surely remember their name.
Made up of six veteran grassers, Retro 78 has only been playing together about six months. They got together at a jam back in August of 2021, and decided to keep after it once they all discovered a love of the bluegrass music of an earlier time.
Given their name, you might think they are thinking of the earliest days of the music, when artists like Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, and The Stanley Brothers were releasing songs on the now archaic shellac records that played at 78 rpm. But no, they are most excited about recreating the bluegrass sounds from the 1970s and ’80s, when bluegrass enjoyed a resurgence alongside the then new country rock music that was popular with young folks.
Members come from across both North and South Carolina, anchored by the father and son team of Mike and Kevin Street. Hailing from Forest City, NC, Mike is on bass, and Kevin on guitar and lead vocals. They are joined by fellow Tar Heel, Jacob Turnbill on fiddle, and South Carolinians Clint Groves on guitar and vocals, plus Jacob Jackson on mandolin and Hunter Motts on banjo, both from Inman, SC.
When we communicated with Hunter last week, he shared several videos that the guys shot at SPBGMA, which offer a nice look at the sort of bluegrass they play.
First, from the band contest the Stanley classic, Lonesome River, where Mike gets to show off his high tenor voice.
Bill Monroe’s gem, Can’t You Hear Me Calling…
…and Alabama’s smash hit, Tennessee River, which really gets a ’70s treatment.
From a late night showcase we get their version of Buck Owens’ Tall Dark Stranger…
…and this one which I didn’t recognize.
Well done, Retro 78!