The Cleverlys do IBMA

One of the groups that stirred things up during last weekend’s IBMA Fan Fest was The Cleverlys, a concept act that mixes bluegrass music with sardonic and mildly-risque humor. Their shtick typically involves covers of pop mega-hits, delivered in a grassy style with a serio-comic, deadpan persona.

It draws heavily on what Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers did on Hot Rize shows in the 1980s, and the Statler Brothers’ alter-egos, Lester “Roadhog” Moran and his Cadillac Cowboys, who had informed the Trailblazers. You can also see the influence of our pal Wichita Rutherford, and the Van Heffer pilot he created for Comedy Central.

The show is highly visual in nature, and the level of musicianship is quite high as well. It translates very well to video, which is how the band has primarily presented themselves to date.

But see for yourself. (If you think you may be offended by slightly bawdy material, please do us both a favor and don’t watch these clips.)

This first is their video introduction…

…and this second is their most recent music video.

The Cleverlys’ Saturday Fan Fest set was met with a mixed reaction, with some finding them plainly hilarious, while others found it a bit distasteful. I think they are a riot, but can understand why some folks might be taken aback. Fellow bluegrass blogger Ted Lehmann enjoyed their performance, though his wife Irene was less enthusiastic.

“I thought they were very funny… Generally, I think their humor is refreshing, their songwriting nimble and brisk, and their overall approach funny, always just on the correct side of the bad taste barrier, like little boys testing the limits who are smart enough not to cross the line.”

Mike Reed, one of our IBMA 2010 correspondents missed them at Fan Fest, but caught a late night showcase earlier in the week.

“They were v-e-r-y funny, but the show that night was probably a little too edgy for the family festival circuit (in my opinion).”

It will be interesting to see whether promoters choose to bring this highly entertaining show to their festivals and venues. I can see them being a huge hit in clubs, with the jamgrass crowd, and on shows where the audience doesn’t consist primarily of bluegrass purists.

You can see the rest of their videos at

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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.