The Grass Cats calling it quits

To add to the rather tumultuous nature of changes that have been announced in the past few weeks comes the news that the North Carolina-based band The Grass Cats is following decisions by the Spinney Brothers and The Boxcars by making it known that it is to disband.

Formed in 1997 by Russell Johnson (mandolin), the group includes Tim Woodall (banjo), Chris Hill (fiddle), Greg Miller (guitar) and Jerome Hawkes (bass), The Grass Cats has maintained a highly valued place in the field of hard-core traditional bluegrass music, taking the core of that idiom and adding many excellent new songs.

In their announcement The Grass Cats speak of prowling “the stages of North Carolina and beyond for over twenty years, playing well over 1000 shows and recording nine CDs along the way.”

They offer a “hearty thanks to all the venues and folks that have booked us, our spouses and significant others that have been there for us as we played the music we love, and most of all the fans that supported us by attending our shows, buying our music and making it worthwhile. There’s still three more chances to see the Cats. We hope we see you at one of them! Thanks again for a really, fun 20 years.”

While feeling a personal sadness, Johnson said “[it] was a really hard decision to make” but he expressed pride in what The Grass Cats accomplished in those 20 years.

Nevertheless, he was pragmatic about the decision ….

“All bands have a lifespan and the Cats had run their course after twenty years. Bands have personnel changes and it finally gets to the point where the ones that are left have to make the decision if it’s worth putting into it what you have to do to rebuild, and we had hit the point of diminishing returns.

It’s definitely an amicable parting of ways.”

Chris Hill says…

“I have been playing music for 35 plus years so turning off the ‘switch’ will be difficult.  I’ll see what the good Lord has planned for me and go from there.  If nothing else, my wife and three children will keep me busy!”

Feeling strongly about bluegrass sound reinforcement, Johnson looks forward to the possibility of playing a vital role in this field ……

“I may explore doing sound reinforcement or making myself available to mix a band on a non-bluegrass stage.”

He concludes …

“I’ll still be around ……… I’m hoping to play some bass and guitar around here – filling in, and I’ll be putting my efforts into Diamond Creek.”

In addition to band’s show tonight (Friday, November 17, 2017), at The Dunn Center for Performing Arts in Rocky Mount, The Grass Cats have two other gigs remaining:

Farewell, Grass Cats!

Share this:

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.

  • Larry Wentz

    A Seldom Scene live perfomance is everything I’d ever heard about and more. Cincinnati’s beautiful Memorial Hall was the perfect venue for this legendary band to showcase their musicianship and golden vocal harmonies.

    I was lucky enough to be there for the first show of a new chapter – Ron Stewart’s inaugural appearance wth the band. His talent and versatility (fiddle and banjo) made it sound like he’d been with the band for years. Their stage set-up had Ron on the end (stage right) and then, in order: Fred Travers (guitar), Ronnie Simpkins (bass), Dudley Connell (guitar), Lou Reid (dobro). There were just a few times when Ron and Fred would communicate a little towards the back of the stage between songs. Everything sounded slick, tight, and well-rehearsed – even on the crowd requested “110 In The Shade”. This is a band full of veterans who still put out a great sound and are true showmen. My only regret is that I didn’t see them before now.